By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (Mar. 22) — With the Maple Leafs apparently in the midst of a cataclysmic overhaul, the club’s most important position could look familiar next season. Goalies Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer are tethered to the Leafs — Bernier as a restricted free agent and Reimer in the second of a two–year contract extension signed last summer. There may be neither reason nor opportunity for change between the pipes.
Much could depend on who is pulling the roster strings in the summer. Current general manager David Nonis traded for Bernier in June 2013 and re–upped with Reimer last off–season. Reimer was in a similar position then as Bernier is now — a pending Group II free agent with almost no maneuverability barring a trade. Performing behind an aimless, unresponsive team has done nothing to enhance his stock and Bernier isn’t likely to cash in as many figured he would a year ago. For the most part, Bernier has been better than his teammates. But, that could be the faintest compliment ever accorded a professional athlete.
JONATHAN BERNIER STARES DOWN JOE THORNTON OF SAN JOSE AT THE AIR CANADA CENTRE ON THURSDAY NIGHT. CLAUS ANDERSEN GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM
If Nonis is retained by Brendan Shanahan — and there is no current indication which way the Toronto president is leaning — I’d wager heavily on Bernier and Reimer staying where they are. Though another GM may think differently, the timing isn’t right for a big goaltending move. Even if the Leafs somehow win the draft lottery and inherit Connor McDavid, it’ll be several years before the club legitimately moves toward contention. Providing, of course, it opts to remain patient and legitimately build — never a given in our antsy hockey town. Attempting, therefore, to upgrade between the pipes this summer would be the equivalent of putting a Band–Aid on a surgical wound. Re–signing Bernier to a contract of reasonable term and salary — say two years and $9 million — appears far–more practical than trying for another quick fix.
This isn’t to be overly harsh on Bernier. He’s a skilled goalkeeper with better–than–average quickness and anticipation. He needs lots of work on maneuvering the puck around the net and his angle coverage on left–handed shooters has been erratic this season. But, he’s also a victim of one of the worst Maple Leaf teams in the modern–day history of the National Hockey League and — therefore — difficult to properly assess.
On some nights he’s a world–beater; on others, an egg–beater.
With few starting jobs available in the NHL, Bernier would appear to belong right where he is — hoping to improve his lot, individually and collectively, with a team that gradually rises beyond ineptitude.
EXPANSION GLOSSIES — PART 2 — 1967 to 1970
More, now, of my team–issued photos of players in the NHL’s early expansion era — collected more than 30 years ago. Several of these were autographed at league events prior to my career at The FAN–590. The first lot of photos appeared in Friday’s blog (http://bit.ly/18Ose9p).
b. Mar. 31, 1928 — Floral, Sask. — Current Age: 86.
His 59 assists and 103 points for Detroit in 1968–69 were career NHL bests.
b. Dec. 6, 1932 — Calgary, Alta. / d. May 29, 2009. Age: 76.
Played goal in Penguins first NHL game — Oct. 11, 1967 at Civic Arena — losing 2–1 to Montreal.
b. Sep. 25, 1945 — Montreal, Que. / d. Aug. 31, 2014. Age: 68.
His 24 goals for Oakland Seals in 1969–70 trailed only Bobby Orr (33) among NHL defencemen.
b. Dec. 17, 1938 — Montmorency, Que. / d. Nov. 26, 2014. Age: 75.
Diligent forward played on four Stanley Cup–winning teams with Montreal (1965–66–68–69).
b. Jan. 16, 1938 — Toronto, Ont. — Current Age: 77.
Became the Flyers first captain after selection from Chicago in 1967 expansion draft.
b. June 13, 1948 — Lloydminster, Sask. / d. Sep. 11, 2001. Age: 53.
Killed by terrorists aboard United Airlines Flight #175 (Boston to Los Angeles) when was it was hijacked and flown into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York — Sep. 11, 2001.
b. Feb. 11, 1937 — Sudbury, Ont. — Current Age: 78.
Won Stanley Cup in 1962–63–64–67 with Toronto. Scored 22 goals for Los Angeles in 1969–70.
b. Mar. 11, 1943 — Kirkland Lake, Ont. — Current Age: 72.
Skated with brothers Barclay and Bill in St. Louis for parts of three seasons (1969–70 to 1971–72).
b. July 28, 1933 — Lachine, Que. — Current Age: 81.
Defeated Philadelphia 5–1 in Seals first NHL game — Oct. 11, 1967 at Oakland Coliseum–Arena.
b. Dec. 26, 1937 — Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. — Current Age: 77.
Mario Lemieux’s third NHL coach with the Penguins in 1988–89 and 1989–90.
b. Nov. 10, 1934 — Regina, Sask. — Current Age: 80.
Scored Flyers first NHL goal in 5–1 loss to California — Oct. 11, 1967 at Oakland Coliseum–Arena.
b. Aug. 15, 1935 — St. Catharines, Ont. — Current Age: 79.
Appeared in 25 games with Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1969–70 season.
b. Oct. 4, 1938 — Trout Creek, Ont. — Current Age: 76.
Scored nine goals in 116 games with California/Oakland Seals in 1967–68 and 1968–69.
b. Feb. 20, 1942 — Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. — Current Age: 73.
Remains sixth all–time in NHL goals scored (717), 34 years after his retirement.
b. Oct. 11, 1931 — Montreal, Que. — Current Age: 83.
AHL Hall–of–Famer is father of Dave Morrison, Toronto Maple Leafs director of amateur scouting.
b. Dec. 19, 1943 — Chapleau, Ont. — Current Age: 71.
His double–overtime goal at St. Louis Arena against Minnesota in Game 7 of the 1968 West Division final (a breakaway on Cesare Maniago) put the expansion Blues into the Stanley Cup round against Montreal and may still be the greatest moment in franchise history.
b. Aug. 2, 1932 — Prescott, Ont. — Current Age: 82.
Veteran blue–liner played in 73 of 74 games for Pittsburgh in expansion season of 1967–68.
b. Feb. 5, 1937 — Kirkland Lake, Ont. — Current Age: 78.
Played in the NHL from 1955 to 1973 with Detroit, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Buffalo. Won Stanley Cup twice with the Leafs (1964 and 1967).
b. Oct. 16, 1945 — Sydney, N.S. — Current Age: 69.
Scored 34 goals as a rookie with Oakland in 1968–69 but finished second to Danny Grant of Minnesota (also with 34 goals) in voting for the Calder Trophy.
b. May 23, 1941 — Winnipeg, Man. — Current Age: 73.
Son Ron played goal in the NHL (1986–1999) and is currently GM of the Philadelphia Flyers.
b. Oct. 10, 1941 — Hamiota, Man. — Current Age: 73.
Bobby Orr’s defense partner in Boston from 1967 to 1976.
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