Backup Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier appeared in only 16 games last season and didn’t get any playing time during the playoffs, giving him a front-row seat to Jonathan Quick’s playoff most-valuable-player feats in the Kings’ Stanley Cup run.
At 24, Bernier wants and needs to play regularly, and it was no shock when a report by the Quebec French-language TVA network last summer quoted Bernier as saying he wanted to be traded to a place where he can become a starter. He still wants to play — somewhere — but is holding out some hope that Kings Coach Darryl Sutter will give him that chance during the compressed, 48-game schedule that will begin next Saturday.
“I want to play. That’s it,” Bernier said Friday. “I can’t really do anything about it. It’s been two years that I’ve been in that situation. I just want to play, and with that schedule now things can change a lot. ... Hopefully Suttsy can squeeze me in for a few.”
Unfortunately, Bernier is trapped in hockey limbo. The Kings can’t trade him before they’re sure Quick’s surgically repaired back has fully healed, and even if Quick proves to be in fine shape they probably wouldn’t part with Bernier because they don’t have an NHL-caliber backup in their system.
Sutter said Thursday that he will again rely heavily on Quick, but you’ve got to admire Bernier’s optimism in the face of not only Quick’s dominance but the 10-year, $58-million extension the Kings gave Quick soon after they won the Stanley Cup.
“It’s always hard to know. Even them on top they don’t know what to expect,” he said of team executives. “And with a short season like that, with a lot of games [in a short span], it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen in the future.”
Bernier said he didn’t outright demand to be traded but responded honestly when TVA asked him during his day with the Cup whether he wants to play more.
“I said obviously, yes, and if it’s not going to be in L.A. it can be somewhere else, and it went on from there,” he said. “And that’s why they said I wanted to get moved.
“But obviously if it’s not going to be here, I just want to play.”
He reiterated that in October in this interview.
Bernier, a first-round pick and 11th overall in the 2006 entry draft, welcomed the chance to play for the second-division German team Heilbronn Falken during the lockout.
“I was excited to get back to the rink and practice and play some games, which it’s been a while since I’ve felt that feeling,” he said. “It was a good trip for me and hopefully it’s going to carry on to the season.
“I was loving the game again pretty much. You can see those guys over there, they have two jobs and some of them have two jobs and still playing hockey. It’s professional but they still have two jobs. I think when you come back here you realize how lucky you are to be here.”