Two interesting pieces of news pertaining to the Central Division have come out in recent hours. One involves the Chicago Blackhawks, the other the St. Louis Blues.
There’s no doubt the Chicago Blackhawks were in trouble last season when Corey Crawford continually stayed out due to a mysterious injury. There’s been widespread speculation, as a result, that they could chase a more legitimate backup goaltender this offseason.
Enter … Jonathan Bernier? Or Cam Ward? That’s what a report from Scott Powers at The Athletic, and it’s gaining more steam.
670 The Score’s Jay Zawaski says the Blackhawks may already have a deal in place with Ward, the longtime Carolina Hurricanes netminder. He’s most recently taken a backseat to former Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling.
Ward has spent 13 seasons with the Hurricanes, helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2006. His career has rarely been that strong since, and he most recently posted a .906/2.73 slashline in 43 appearances. In 668 career games, including 568 starts, he boasts a .909/2.70 slashline.
Bernier is more of a journeyman, having played with Los Angeles, Toronto, Anaheim and Colorado over the course of 10 seasons. With the Avs last year, he carried a .913/2.85 slashline across 37 appearances. In his NHL career, Bernier claims a .914/2.68 slashline.
Little excitement among fans
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Neither of these possible backup choices is leading to legitimate excitement among the fan base.
Ward hasn’t been starter quality in some time, and Bernier never has been a legitimate, full-time starter. Blackhawks fans’ angst seems to be born from the idea one of these guys is going to get heavy minutes because Crow’s health is wildly up in the air.
And that’s fair enough. But honest, are either Ward or Bernier going to be worse than the bevy of options the Blackhawks used last season, if we’re talking specifically about a backup role?
If Crow is fully good to go — not a guarantee, I’m aware — then I see no problem with having Ward or Bernier in the backup role so guys like Anton Forsberg and J-F Berube can get some minor league reps.
Even if Crow is still in bad shape come September, I still think it’d be better to have Forsberg/Berube splitting starts with Ward or Bernier. The alternative is just chucking the Forsberg/Berube combo out to the wolves night after night, then yanking a guy after a three-goal first period seven different times. That’s not good for anyone.
At this point in both Ward and Bernier’s careers, neither guy is going to command a swelling contract. Sure, options like Carter Hutton and Robin Lehner appear to exist (though they could have under-the-table deals done by now). But Ward and Bernier at least have legitimate NHL experience.
All of this will be become clear on or shortly after July 1, when the NHL free agency period opens.