By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (June 18) — Those newby children make for terrific pawns, don’t they? Can’t even say “da–da” yet and their fathers are heading elsewhere in the National Hockey League. What a wonderful world.
For those unaware, Martine Forget, the fiancee of Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier, posted an Instagram photo on Wednesday of the couple’s 10–month–old son, Tyler, who bears a striking resemblance to his father (as you can see, below). When asked by an Instagram follower why young Tyler wasn’t sporting a Leafs logo on his T–shirt, Forget replied, “It’s for a reason, but I can’t tell anyone now.” The immediate, flap–causing inference was that Martine knew something about her beau’s NHL future and that it no longer involved the Blue and White. I’m more inclined to think the kid — even at such a tender age — saw enough of his Dad’s team last season that he threw a tantrum when Mom tried to wrap him in Maple Leafs gear. Other than going hungry, what could be worse? Others, however, took the message more literally.
Well, I’ve got news for you, folks: Bernier, as with practically every Leafs player, is on the market. I’m told the club may be open to trading him in return for a couple of high draft choices — perhaps a second and third–rounder — or a pick and a prospect. There is interest in Bernier among several teams, including the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers. As a restricted free agent, Bernier must receive a qualifying offer from the Leafs by no later than June 29, the Monday after the NHL draft. Toronto, of course, can qualify the goalie beforehand and may have already done so; such transactions are rarely announced. Bernier made $3.4–million last season and would receive at least that amount on a one–year offer.
Bernier is 26 years old and will get a bump in pay from whichever team deploys him next season — the Leafs included. There will be competition on the goaltending market, with Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota), Antti Niemi (San Jose) and Karri Ramo (Calgary) among those eligible for unrestricted free agency and with Ottawa looking to move one of its stoppers (Robin Lehner or Craig Anderson). It may not be in the Leafs’ best interest to have a $4 million goalie during the next couple of years. James Reimer is more than capable of re–assuming the No. 1 role on a team in full construction mode and Reimer is signed through next season at just $2 million ($2.3–million cap hit). Antoine Bibeau played efficiently for the American Hockey League Toronto Marlies last season (2.69 GAA in 31 appearances) and is considered a good NHL prospect. Bibeau, 21, signed an entry level contract with the Maple Leafs last July.
San Jose and Toronto, of course, have done goaltending business in the past. Prior to the 2007 NHL draft in Columbus, general manager John Ferguson traded first, second and fourth–round picks to the Sharks for Vesa Toskala and forward Mark Bell. The deal did not solve the Leafs goaltending dilemma and Brian Burke peddled Toskala and Jason Blake to Anaheim for Jean–Sebastien Giguere on Jan. 31, 2010 — the same day he acquired Dion Phaneuf from Calgary. Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson split the chores through most of 2010–11 before giving way to Reimer, whose brilliance nearly brought the Leafs back from a 14–point playoff deficit. Reimer wasn’t as sharp in 2011–12, as Gustavsson saw the majority of action and Ben Scrivens made his NHL debut (12 games).
VESA TOSKALA (LEFT) DID NOT BECOME THE MAPLE LEAFS GOALIE–OF–THE–FUTURE UPON HIS ACQUISITION FROM SAN JOSE IN 2007. HERE, HE TALKS TO VETERAN CURTIS JOSEPH (31), WITH WHOM HE SPLIT THE MAJORITY OF PLAYING MINUTES IN 2008–09.
In the lockout–abbreviated schedule of January–April 2013, Reimer compiled a more–than–respectable 19–8–5 record in 33 appearances and single–handedly extended a first–round playoff match–up with Boston to the seven–game limit. In that deciding match, however (and as Toronto fans loathe to be reminded), Reimer could not preserve a 4–1 third–period lead at the TD Garden. Boston roared back to win the game, and the series, on an overtime goal by Patrice Bergeron. Fairly or not, the Leafs soured on Reimer and GM David Nonis acquired Bernier from Los Angeles for Scrivens, Matt Frattin and a 2015 second–round pick one month and ten days after the gut–wrenching loss. It’s that pick the Leafs would ideally like to reclaim before the coming draft in Sunrise, Fla.
Others, naturally, are in play for Brendan Shanahan’s staff and there is no guarantee Bernier will be dealt. With a solid prospect in Bibeau, however, it makes sense for the club to feel out any offer that includes Bernier, and which can add to the Leafs draft haul this year and next.
