Monday, May 29, 2006


Are Goaltenders Fungible?

adj : of goods or commodities; freely exchangeable for or replaceable by another of like nature or kind in the satisfaction of an obligation n : a commodity that is freely interchangeable with another in satisfying an obligation

It used to be that a playoff team was screwed if they didn't have a bonafide #1 goaltender who could carry a heavy workload and carry the team with him (apart from the Osgood Red Wings). More and more, we're seeing the idea of a set #1 fall by the wayside as teams such Carolina, Minnesota, and Anaheim freely exchange #1 goaltenders and go with the 'hot hand', while getting good results. The idea of a true #1 and a backup isn't quite set-in-stone as it used to be.

Look at the Canes. They switch from Martin Gerber back to Cam Ward and win Game 5. Gerber carried the Canes for most of the season, but now it's Ward carrying them in the playoffs. I can't imagine the Canucks of 94 going with Kay Whitmore over Kirk McLean in any instance (McLean played every minute of every 24 games he started).

Is goaltending less important than it used to be thanks to better defensive play? Perhaps a little.

I think it has more to do with the quality of depth at the goaltender position in the NHL. You'd think there would be more than enough quality world-class goaltenders in the world for each team to have more than one.

We also see the trend of teams willing to give a shot to an older, more unproven commodity. Cristobal Huet, Tomas Vokoun, Roman Cechmanek, Martin Gerber and goalies like them were older fellers who weren't ever given much of a chance in the minds of most people to become #1 NHL goaltenders.

Of course, goaltending has always been a very hard position to project and develop. Most of the star goaltenders of the past and present weren't necessarily big-time prospects before they made the show. Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur are actually the exception to the rule in being high draft picks that have really succeed as star NHL goaltenders.

Curtis Joseph - Undrafted free agent
Ed Belfour - undrafted free agent
Dominik Hasek - 10th round in 1983 (of course, the Iron Curtain was the big problem)
Martin Gerber - 8th round, 2001
Roman Cechmanek - 6th round, 2000 (after years of being one of the best Non-NHL goalies)
Crystal Ball Huet - 7th round, 2001
Miikka Kiprusoff - 5th round, 1995
Evgeni Nabokov - 9th round, 1994
Marty Turco - 5th round, 1994
Henrik Lundqvist - 7th round, 2000
Ilya Bryzgalov - 2nd round, 2000
Dwayne Roloson - Undrafted free agent
Curtis Sanford - Undrafted free agent

What you notice is the influx of European goalies has really deepened the pool and given teams so many more options. NHL teams never wanted to touch Euro goalies in the past because their techniques were often very flawed (Hasek) and undeveloped. Many European countries (well, the clubs in those countries) had the bad habit of simply making the worst skater on the team into the goalie, and letting them to their own devices as to how to stop the puck. Now, foreign goalies get the quality training that Canadian goalies have had for decades. With so many goalies to choose from and only 60 spots, teams should have a real #1B option that they can toss in and get some good games from.


What did the Oilers do to their goal horn? It was annoying before, but now the higher pitch has made it almost as unbearable as Greg Millen's commentary.

Speaking of Millen, I wonder if the CBC guys hate him as much as the rest of us. Millen asked for a clip of a save to be rolled last night (and there was lots of time to do so), and the clip was never rolled. This isn't the first time I've heard Millen ask for a replay and he's never received it.

Oh, and did you know Greg Millen is available for consulting?

You must have some real issues if you need GREG MILLEN to help you with anything other than annoying the hell out of someone. (I don’t seem to have that problem anyway)

I'd ask Greg Millen to speak at one of my events if I was looking for a completely ridiculous statement.

("I have never seen that in a long time.")

I know that conventional wisdom rides the hot goalie into the playoffs (unless you're Colorado - then it's "ride the worst goalie"). If the games are getting brutal and your go-to guy is getting worn out, it makes sense to throw in the backup. However, if the Canucks were to make the playoffs with Noronen starting and Auld playing back up, as a fan, I'd still freak out if the coach used the backup - aka the "cold" goalie - for even one game.
I think if the Oilers need some pre-game motivational speeches, they could call Millen in for a re-run of some of his best calls. Such as "Shoot, Chris!" or "Go Ales go!" or "unbiased" calls along those lines.
Yeah, I was pretty much seething during the Oilers-Ducks series.
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