Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Figuring out What to Do with Jonathan Bernier Is Maple Leafs' Biggest Question

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Figuring out What to Do with Jonathan Bernier Is Maple Leafs' Biggest Question

Article excerpt

Bernier situation is Leafs' biggest question


TORONTO - Jonathan Bernier watched from the bench and charted faceoffs as Garret Sparks stopped all 24 shots he faced. A day earlier, the Toronto Maple Leafs' No. 1 goaltender of the recent past quietly took off his pads as the rookie beamed about making his first NHL start.

These are trying times for Bernier, who has allowed four or more goals in four of his past five starts. Among goalies with at least eight starts, Bernier's .888 save percentage and 3.28 goals-against average are second-worst in the league.

It has gotten so bad that with starter James Reimer injured, coach Mike Babcock would rather give Sparks chances to play than risk it with Bernier. Figuring out what to do with the 27-year-old is the biggest question facing the Leafs for this season and the future.

Asked Monday morning about what's next for Bernier, Babcock said he didn't know but quickly added, "time."

"He's probably never been through anything like this," Babcock said. "So he's got to rebound, but at what expense? We've got to figure that out."

So far it has been at the expense of losing. Bernier wasn't the only culprit in going 0-8-1 in his nine starts, but his penchant for giving up bad and ill-timed goals has cost Toronto dearly.

The franchise is looking long term, so losing more games in an effort to get Bernier back on track isn't the end of the world. But don't tell that to the coach with the Stanley Cup ring, two Olympic gold medals and the US$50 million, eight-year contract.

Babcock doesn't like to lose, and he thought Sparks gave his team the best chance to win Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers. The 22-year-old stopped all 24 shots he faced, and afterward Babcock said Sparks would start Wednesday night in Winnipeg if Reimer wasn't healthy.

So here's Bernier, considered the Leafs' goaltender of the present and future and signed through next season, demoted to be the third-stringer. His confidence is shot, and now he's left searching for answers. …

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