NHL MEDIA GUIDES — PART 6
Next up in my collection–series from 50 years of National Hockey League media guides — the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks:
ST. LOUIS BLUES
ST. LOUIS JOINED THE NHL AS PART OF THE “GREAT EXPANSION” IN 1967–68 THAT DOUBLED THE LEAGUE FROM SIX TO 12 TEAMS. WITHIN THE BLUE–NOTE ON THE COVER OF THE INAUGURAL MEDIA GUIDE WERE SIX PLAYERS. TOP ROW (LEFT–TO–RIGHT): RON STEWART, LARRY KEENAN, RON SCHOCK AND JIMMY ROBERTS. BOTTOM ROW: DON McKENNEY. AT BOTTOM OF BLUE–NOTE: GOALIE SETH MARTIN. PUZZLED AS TO WHY THE BLUES CHOSE MARTIN OVER LEGENDARY COUNTERPART GLENN HALL. MAYBE SCOTTY BOWMAN KNOWS.
GIVEN THE PLAYOFF FORMAT IN THE NEW, 12–TEAM NHL, THE BLUES MUST BE CONSIDERED THE BEST EXPANSION TEAM OF ALL TIME. UNDER BOWMAN’S TUTELAGE AND HALL’S REMARKABLE NETMINDING, ST. LOUIS WON THE WEST DIVISION TITLE AND PLAYED IN THE STANLEY CUP FINAL IN ITS FIRST THREE SEASONS (FAILING TO WIN A GAME AGAINST MONTREAL TWICE AND BOSTON). MEDIA GUIDES 2 AND 3 DEPICTED THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
THE 1970–71 BLUES GUIDE (TOP–LEFT) CELEBRATED THE LAST OF THE WEST DIVISION CROWNS A YEAR AFTER BOBBY ORR BEAT THE BLUES WITH HIS FAMOUS OVERTIME GOAL AT BOSTON GARDEN. BY 1971–72 (TOP–RIGHT), THE NHL HAD SHIFTED CHICAGO TO THE WEST AND RE–JIGGED ITS PLAYOFF FORMAT. MONTREAL DEFEATED THE BLACK HAWKS FOR THE ’71 STANLEY CUP WHILE THE BLUES WERE DEFEATED IN THE FIRST ROUND BY MINNESOTA.
THE PLAGER BROTHERS (BOB IN THE REAR; BARCLAY IN FRONT) GRACED THE COVER OF THE BLUES 1973–74 MEDIA GUIDE (TOP–LEFT). FOR 1974–75 (TOP–RIGHT), ST. LOUIS HIGHLIGHTED BLONDE–HAIRED GARRY UNGER’S CHASE OF THE ALL–TIME NHL RECORD FOR MOST CONSECUTIVE GAMES PLAYED — HELD BY NEW YORK’S ANDY HEBENTON (ALSO ON THE COVER). UNGER WOULD SURPASS HEBENTON’S MARK OF 630 IN EARLY–MARCH 1976.
ST. LOUIS HAS THE DUBIOUS DISTINCTION OF PARTING COMPANY WITH THE TWO MOST PROLIFIC COACHES IN NHL HISTORY: SCOTTY BOWMAN AND AL ARBOUR. BOWMAN WOULD WIN A RECORD NINE STANLEY CUPS WITH MONTREAL, PITTSBURGH AND DETROIT WHILE ARBOUR WOULD LEAD THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS TO FOUR CONSECUTIVE CHAMPIONSHIPS BEGINNING IN 1980. FOR 1976–77, EMILE FRANCIS (ON COVER, TOP–LEFT) TOOK OVER AS GENERAL MANAGER AND COACH AFTER BEING FIRED BY THE RANGERS. ON THE 1980–81 MEDIA GUIDE, ST. LOUIS RECOGNIZED RADIO VOICES DAN KELLY (LEFT) AND GUS KYLE.
WITH THE FRANCHISE IN TURMOIL, FRANCIS WAS HONORED ON THE 1982–83 BLUES MEDIA GUIDE. IN THE SUMMER OF ’83, THE BLUES — RELUCTANTLY OWNED BY ST. LOUIS PET–FOOD COMPANY RALSTON–PURINA — WERE IN LIMBO AND DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN THE NHL DRAFT. WITH A LEGITIMATE OFFER FROM BILL HUNTER TO RE–LOCATE THE FRANCHISE IN SASKATOON (DON CHERRY WOULD HAVE BEEN COACH), THE BLUES WERE TAKEN OVER BY THE LEAGUE, WHICH DID NOT WANT TO LOSE THE ST. LOUIS MARKET. ON JULY 27, 1983, LOS ANGELES BUSINESSMAN HARRY ORNEST BOUGHT THE CLUB. RALSTON–PURINA HAD RE–BRANDED ST. LOUIS ARENA “THE CHECKERDOME” — AN UNPOPULAR NAME FROM THE OUTSET. ORNEST IMMEDIATELY BROUGHT BACK THE ORIGINAL NAME. FRANCIS WAS LET GO AND REPLACED AS GENERAL MANAGER BY LONG–TIME MONTREAL EXECUTIVE RON CARON.
