(Get ready, Avalanche fans. Bernier could be the team’s best French Canadian goalie since moving to Denver.)
The Colorado Avalanche couldn’t have lost a more valuable piece when the Vegas Golden Knights snagged backup goaltender Calvin Pickard.
At his best, Semyon Varlamov is excellent, but he’s dealt with both injuries and inconsistency struggles that have left him a liability from a skeptic’s standpoint for the coming seasons.
There’s the addition of his overseas goaltending coach to inspire some confidence, but make no mistake; the Avalanche may have lost even more games last season if Calvin Pickard hadn’t been able to put up a number of the games he did.
ENTER JONATHAN BERNIER
The Avs want nothing more than to start winning again, so adding Jonathan Bernier - who’s coming off of a painful set of postseason appearances for the Anaheim Ducks this past spring - seems like a risky endeavor.
As Varlamov is a potential liability, so is Bernier. He’s dealt with shaken confidence in the past, and that’s a dangerous addition to a team that hit historic lows just last season - and haven’t taken great strides to necessarily change anything, instead seeming to hope that the ship will ultimately begin to right itself.
Bernier come in after posting some of the worst statistics of the postseason during his abbreviated performance in net.
He wasn’t the reason the Ducks lost to the Nashville Predators - plenty of blame can be passed around in Southern California - but as he looked to stabilize his career after a disastrous outing from the Toronto Maple Leafs, that wasn’t the note he wanted to go out on.
Looking at his season prior to that spring run, though, things certainly started to turn around for the goaltender.
Maybe, just maybe, this is a decent fit for Colorado.
WHAT COULD GO RIGHT
With the Ducks, the biggest thing that Bernier had to regain was his consistency.
The Quebec-born goaltender was pulled out of his crease far more than he seemed comfortable with when he kicked off his 2015-16 season with the Leafs, and it caused disastrous results.
Even though he was eventually given a chance to properly adjust his game, Bernier’s biggest weakness seemed to be his lack of confidence at that point. Without actually picking his brain personally, it’s easy to safely conclude that he ended up with a lost season almost of his own doing, overcorrecting and missing his tracking rhythms after psyching himself out by a slow start to the year.
Last season, though, Bernier was in excellent hands. Sudsy, or Anaheim Ducks goaltending coach Sudarshan Maharaj, gave Bernier’s game a lot of TLC and got him back where he needed to be.
A lot of people are upset about his postseason run, but Bernier finished the 2016-17 regular season with a .915 save percentage in all situations.
If he’s able to maintain that next year, he’ll be an excellent backup. That’s the best way things could go, and there’s a very good chance that’s how it will work.
IS THERE STILL A RISK?
Bernier has proven in the past that his game is a delicate mental balance, and he’s been thrown off before.
Last season, the Avalanche were an absolute disaster, no matter how you spin it.
If they have another season like that - particularly to kick off the year - it seems certainly probable that there will be another confidence-related issue. That could create a bad situation if the team loses Varlamov for any reason, or if he struggles as well.
Still, the optimism is worth having. If Bernier is able to hold his own, he’s an excellent asset to have on board - and as long as the Avalanche continue to boast a weaker depth chart, he’s a better backup than many of the options they could have taken a risk on.