Steve Bernier: A Journey Around The NHL And A Bounce Back Season


The journey of Steve Bernier is not going to be front-page news like that of Scott Gomez. There are no Benedict Arnold moments or franchise milestones involved. What there is, however, is one man’s mission to never give up; to fight for his job and try to make the most of any opportunity he is given. For Steve Bernier, life in the NHL hasn’t been an easy one. When you’re a first round pick – 16th overall and one pick ahead of Zach Parise – it comes with a lot of expectations. Some first round picks don’t work out while others thrive. Bernier would be somewhere in the middle.

His career has not been first-round worthy, but he hasn’t let that stop him from continuing to live his dream. After playing parts of just three seasons for San Jose, the team that drafted him, he was traded along with a first-round pick to Buffalo for Brian Campbell. He was then traded in the offseason to Vancouver for a second and a third – the same price the Devils just got for Jaromir Jagr. Bernier was still a highly valued player and put up 14-16 goals each season, but then his career took a sharp turn.

Jan 9, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Steve Bernier (18) and center Ryan Carter (20) break out with the puck while being pursued by Dallas Stars right wing Erik Cole (72) and center Cody Eakin (20) during the first period at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

He got traded to Florida and had a miserable season scoring just five goals in 68 games. Luckily for him, his head coach at the time Peter DeBoer must have seen something because the Devils gave him a tryout in camp in 2011. Steve Bernier didn’t make the team and instead agreed to play in Albany. He finally got his chance mid-way through the 2011-2012 season and really didn’t do much. However, it was that playoff stretch where he really made a name for himself. Playing with Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta, the CBGB line became instant fan favorites and one of the best fourth lines in the league.

Unfortunately for him, all people remember is that boarding penalty in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I don’t blame Bernier for that game and I hope others don’t either. During the following, lockout shortened, season he was fairly productive – eight goals and seven assists – but he really faltered in 2013-2014 by scoring just three goals in 78 games. Most people, myself included, assumed Bernier would move on to another team and continue his journey around the league.

New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils /

New Jersey Devils

Lou Lamoriello had other plans as he brought Bernier back on a one year, $600K contract. I wouldn’t say I was upset about the deal because it wasn’t much money and it was just one year. The part I didn’t like was that Ryan Carter wasn’t given a deal and I thought he was the member of CBGB who most deserved to return. As it played out, Carter went to Minnesota and the Devils signed Jordin Tootoo – who has been fantastic. Bernier found himself demoted to Albany to begin the season and I wondered if he’d ever be back.

Steve Bernier was then re-called at the beginning of November and was pretty average. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t great. He was your typical fourth line player, playing in the top nine because the Devils were ravaged by injuries. Then in January, Steve Bernier absolutely took off. It was the California road trip where he became a machine. Jagr was out with the flu and Bernier got bumped up to the top line to everyone’s dismay. All he did was score three goals on that trip and force people to take notice.

Last night, Bernier had his first career three assist game playing with Adam Henrique and Scott Gomez. He is fifth on the team in points with 22 (10 G, 12 A) after spending a month in the AHL. Bernier, Gomez and Tootoo have been some of the most amazing and unsuspecting stories to come out of this season. If those three players could slot into their natural roles and the rest of the team performed the way they should, the Devils would have nice depth up front.

Next: Which Devils Cup Win Was Your Favorite?

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