ST. LOUIS ARENA ADORNED THE COVER OF THE 1985–86 MEDIA GUIDE (TOP–LEFT) AND THE BLUES CAME WITHIN ONE VICTORY OF PLAYING MONTREAL FOR THE STANLEY CUP — LOSING GAME 7 OF THE CONFERENCE FINAL TO CALGARY. THE 20th ANNIVERSARY GUIDE (TOP–RIGHT) SHOWED THE FORMER BLUES JERSEY AND THE NEW VERSION — DESIGNED BY HARRY ORNEST’S WIFE, RUTH. THE NAME “BLUES” ACCOMPANIED A SMALLER TEAM LOGO.
THE BLUES 25th ANNIVERSARY GUIDE: ARTWORK DEPICTING SUCH PLAYERS AS BARCLAY PLAGER (8), BRIAN SUTTER (11), ADAM OATES (12) AND BRETT HULL (TALKING TO OATES).
THE GOLDEN BRETT AND CUJO APPEARED ON THE COVER OF THE BLUES’ GUIDE DURING SUCCESSIVE YEARS IN THE EARLY–90’s. BRETT HULL HAD SEASONS OF 86, 72 AND 70 GOALS IN ST. LOUIS; HE STANDS THIRD IN NHL HISTORY WITH 741 TALLIES, BEHIND ONLY WAYNE GRETZKY AND GORDIE HOWE. CURTIS JOSEPH NEARLY STOLE A SEVEN–GAME PLAYOFF ROUND FROM DOUG GILMOUR AND THE LEAFS IN 1993. HE SIGNED WITH TORONTO FIVE YEARS LATER AND REMAINS THE BEST LEAFS GOALIE OF THE POST–1967 ERA.
IRON MIKE WAS BEHIND THE BENCH FOR IN THE LOCKOUT–SHORTENED SEASON (48 GAMES) OF 1994–95 — THE BLUES FIRST YEAR IN THE FORMER KIEL (NOW SCOTTRADE) CENTER.
DEFENCEMEN AL MacINNIS AND CHRIS PRONGER ARE TWO OF THE GREATEST PLAYERS IN ST. LOUIS FRANCHISE HISTORY. MEDIA GUIDES AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY CELEBRATED A NORRIS TROPHY FOR MacINNIS AND A HART–NORRIS HAUL FOR PRONGER IN 1999-2000.
MY TWO MOST–RECENT ST. LOUIS GUIDES: 2006–07 AND 2008–09.
ANAHEIM (MIGHTY) DUCKS
THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY JOINED THE NHL IN A RATHER SPONTANEOUS EXPANSION FOR 1993–94 THAT INCLUDED BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO (WAYNE HUIZENGA) AND THE FLORIDA PANTHERS. DISNEY CAME ABOARD WITH THE MIGHTY DUCKS OF ANAHEIM AS AN EXPENSIVE PROMOTIONAL TOOL FOR ITS FEATURE–MOVIE OF THE SAME NAME. THE NEW CLUB OPENED AT THE POND OF ANAHEIM (NOW THE HONDA CENTER), THE NHL’s MOST OPULENT ARENA.
THE MIGHTY DUCKS “FRIDAY–THE–13th” LOGO BECAME IMMEDIATELY POPULAR AND WAS FEATURED PROMINENTLY ON THE SECOND ANAHEIM GUIDE (TOP–LEFT). FORWARDS OLEG TVERDOVSKI AND PAUL KARIYA WERE ON THE COVER IN SEASON 3. SELECTED FOURTH BY THE DUCKS IN 1993, KARIYA WAS THE FIRST SUPERSTAR PLAYER IN FRANCHISE HISTORY.
KARIYA AND FINNISH VETERAN TEEMU SELANNE PROVIDED LOADS OF OFFENSE AS THE 1990’s BECAME THE 2000’s AND WERE APPROPRIATELY FEATURED ON GUIDE COVERS. CANADIAN UNIVERSITY PRODUCT STEVE RUCCHIN (20) WAS ANAHEIM’S TOP CENTER–MAN.
LED BY ROOKIE COACH MIKE BABCOCK AND PHENOMENAL GOALTENDING FROM JEAN–SEBASTIEN GIGUERE, THE MIGHTY DUCKS WON THE WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP IN 2002–03 AND TOOK NEW JERSEY TO GAME 7 OF THE STANLEY CUP FINAL BEFORE BOWING OUT. ANAHEIM’S ’03–04 MEDIA GUIDE COMMEMORATED THE ACCOMPLISHMENT.
ARTWORK ON MY MOST–RECENT DUCKS MEDIA GUIDE DEPICTED, AMONG OTHERS, HALL–OF–FAME DEFENCEMAN SCOTT NIEDERMAYER (TOP–LEFT), WHO WOULD HELP LEAD THE CLUB TO ITS LONE STANLEY CUP TRIUMPH THE FOLLOWING SEASON — 2006–07.
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