New Jersey Devils Dealing With Another Backup Goalie Debacle

Jonathan Bernier #45 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bernier #45 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils will never have a good backup goalie ever again. We’re convinced. Until they figure out cloning and they get themselves two versions of Martin Brodeur (his kids don’t count), then we’re going to be dealing with a good-to-great starter and then a question mark behind him.

The Devils have been talking about a one-two punch in net since they traded for Cory Schneider back in 2013. They wanted to go into the season with Schneider and an aging Martin Brodeur. It went terribly. Brodeur had lost a step, but his ability to play the puck and drive offense kept the Devils in games. Schneider was much better, but he couldn’t play the puck a lick and the team wasn’t able to play the same style with him in net, so they would end up losing because of lack of offense.

The next season, Brodeur moved on with his life, and the Devils have Keith Kinkaid the backup job. He was fine for a few seasons, but as Kinkaid got better as a backup, Schneider got worse as a starter. By the time we got to 2018, Schneider’s injuries had taken everything out of him. Still, the Devils tried to make him work for two more seasons before buying him out before the start of the 2021 COVID-shortened season.

The Devils signed Corey Crawford to fix this issue for at least two seasons while some of the young guys developed. That didn’t work. He retired before playing one game in a Devils uniform, and the Devils were forced to rely on Scott Wedgewood and the experiments that were Eric Comrie and Aaron Dell to keep their heads above water when Mackenzie Blackwood wasn’t in net.

The Devils were clearly sick of this, and Tom Fitzgerald opened Josh Harris’ wallet to make sure they had two starting-caliber goalies. Jonathan Bernier was given a two-year $9 million contract to come to New Jersey after the Carolina Hurricanes weirdly traded for him and didn’t sign him.

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It’s clear other teams wanted him, and the Devils spent a little more to get Bernier in the building. He wanted to be here. He was the first player to sign with the Devils on the first day of free agency, beating Dougie Hamilton by a few hours. It was a fix the Devils desperately needed.

On Friday, we learned that Bernier was going on IR with a hip injury. No. Not again. What’s worse is that head coach Lindy Ruff says he is “worried and concerned” about the long-term health of Bernier. That sounds like his career might be in jeopardy, but let’s hope that’s not the case.

Is this just really bad luck? How does this keep happening? It’s not even like this is the same regime in place. This is the third different GM and third different head coach this is happening to. How do the Devils fix it?

The answer might already be in house. Both Nico Daws and Akira Schmid have been absolutely amazing for the Utica Comets. Schmid is leading the AHL in save percentage with a ridiculous .944 after 10 games. Nico Daws is fifth in the league with a .926 save percentage. They are both making saves well above their weight class, and while they are both a little too young to be in the NHL if the Devils can find a short-term option (something we wish Scott Wedgewood was here to fill), then Schmid or Daws might be the NHL option as early as next season.