Jonathan Bernier made his return to the Toronto Maple Leafs' crease on Tuesday night, but it was far from a triumphant homecoming. Instead, Bernier allowed five goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning on 27 shots and earned the ire of his coach, Mike Babcock.
Toronto's offense did all it could for Bernier, posting four goals in the game, but Bernier's play cost the team again as he moved to 0-8-2 on the season. Babcock said it all in his post-game press conference.
The Leafs now have an interesting decision to make about Bernier's future. His trade value would likely be pretty low, as he carries over an $8 million price tag over two seasons to go along with his sub-par performances. Bernier seemed to be playing too well in the AHL, posting shutouts in his first three starts before flopping in his fourth. And Toronto seems to have no idea when goaltender James Reimer will return from a groin injury, meaning they might need to keep Bernier up at the NHL level just to fill out the roster.
Toronto could have Bernier serve as a back-up for rookie Garret Sparks in the interim, but is sitting on the bench the answer to Bernier's problems? Still, giving Bernier starts hasn't seemed to have worked. The Maple Leafs clearly have a conundrum on their hands, and what to do about Bernier could be the first big challenge of Babcock's Toronto coaching career.
“Lots of time we don’t get run support. Tonight we had run support,” Babcock told reporters. “I would have liked to get a better result.”