Jonathan Quick was arguably the most undervalued fantasy goaltender last season. He entered training camp as the "not-so-clear-cut" starter in LA, but put pundits in their place by winning 35 games (the league-high was 38), posting a 2.24 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and six shutouts. Considering he did all of this in just 61 games, those numbers were pure, unexpected fantasy gold.
Heading into this season's fantasy draft frenzy, Quick's value will not be underestimated. Not only will his skill and upside put him much higher on most people's draft lists, but it's also very easy to look at the improvements the Kings made over the summer and expect even more fantasy points from him this year. I mean, if he snagged 35 wins and six shutouts in 61 games last year, then surely he's destined to post even better stats this year, right?
Unfortunately, it's not that easy.
The second part of this equation, Jonathan Bernier, played in 25 games last season and went 11-8-3 with a 2.48 GAA, a .913 SP% and three shutouts. As the regular season came to a close, he finally started to catch fire. Because of his strong finish, he proved to the coaching staff that he had matured as a goaltender, so he's destined to see more playing time this season. More importantly, he's earned the confidence of his head coach, Terry Murray.
"There will probably be more games there," said Murray to the local media last week regarding Bernier's playing time. "I don't have it planned out as I did last year at this time. Quick is our number one goaltender. That's the way it is coming [into training camp]."
Now in most instances, if a coach essentially says he hasn't planned things out, then I'm led to believe it means he has no expectations for either goalie, but has still formed some kind of personal rudimentary "workload blueprint" in his mind. So unlike last season, Murray is putting Bernier on a higher level, one that is closer to Quick in terms of potential.
"Bernier, post-All-Star game, his game really improved," Murray continued. "He really stepped up. So it's going to be exciting here in camp, in exhibition games. We'll get going at the start of the year, and see where everything is at."
So as you can see, the goaltending philosophy in the eyes of the head coach has changed. But even if Bernier does play more, remember that when he played well last year, as hard as he pushed for more starts, Quick pushed back even harder.
This season, Bernier will have a much better understanding of how to come off the bench and play with more consistency. For him, even if he is labeled the "backup" heading into camp, when he does play, he will look way more comfortable. How this translates to the amount of games he earns is unknown, but I can safely say that Murray's revealing quote has opened the door for Bernier to play more.
So no matter how much you value either Kings goalie right now, realize the powerful influence a coach's words can have on situations heading into camp. Quick played 61 games last season, but I have a feeling that number will be closer to 53 this year. He can still post around a 2.25 GAA, but in terms of sheer volume (total shots, etc), I have no problem saying his value will be lower.
But no matter what you hear a coach say, take it all with a grain of salt. Things happen fast and coaches constantly mold their goalie philosophy over time, depending on how each goalie competes every day in practice. And since the Kings have two young, promising, prized prospects, neither