I have this terrible feeling that I am going to be able to create a full series of “Missed Opportunity” articles while Kevin Cheveldayoff is in office.
This morning the Toronto Maple Leafs and LA Kings completed a trade that will see “backup-yet-destined-to-be-a-great-starter” LA goaltender Jonathan Bernier head to “we-already-have-a-great-goalie-but-will-not-admit-it” Toronto for F Matt Frattin, G Ben Scrivens, and a second round pick in either 2014 or 2015 (Leafs choice).
Trying to understand this trade from a Leafs perspective is quite honestly a lost cause, but it’s hard not to think this is a truly missed opportunity on the Jets part. It seems to me that Chevy’s inability to be proactive in what has been accepted as an extremely vital and future defining summer for the Jets has officially cost them in the goaltending department. Although the Jets may not have been able to offer up what the Leafs did in this deal, I have a hard time believing that they couldn’t compete and give Dean Lombardi something to consider before signing off. It is also completely unacceptable that the Jets weren’t even rumored to be in talks with the Kings in acquiring Bernier, despite the glaring need for improvement in net.
First, The Obvious Points
It’s been said once and it will be said again. Ondrej Pavelec is not an NHL caliber starting goaltender. I’ve said it quite often, many others have said it, and if you are still in need of proof, check out this awesome article from our friends over at Arctic Ice Hockey.
I wrote earlier this spring how it would be smart for the Jets to go out and attempt to acquire a goaltender this summer, and actually mentioned both Ben Scrivens and Jonathan Bernier as potential pieces that were likely to be moved. Although I still think Scrivens is a strong goalie with potential, the rest of this article will be focused on the centerpiece of this deal in Jonathan Bernier, and how the Jets could have competed for his contract rights.
It’s easy to see why there is a fair amount of hype surrounding Bernier. This season in 14 games he posted a 9-3-1 record with a 1.88 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. Even though the Kings are a solid defensive and puck possession team (in 5 on 5 stats they finished 3rd in shots against/60 minutes, 2nd in Fenwick For % and 1st in Corsi For %), there are times that they have relied heavily on their goaltending (see this years playoffs). An argument could easily be made that the constant threat of Bernier has truly pushed Jonathan Quick to strive into the franchise goaltender he is today, and has truly competed on more than one occasion for the starting job between the pipes in LA.
What Could The Jets Offer?
Here’s the tricky part. Trying to find that balance between giving up enough without hurting the team long term. I’m ready for a long of hate to come my way for proposing this, but I think the Jets could have offered the Kings Ondrej Pavelec, Alex Burmistrov and a 2nd round pick for Jonathan Bernier.
Before you go straight into the “screw this guy” mindset, let me make it clear that in no way do I think the Jets should be shopping away Burmistrov. I think I’ve made my stance clear on Burmi over time that I do like the guy. This is simply a choice based on what the Leafs offered and the Kings accepted, and based on a comparison between players.
The Break Down
I did not take my choice for Alex Burmistrov as a trade piece lightly. I considered many options including Scheifele, Eric O’Dell, Adam Lowry, Aaron Gagnon and Zach Redmond, but based on a few factors I landed on Burmistrov. Mostly are related to the fact that the Kings would want a younger player that the Jets were willing to part ways with. The Jets seem quite content and pleased with Scheif to this point, O’Dell, Lowry, Gagnon, and Redmond are all relatively unproven in the NHL (which I believe was a factor in the Kings choice), and we are all ware of a potential rift between Burmi and the Jets coaching staff.
In fact, when you compare Frattin and Burmistrov you could make the argument that they are very similar players. Both are solid defensively, have a good offensive upside, and have provided their respective clubs with strong third and fourth line minutes during their time. Frattin may be bigger and managed to put up more compelling number this year, but he is also two years Burmistrov’s elder, played with more offensively skilled players in comparison to Burmi. One could also argue that Burmistrov has more longterm upside for a team with plenty of current leadership and talent, that could give him more time to properly develop and grow.
Moving Pavelec out would have served a dual purpose for the Jets. Not only would it have provided Bernier with a clear number one goaltending position that he had been rumored to want, but it would have allowed the Jets to clear Pavelec’s contract. This would have not only given them space to sign the true starter, but “restart” their books moving forward into this offseason. Pavelec could then serve his time as the Kings backup, as obviously Quick would continue his clear role as a workload starter.
The second round pick could have been from this year (where the Jets currently have two) or next, as a way of evening out the abysmal contract the Kings would be taking on.
In case you haven’t noticed, I had put a fair bit of thought into the potential of Bernier coming to Winnipeg. Would it have ever happened? Who knows. I guess we’ll never know considering the lack of activity from the Jets camp since the season ended. Heck, Bernier may have even refused to sign with the team following a trade.
It would have been nice though to know that there was the potential. To know that the people in charge of this team were aware of a mistake and taking action to correct it. Instead, we have what comes across as a missed opportunity and the status quo. That, and more talk in this city about some cracks in concrete than the lack of activity on Portage Avenue.