Dave Nonis, James Reimer, Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs

Jonathan Bernier’s Stint With Maple Leafs Defined by Inconsistency

When the Toronto Maple Leafs traded for goaltender Jonathan Bernier on June 23, 2013, there was some hype surrounding the move. Maple Leafs’ general manager Dave Nonis called it a depth move and one that he had been working on for some time.

As for what the Maple Leafs gave up in the deal, Nonis traded bottom-six forward Matt Frattin, back-up goaltender Ben Scrivens and a 2015 second-round pick (Travis Dermott) to the Los Angeles Kings — the pick was one the Maple Leafs would re-acquire prior to the draft.

Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Bernier (THW Archives)

At the time, Bernier had played 62 games over parts of five seasons with the Kings posting a 29-20-6 record with a .912 save percentage and a 2.36 goals against average. The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, were coming off a season in which the team was carried by Scrivens and James Reimer during the 2012-13 campaign. Needless to say, there was some excitement to see Bernier come in as Reimer’s co-pilot in net for the 2013-14 season.

Bernier’s Role Changed With Maple Leafs

With the Kings, Bernier posted solid numbers as the back-up to, then starter, Jonathan Quick. He played the number two role during the Kings 2012 Stanley Cup run, but opportunities overall were limited with the amount of games that Quick played.

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That all changed when he came to the Maple Leafs. The expectation was that there was going to be a platoon in net with Bernier and Reimer, while Bernier would still see an increase in playing time from what he was used to.

That said, his first season in Toronto, he played a career-high 55 games in 2013-14, followed by 58 games the following season in 2014-15. Prior to that his career-high had been 25 games with the Kings in 2010-11.

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Now, to say that Bernier’s run with the Maple Leafs was bad wouldn’t be fair. In fact, his save percentage over the three seasons with the team was three points higher than his time spent with the Kings — an increase from .912 to .915.

However, his quality start percentage dropped to .536 and his goals against average increased to 2.81, while Bernier ended his time with the Maple Leafs with a 59-68-17 losing record in 151 regular season games. He saw no playoff action in blue and white and, while his drop in numbers could be attributed to his average shots faced per game increasing, his run with the Maple Leafs seemingly indicated that a starting role wasn’t the right fit for the veteran goaltender.

Bernier’s Tenure Came During a Dark Time for Maple Leafs

Bernier was acquired by the Maple Leafs following their 2013 playoff meltdown at the hands of the Boston Bruins in Game 7. The lasting image of Reimer laying in the crease as the Bruins celebrated their comeback win resonated in the minds of most of Leafs Nation.

At the helm, Nonis made the move thinking that Bernier was part of the solution to one of the many issues within the team’s lineup. Even going as far as saying that the team had acquired one of the best young goalies in the league following the move.

James Reimer
Jonathan Bernier (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“It’s not a knock on James [Reimer] at all,” said Nonis on a conference call following the trade. “I don’t think you can be deep enough at that position. We feel we’ve got two of the top young goaltenders in the league right now…I’m looking forward to getting them both together. I think it’s going to be a good fit.”

The Maple Leafs proceeded to have just one winning season in the three years that followed the trade — with it coming in 2013-14 — finishing 38-36-8 and sixth in the Atlantic Division. That year they didn’t qualify for the playoffs and they had the same result the following two years.

Nonis was gone on April 12, 2015, with just one playoff appearance to show for his efforts and a year later the Maple Leafs moved Bernier to the Anaheim Ducks on July 8, 2016 for unknown compensation.

While Bernier, and Reimer for that matter, can’t be solely blamed for the lack of success the Maple Leafs had over that time, it’s clear that the duo wasn’t the solution that Nonis believed them to be when he named them the pair that was going to help the Maple Leafs take the next step.

Bernier’s Retirement Comes With Maple Leafs Being His Longest Stint

Following the trade to the Ducks, Bernier closed out his career with stints with the Colorado Avalanche, the Detroit Red Wings and the New Jersey Devils, playing just eight games for the Devils in 2021-22 due to injury. 

He finished his 14-year career with a 165-163-40 record in 404 career regular season games to go along with a .912 save percentage and 2.78 goals against average. He added 18 shutouts over that span and nine games of playoff experience with the Kings, Ducks and Avalanche.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Forgotten Ones – Gerry Cheevers

While he did have stops in six cities over his NHL career, his most noteworthy run may have come during his three seasons with the Maple Leafs, not just because he played the majority of his career games played with the team, but also because it may have been the most defining run of his career.

He was given the chance to take hold as the starter and while his numbers weren’t horrible, the inconsistencies ultimately rerouted the remainder of his career.

While some will still remember him for his run of three straight shutouts in 2015-16 or his tilt with long-time Buffalo Sabre Ryan Miller during a preseason game, Bernier’s tenure with the Maple Leafs will be linked with the Nonis days of no playoffs and inconsistent team performance — a tag that falls on his shoulders to some extent as well when it’s all said and done.

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