Crawford, Bernier could be a good match


Crawford, Bernier could be a good match

The NHL may have a hard time getting the puck in the Kings' net for many seasons to come.

Los Angeles signed their Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick to a 10-year contract extension, set to begin after the 2013-14 season. The All-Star goalie put the Kings on the map and was the main reason the eighth seeded team made it to the postseason in the first place after their rollercoster season.

But after Quick's extension was all said and done, Kings backup goalie Jonathan Bernier asked to be traded so that he can go after a starting position--a position he deserves.

Bernier's name isn't one that's well known throughout the league. But the 23-year old goaltender can put on one heck of a show when he's on the ice. Since being drafted by the Kings in the first round (11th overall) in 2006, Bernier's recorded a .910 save percentage and left Kings fans feeling confident when he was on the ice.

But when you're competing against Quick, it's not easy to find a whole lot of ice time.

When looking to Chicago, Corey Crawford's career save percentage is identical to Bernier's. But it's important to remember Bernier hasn't seen nearly the same amount of playing time as Chicago's starter. With a little more experience and work, there's no reason the young goaltender wouldn't continue to improve his numbers.

When it comes down to it, Crawford and Bernier could learn a great deal from one another, as well as grow together with the team. Bernier's experienced Quick's growth in Los Angeles first-hand and is able to note what it takes to your game to an entirely new level. Crawford has gone from the backup position to the starting role, and despite his struggles last season, can provide insight and tips on what to expect when making a jump like that in your career.

I'm not saying Bernier should come in and take over Crawford's spot, but I think both could be effective when given fair playing time. Even if Bernier is once again dealt the title of being a backup, he could see much more playing time in Chicago than he could in Los Angeles. Plus Bernier would be rather inexpensive--he has one year and 1.25 million left on contract--yet he has the numbers to prove he could be a top-notch goalie when given the chance.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North


Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

NBC Sports Chicago’s John "Moon" Mullin talked with The MMQB's Albert Breer, who shared his thoughts on where the Bears stand — and if they’ll be able to compete — in a highly competitive NFC North.

Moon: The Bears have made upgrades, but they’re in the NFC North and not many divisions are tougher, given the strength at quarterbacks.

Breer: Yes. You look at the other three teams, and they all very much believe they’re in a window for winning a championship. The Packers are going through some changes, but they’ve gotten Mike Pettine in there as defensive coordinator and a new general manager who was aggressive on draft day. I know that internally they feel that’s going to give them a boost, and bringing Aaron Rodgers back obviously is the biggest thing of all.

Minnesota, all the things they did this offseason, signing (quarterback) Kirk Cousins, (defensive lineman) Sheldon Richardson, and they were knocking on the door last year.

The Lions have been building for two years under (general manager) Bob Quinn and (new coach) Matt Patricia, who lines right up with the general manager — the two of them worked together in New England. They really believe that Matthew Stafford is ready to take the sort of jump that Matt Ryan made in Atlanta a few years ago, where you see that mid-career breakthrough from a quarterback that we see sometimes now.

It’s one of the toughest divisions in football, and every team in the division believes that it’s in the position to contend right now.

Moon: We didn’t see a lot of Mitch Trubisky — 12 games — so it sounds possible that the Bears could improve and still lose ground.

Breer: The Lions were pretty good last year. The Vikings were in the NFC Championship game. And who knows where the Packers would’ve been if Rodgers hadn’t broken his collarbone. The biggest change is that Aaron Rodgers will be back, and that’s the best player in the league. It was a really good division last year, and you’re adding back in a Hall of Fame quarterback.

As far as the Bears, there’s going to be questions where the organization is going. It’s been seven years since they were in the playoffs. I think they certainly got the coach hire right. This is a guy who I know other organizations liked quite a bit and was going to be a head coach sooner or later.

And I think he matches up well with Mitch. I think the Bears are in a good spot, but as you said, they’re competing in a difficult environment, so it may not show up in their record.

Moon: A lot of love for the Vikings after they get to the NFC Championship and then add Kirk Cousins.

Breer: A lot of people look at Minnesota and think Kirk Cousins’ll be a huge improvement. And maybe he will be. I think he’s a very good quarterback, top dozen in the league. But Case Keenum played really, really well last year, so it wasn’t like they weren’t getting anything out of that position last year.

The NFC right now is clearly the strength of the league. If you picked the top 10 teams in the league, you could make a case that seven or eight of them are in the NFC. I think there will be NFC teams that miss the playoffs who could be in the Super Bowl coming out of the AFC. There’s a little bit of an imbalance there.

Moon: Trubisky projects as part of a wave of new quarterbacks league-wide, a sea change in the NFL.

Breer: The interesting thing is that this is probably as stable as the league has been at quarterback in a long time. There’ve been questions where the next great quarterbacks will come from, but I don’t know that there’s a team right now in the NFL like you looked at the Jets or Browns last year, where you say that team is definitely drafting a quarterback in 2019.

Everyone either has a big-money veteran or former first-round pick on their roster. One team that doesn’t is the Cowboys, but they’ve got Dak Prescott who’s played really well. Every team in the league has some stability at the position. I think the position is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, and you’ve got a lot of good young prospects.