Sparks, Not Bernier, To Start Tomorrow Versus Sharks

It’s the logical move to make.  Mike Babcock today confirmed what most had already expected: that Garret Sparks, not Jonathan Bernier, would get the start in goal for the Leafs tomorrow when they host the San Jose Sharks at Air Canada Center.

Bernier, of course, has had a rough go of it this year.  He’s fresh off of a conditioning stint with the Toronto Marlies where he put up 3 shutouts in 4 games played, but his final start with the team saw him allow 5 goals in an overtime loss.  While the hope was that Bernier would put that last start behind him and build off of what he did in his first three games for the Marlies, it didn’t come to fruition last night against Tampa Bay, where Bernier allowed 5 goals on 27 shots in an overtime loss to the Bolts.

So when you consider not only this, but the bigger picture – that Bernier is 0-8-1 in 10 games played for the Leafs this year with an .881 save percentage – it’s little surprise that Babcock is turning back to Garret Sparks for at least one game.  Sparks has a 3-1-0 record and a .921 save percentage for the Leafs so far this season.

Maybe the Leafs mishandled this whole thing.  Maybe they should’ve had Bernier back up Sparks for his first game back in the NHL to get him re-acclimated to the tempo of NHL games.  It also might have made sense to sit him in his first game back considering he was coming off of a really poor final performance for the Marlies.  It seems like that really would’ve been a no-lose situation, and you could’ve then turned to Bernier Thursday against San Jose, even if Sparks played well and earned the win against Tampa Bay.  But then we have to consider the possibility that Bernier might not have played well against San Jose.  And if that happened, where would you go from there?

In any event, it’s a mess of a situation.  With Reimer still on the shelf, it’ll be interesting to see how the Leafs continue to split the starts in his absence moving forward.  Hopefully Bernier can get it together at some point, because it’s not good for anybody to have him playing this poorly.  Until then, I guess we’ll see how things go.

  • STAN


    Either he goes down to the Marlies to rediscover his form… or someone takes a chance on him and pays the $6.3 million still owed to him over the next 16 months.

    • TGT23

      Normally, I wouldn’t agree… But, I’m starting to.

      I mean, look, any objective person can see most of the goals scored last night weren’t his fault. Players left wide open to walk in alone on him and pick him apart. Not on the goalie.

      But… that doesn’t change where we are at with him. He’s lost the starting job he earned (even though the other guy can’t ever stay healthy), and maybe he’s lost the backup job, too.

      Of course, I have to wonder, what does it mean to “rediscover his form”… Had he come up after the first three games in the AHL could anyone have questioned if he’d rediscovered it? Three straight shutouts seems to imply that.

      I’m not sure what we do with him at this point. He has all the talent but he’s holding himself back. And thanks to some very bad D last night, we can’t even be sure if the AHL stint helped. None of the goals were bad, but there were a lot of them, so we didn’t learn anything.

      I wish I had more faith in the other guy. But, right now, I don’t see much difference between them and that doesn’t fill me with much hope.

  • Benjamin

    Rotate them regularly till Reimer’s back. Then Sparks to the AHL for regular reps and Bernier backs up Reimer.

    Both Sparks and Bernier could use some stability, granted for different reasons. Knowing exactly when your next start is coming helps that.

    Making this any more of a roller coaster than it needs to be is not in the club’s short- or long-term interest.

    • Benjamin

      That’s the logical thing to do. I can’t stand this clamoring for Vernier to be sent down and Sparks to stay up. Sparks needs his development time in the marlies to hone his game by playing regularly, rather than being thrown to wolves in the NHL and not getting enough minutes to develop properly. We’ve been down this road with prospects before we know it ends!

  • Benjamin

    Shawn I think leaf fans are being over critical of Bernier. Sure he has had a little tough luck the past while but he did have three shut outs against some stiff competition recently.

    People are mean to Jonathan just because he didn’t know who Nelson Mandela was. He has had some tough luck, give him time to work things out. If he doesn’t succeed, well HELLO AUSTIN MATTHEWS.

  • Gary Empey

    BERNIER IS KNACKERED !!!! Case closed.

    Now read me the charges against this guy Polak. And let me see some video tape while you at it.

    One more thing if someone shows me some plus/minus stats, I’m coming down off this bench and shoving them right up their ASS!!

  • TGT23

    Bernie Mandela is garbage. He is worse then Toskala and Raycroft. I would waive him, Bozak and Polak.

    That would pretty much guarantee the leafs make the playoffs.

  • Kanuunankuula

    Asset maangement is the key word. Is it that likely that he just forgot how to hockey all the sudden, or is this just a bad streak that every goalie has?

    Let him play through it and we can trade him for something. Still better than letting him go for nothing.

  • SEER

    So nice to have a real coach…. Someone who can keep their word and play the best players… I hope that Sparks has a great game.., that Reimer is back this week.. and that Bernier is somehow traded.. Being on the Marlies only takes time away from our young goalies, who are developing..

    You guys might enjoy this one.., for tonight’s game.. A little shark humor and retro at the start..

    Shark Tales: Leafs vs Sharks Match-Up/Montage – TML 2011-14