Maple Leafs Land Bernier, Scrivens Fit To Be A King
The Los Angeles Kings granted Jonathan Bernier’s year-old wish on Sunday, freeing the 24-year-old goalie from the shadow of Jonathan Quick and his 10-year contract with a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goalie Ben Scrivens, forward Matt Frattin and a second-round draft pick in either 2014 or 2015.
For Bernier, who requested the move not long after the Kings won the Stanley Cup behind Quick’s Conn Smythe performance in the playoffs last summer, it should be a chance to play more, though anyone who knows incumbent James Reimer knows he won’t surrender the No.1 job in Toronto without a (friendly) fight. Reimer, who is often cited as the biggest reason the Leafs ended a nine-year playoff drought, made that clear in an exclusive interview with the Toronto Sun on Sunday, admitting he was caught off guard by a deal for a similarly aged goalie and that “it makes you feel a bit doubted as a goalie.”
Toronto General Manager Dave Nonis made it clear the No.1 job was still up for grabs between them.
Still, it’s hard to imagine the promising Bernier playing any less that he did with the Kings.
He only got into 16 of 82 games behind Quick in 2011-12 before playing 14 of 48 during this lockout shortened season, and appeared to answer some of the lingering questions about the potential that led Los Angeles to draft him 11th overall back in 2006. With Quick struggling early, Bernier went 9-3-1 with a .922 save percentage, and was a big reason the Kings even got back into the playoffs.
Bernier admitted it wasn’t easy playing so little, but still made strides – and adjustments – during his three full NHL seasons. Easy going, easy to talk to, and a student of the position, Bernier talked to InGoal a couple of times over that stretch about the tweaks he made in his game since arriving in Los Angeles.
Bernier’s first Ask a Pro segment with InGoal came late in his first full season, a campaign that saw him struggle early with the limited role before adjusting both his practice mindset and his initial depth on the ice, moving from a “toes-in” approach, with the front of his skates inside the edge of the crease, to more of a “heels-out” mentality:
“I had to get a little bit more aggressive than I was in Manchester in the AHL,” said Bernier, who was the AHL Goalie of the Year in 2010. I had to be more aggressive when a guy had a really good scoring chance. Before I could probably stay deeper. It’s not like I am over-aggressive. I just added a few inches, maybe instead of my toes at the edge of the blue it’s going to be my heels out on top of the blue. That’s the only thing me and (Kings goalie coach) Billy (Ranford) worked on, was just getting more aggresive on the shooters.”
For Bernier, who played two more seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after being drafted – despite starting that second season with the Kings and playing four games – and three more full seasons in the AHL before cracking the NHL full time, adding depth was not the only adjustment he made. Bernier also talked about getting his glove hand higher during his second Ask a Pro session with InGoal last season:
“When I was younger I kept it really low, so I’m just trying to get a better presentation with my glove, so it looks bigger and that space doesn’t look too big up there,” Bernier said. “Having a goalie coach around definitely helps you with that. It’s not so much specific drills as it is maintaining it in all drills, and it’s more when you are getting tired that you start forgetting and old habits start to come back. And that’s when Billy would remind me to keep it up. Once you get used to it, you don’t really think about it any more. But if it’s down, he can tell you right away.”
Bernier focuses on fitness in the summer, including a regular yoga routine, and also works in the offseason with goalie coach Marco Marciano, who was recently hired as the video coach of the Montreal Canadiens’ AHL affiliate in Hamilton, as well as spending a week with New York Rangers goalie guru Benoit Allaire. With most of the questions focussing on his inexperience (62 NHL games) and size – Bernier is listed at 6-foot but 5-foot-11 might even be a tad generous – the transition to the NHL has been all about maintaining patience, both in waiting for a chance to finally play more, and relying on good reads to stay on his skates longer when he does.
“I’m not a big goalie in this league but I think you just got to be patient,” Bernier said. “Any goalie can make it if you have that good patience. It might be a little harder than a 6-foot-7 goalie but with good patience you can be just as big as a 6-foot-7 goalie.”
While many within the Kings organization have lamented the need to trade away what some there see as a potential star, the Kings got a good young goaltender back in Scrivens, ensuring they wouldn’t have to rush the promising Martin Jones in too quickly behind Quick.
Scrivens is a third year pro who spent all of last season in Toronto, going 7-9-2 with a .915 save percentage in 20 appearances. A real student of the position, the thoughtful, well-spoken Scrivens has been a regular at InGoal over the past few years, including an in-depth Q&A and downloadable desktop poster in the January edition of InGoal Magazine. Scrivens gives the salary-cap strapped Kings both crease certainty and cost savings – his $612,000 salary for next season is half an expiring $1.25-million contract for Bernier that will almost certainly increase as a restricted free agent this summer – especially with Toronto reportedly retaining $500,000 of Frattin’s contract in the deal.
Leaving Toronto probably won’t be easy for Scrivens, who led the AHL Marlies to the Calder Cup Final in 2012, and put down roots through a lot of work for good causes, including a recent fundraiser for Special Olympics, and plans to march in the upcoming Pride Parade. Scrivens, whose wife is from California, should at least have some familiarity with Ranford – and vice-versa – through their mutual work with a company that specializes in training puck tracking skills for a number of top-end goaltenders.