We’ll start with goalie graveyard connection. If you named two teams that have had more goalie problems over the last 15 years, it would be the Flyers and the Senators. Two teams who have struggled for years trying to find the guy for the future and two teams which have bad goaltending that has certainly cost them Stanley Cups. So let’s start with Philly. Here comes the savoir…the end of their goalie problems for years to come, and the final piece of their Stanley Cup puzzle. 9 years and 51-million for an all-star, a Vezina finalist, and a big reason for the Coyotes turn around. Most people saw this as a crazy contract. Way too many years. Too much money. Some thought it was a savvy deal because the rumour was he was looking for 7 million minimum. Well so far things are looking good for the Flyers as they have been 1st in the east of the most of the season. Still one missing piece though: GOALTENDING. Ilya Bryzgalov has been terrible. I’m talking about 30th in the league in GAA with 2.92 and 37th in save percentage at .896 terrible. It can’t get worse can it?
The next story has an Ottawa connection as it is the number 1 “are you fvcking kidding me story of the year”. That is former Sens and current St Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott who leads the NHL in GAA (1.43!) Save Percentage (.948!) and shutouts (4). Now the Ottawa Senators were battling with NJ for worst team in the league for the 40-45 games last year. But they weren’t that bad of a team. They just had atrocious goaltending. Brian Elliot couldn’t make a key save. He’d let in back breaking goals at all times of the game. He finished the season in Ottawa with stats of 3.19 and .894. He’s the same goalie that two years prior, Senators fans believed would finally be their long-term answer in net. Now last February, the Avalanche were slipping out of a playoff spot and it was becoming clear that this wasn’t their year. So I am convinced they traded Anderson straight up for Elliott to tank for a top 3 pick. And it was a very smart move. The Avalanche dropped to the 2nd overall pick behind Elliott’s 3.83 and .891. Elliott had done his job and he was thrown out like trash. Well here is Brian Elliott leading the NHL in pretty much every goalie statistic. And I know some might say it is the Hitchcock factor like we saw with Leclaire and Mason, but Elliott was getting it done the entire time before Hitch took over. He’s just continued that run since the coaching change.
By the way, the goalie the Senators traded Elliot for and then proceeded to sign to a 4-year $12.75 million deal in the hopes of being a stabilizing force in nets, well he’s 42nd of 44 goalies eligible with a 3.42 GAA.
Moving on…I just finished talking about the Florida Panthers in my last post being off to an incredible shocking start. They lost Tomas Vokoun who was willing to take millions less in salary just to get away from Florida and play for a competitive hockey team. That left the Panthers with Scott Clemmensen. Dave Tallon spun his wheel and it landed on Jose Theodore. The same Jose Theodore that hasn’t been relevant since 2004 in Montreal and has only disappointed the teams he has played for since including the Capitals. Look up those stats of his since the lockout ended. It’s been ugly. (I do want to give him a bit of a pass the last few years for the heartbreak he went through a couple years back with the death of his infant baby. That had to be the toughest thing in the world) Well he has a .923 save percentage and is backstopping the best team in the southeast. As for the goalie that he replaced…Tomas Vokoun. That’s the 2-time all-star that has been so solid for so long, and been the only thing keeping the Panthers from being one of the worst teams in the league most years. Well as we talked about…he has been awful in Washington with 2.81 GAA. He’s having the worst statistical season since he was a rookie back in 1999.
Where to next? Why not Edmonton with Nikolai Khabibulin. He’s been sh!t on ever since he won the Cup with the Lightning in 2004. He signed a 4-year $27 million deal becoming the highest paid goalie in the league, which by the way everyone knew was the dumbest contract ever and one he would never live up to. And he didn’t. But that didn’t stop the Oilers from giving him a 4 years and $15 million deal. To summarize, he sucked for 5 of those 6 contract years before this season and was absolutely pathetic last year. This year he has only put up the best numbers of his career so far with a 2.00 GAA and .932 SVP. Makes sense of course.
Who else? Why not everyone’s favourite Conn Smythe winning goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere. He has been pretty damn bad since 2008 with Ducks and Leafs failing to post a GAA below 2.95. Giguere ended up signing a deal to be the Avalanche’s backup to former 1st round pick of the Capitals Semyon Varlamov. The Avalanche traded a top pick of their own which is certainly going to be a lottery pick AND a 2nd round pick. An awful trade by the Avalanche since they probably could have signed him to an offer-sheet with the compensation being a 2nd round pick! Anyway, Varlamov has been quite bad so far with a 3.14 GAA and a .896 SVP, while Giguere has been outstanding at less than half the price with a 1.86 GAA and a .927 SVP.
More? Ryan Miller was pedestrian last year after his Vezina and Olympic greatness season of 2010. This year he has flat out sucked with a 3.12 GAA, and been outplayed by his backup Enroth. Roberto Luongo is being paid a fortune for a very long time. That 12 year $64 million contract looks worse and worse every day. One because they have an excellent goalie in Corey Schneider, and two because Roberto Luongo has been struggling mightily. He is sporting the lowest save percentage since he was an Islander at .905 and a GAA of 2.62. And we don’t need to get into the season Dwayne Roloson is having since that was covered (3.67 GAA). Of course, I didn’t even mention all these former all-star goalies crapping it up on bad teams like Cam Ward (3.29, .899), Jonas Hiller (3.15, .898) and the disaster that is Steve Mason (one hit wonder? 3.52 and .880). Alright, my head’s spinning.
Now baseball has that one glue guy. He’s as reliable as death and taxes. That’s Yankees closer Mo Rivera. For years in the NHL it was Marty Brodeur, but now it seems he has passed that title to Tim Thomas. The reigning Stanley Cup, Vezina and Conn Smythe winner is only getting better when you thought it couldn’t be possible. He finished the playoffs with a 1.98 GAA and 9.40 save percentage, and remember he broke the NHL regular season record with a .938 percentage. So far this season .943 and 1.84. Not too shabby at all. And this isn’t to say Tim Thomas isn’t the only reliable goalie in the league. There are a bunch but none as damn good as Tim Thomas.
That’s it for now. I could go on, but I think the post is long enough. What does everyone make of all of this…that is if you finished the entire post? Has goaltending always been this messed up? Have they always been baseball’s equivalent of the relieiver? Maybe all these goalies will cool off and some will pick up their play. It’s something to look out for as the season continues. I don’t know how a GM picks a goalie, but what we have learned is that whoever you do pick…just don’t pay him…unless it’s Tim Thomas.