Just minutes after practicing with several of his teammates today Jonathan Quick uttered a few simple words that gave Kings fans and management an opportunity to exhale.
Their runaway MVP of last season shared that he’s been medically cleared to play.
As reported back in October when Quick was skating in separate sessions from his NHLPA brethren, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner was never actually locked out. Because he was injured prior to the labor dispute starting, he received his regular pay and was allowed full use the team’s training facility over the past few months.
Following off-season back surgery, one of the few benefits the work stoppage afforded the Kings organization was some much needed time for their superstar netminder to heal up.
Unlike the past two years, there isn’t even the slightest hint of a goalie controversy heading into camp this time around. It’s Quick’s crease. Period. He even has the long-term contract and a few pieces of hardware to back him up.
So, the only question at the moment surrounds his health.
Sure, he’s been deemed fit and ready to play. But, what if a problem creeps up – what are the in-house alternatives?
Jonathan Bernier – By now, most know his story. Selected in the first round at the 2006 Draft (11th overall), he made his NHL debut as a teenager, playing vs the Ducks in London. He stuck around for a few weeks, but ultimately was returned to his junior team. Long thought to be the Kings’ future franchise goalie, Quick snatched the net before he got there. Openly frustrated at times, Bernier has done most of his talking on the ice. Three years ago he posted a 2.03 goals against average and a .936 save percentage in the AHL. After only receiving a limited number of stars in LA, he recently admitted to requesting a trade.
Martin Jones – Split time in net with Jeff Zatkoff for the Manchester Monarchs the last two seasons. After Zatkoff left as a free agent in July, Jones has taken over the number one job with the Kings’ top minor league affiliate. At 6-foot-4 and just 22 years of age, the Vancouver native has proven to be a bit streaky during the early stages of his pro career. There’ve been impressive stretches where he’s stopped nearly everything thrown at him and month-long runs where he’s struggled to stop the puck. After finishing his rookie year with a 2.25 GAA, it’s hovered around 2.60 since. And in 23 games this season he has only eight wins. Still, he remains a top-5 prospect when compared to all the other players in the Kings organization.
JF Berube – Coming off hip surgery in April 2011, last season he was a first year pro with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign. After a slow start, his performance picked up dramatically in the second half and he finished with a 2.87 goals against average and .907 save percentage over 37 games. Earlier this week he was called up to Manchester after starting the year back in Ontario, where he had played 11 games and produced a much better 2.34 GAA.
Christopher Gibson – A highly unlikely choice. The Kings top selection at the 2011 NHL Draft seemed to have lost his way last year, posting less than impressive numbers in the QMJHL. However, he’s rebounded this season and has received several of the league’s weekly honors during the first half. At just 20 years old he’s best served to stay put and continue with his development.
Now, reports have started to circulate that Bernier is being shopped. Even without checking on anybody’s sources, that’s a natural connect-the-dots thought. He’s a former number one pick, has asked for a trade and the guy in front of him has a long-term deal. Makes perfect sense from the outside.
But what about sense to the Kings?
When you’re debating opinion it can be tough to have a winner, especially when talking about sports. We’ve been wrong plenty of times before here on MayorsManor – for example, last summer we thought the lockout wouldn’t last more than a month.
However, people disagreed when we said Wayne Simmonds would probably be traded (he was), others thought we were crazy when we made the case for the Kings hiring Darryl Sutter the week before he got the job and even last February, many hockey fans disagreed when we wrote this article about why LA should trade for Jeff Carter instead of Rick Nash.
So, with that said, here’s our take on the Bernier situation.
You trade him
…just not yet.
As in, wait a few months – maybe even until the trade deadline in early April.
Here’s three reasons why:
Nobody truly knows the health of Quick’s back, not even Quick himself. Yes, the doctor’s say he’s fine and that’s a huge step in the right direction. However, injuries following surgery can be tricky (How’s Scott Parse doing?). So, to give everybody the proper level of comfort, Quick probably needs to play X number of games. Pick a number, it really doesn’t matter if it’s five, 10 or even 20. He just needs to play actual NHL games.
Another factor is the upcoming schedule. While traditionally Sutter is a one-goalie guy, with a possible compressed schedule, all players are susceptible to a higher rate of injury or at least fatigue. Thus, he might need to utilize his back-up more than he normally would. Most importantly here, the Kings are built from the net out. Their biggest strength is in goal, followed by their defense. If Bernier was moved and Quick went down, who’s going to play? Barring a trade, you’re looking at Jones or Berube. Neither have played a single game in the NHL. That’s not a recipe for making the playoffs.
Finally, what are you getting in return? With a healthy Anze Kopitar, the Kings actually have too many roster players as it is. Jordan Nolan might not even start the year in LA because they might not have a roster spot for him. Which leaves three scenarios. They package Bernier in a bigger trade (and why would Lombardi do that when his original plan was to bring the entire Stanley Cup team back), he’s moved for a back-up goalie and a draft pick (and why would you trade for a back-up when you already have a back-up who’s capable of playing) or you trade the 24-year old goalie for prospects and picks.
The latter doesn’t help you any more in January than it would two months down the road.
Which brings the whole thing full circle, why trade Bernier any time soon?
He seems to be more valuable as an insurance policy right now than he does as a tradable asset.
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please include a link to www.MayorsManor.com