And then their was one!
The Kelowna Rockets have just one player to show for a 6 player deal made with the Regina Pats last December.
Kyle St. Denis remains the only player remaining on the roster after Justin Bernhardt was given his walking papers today.
Bernhardt was traded to the Prince Albert Raiders for a 4th round bantam pick in 2009, following closely in the footsteps of Jason MacDonald who was outright released by the team earlier this season. When I was told this afternoon the Rockets were preparing a press release, my first thought went to the trade of Bernhardt. On this, I was right on the money. It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out though, as the writing was on the wall last week when Bernhardt was a healthy scratch in two of three games.
When asked why Bernhardt wasn't in the lineup last Friday in Kamloops, assistant coach Jeff Finley surprised David and I on the post game show by saying "He's been home sick lately". David and I looked at each other in shock after that statement. It was one thing to be in the coaches doghouse for a lack of effort or execution, but being home sick surprised both of us. If that in fact is the case, the move to Prince Albert does move him closer to his home in Yorkton Saskatchewan.
Bernhardt wasn't the jewel in the 6 player deal made with the Pats last season. It was Kyle St. Denis. That said, the Rockets were hoping Bernhardt could rekindle the magic he had as a 17 year-old when he scored 22 goals. But putting those high expectations on Bernhardt's shoulders may have been unfair considering he was playing with a linemate in 2005-2006 with the Pats named Petr Kalus. Kalus was a pretty spectacular player, registering 58 points in 60 games, including 36 goals.
It seemed that after that season, and with the departure of Kalus, Bernhardt just couldn't find the game that brought him success in his 17 year-old season, including a training camp stint with the NHL's San Jose Sharks. It was believed a change of scenery may restart his junior career, but it never happened. Last season after the trade to Kelowna, Bernhardt's conditioning was put into question as he managed just 8 goals in 40 games.
Despite the disappointing season following the deal with Regina, I thought he would get back on track after spending the summer in Kelowna, where he worked on his conditioning. While the physical side of his game improved substantially, the mental side of the game saw little improvement. In just 13 games this season Bernhardt was inconsistent. His uninspired play was a bad example for his younger teammates, and the coaching staff were likely concerned. Even his body language told me that playing junior hockey just wasn't fun anymore.
Whether Bernhardt asked for a trade, or was dealt simply for his lack of production, it's best he move on to allow younger players on the Rockets roster the chance to play and flourish. Frankly those younger players were doing it anyways.
I hope Bernhardt regains his love for the game, because if he does he may be able to attain the fine form he showed when he was 17. Do I think he can score at this level? No doubt. But until he masters the mental side of the game, the physical side just won't shine through.