LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL
At LONG last! Hope everyone
has had an interesting extended off-season! I know I have: I'm
a proud new father of a LARGE boy, Dalen, who's now six months
old! Needless to say, it's been very hectic around here, which
I hope explains why I haven't been able to put much in the way
of an article together. I know I mentioned that I was working
on an article about goalies in the minors and juniors, but I
found news on them a little hard to come by sometimes, so I decided
to broaden my scope once there was some real news about a CBA
settlement. That day has come, and here is my article! This is
a review of just about every goalie that might see NHL action,
as well as a few who are primary prospects in a teams' system.
She's a bit on the longish side, but hey, I shoot for comprehensive.
I should also mention that my email basically blew up (mailbox
got a bit full and they shut 'er down due to some problems),
but good news, it's back up and running so I'll need to get some
mail again so I can get back in touch with my regular folks (this
means you, Mel! Let me know what's happening!). As for the rest
of you, glad to be back and let's see what's new and exciting
in the world of goalies. I have a feeling that there might not
be a lot of movement concerning goaltenders in this big free
agent feeding frenzy expected to develop (man, I can't WAIT!
This is going to be an off-season like never before!). We'll
see, won't we?
One last side note before we get started: I'd like to say hello
and congratulations to my hometown Brandon Wheat Kings for winning
the WHL Eastern Conference this year. I made it down for the
three games of the Finals that were played there, and while I
wasn't impressed with the outcome (a very tough break in Game
4 in overtime took the heart out of them), it was still great
to see them perform at such a high level, especially without
NHL hockey to watch. Great job, guys!
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
J.S. GIGUERE - Of all the goaltenders in the league, none may
be as adversely affected by the new regulations on equipment
size as Giguere. It probably won't help that the hockey world
knows this and will be watching him very closely. Even so, it
should be mentioned that he had his oversize equipment during
the 2003-04 season and it didn't help him all that much anyway.
It just may be that Giguere, like some of his contemporaries,
is a little on the streaky side. Maybe he's due for a good year?
Even with new GM Brian Burke on board, he probably won't be going
anywhere, but that is a rather large contract to carry.
ILYA BRYZGALOV- The big question with this fellow is whether
or not he's good enough to shoulder the load should Giguere falter.
I believe that he is, but is he good enough to be considered
a premiere starter at this level? Too early to tell. Regardless
of whether or not Giguere is bought out, he'll probably start
the season as the Ducks' backup. Split duties this year with
Frederic Cassivi on the farm.
KARI LEHTONEN- Barring a stunning first campaign by Sidney Crosby,
Lehtonen will do nothing short of winning the Calder trophy.
Yes, he IS that good. Judging by the large number of Finnish
goalies entering the league and making good, Finland may push
Canada for the right to call themselves the best goalie producers,
and Lehtonen will lead that push. He and Pittsburgh's Fleury
will be the dominant goaltenders of this new generation. As for
this season, if the Thrashers keep Heatley and Kovalchuk, then
build around them with decent free agents, a thirty-plus win
season is not out of the question! I've watched him when the
Chicago Wolves came to town and while he did lose that game to
the Road Runners, there was only one goal that beat him badly.
The other three came from near-impossible angles. He did well
when he needed to, though, leading Chicago to the Calder Cup
finals where fellow Finn Antero Niittymaki outplayed him, but
almost all were one-goal losses in low scoring games, and in
overtime to boot. He's ready for the big league.
PASI NURMINEN- His job is to help Lehtonen adapt to life in the
NHL, and he comes with an affordable price tag. He's a capable
backup, and can play for a longer string if necessary. He may
start for the Thrashers, but I have a feeling GM Don Waddell
won't be able to keep Lehtonen from the crease for long.
ANDREW RAYCROFT- Last years Calder recipient played extremely
well, and the Bruins hope that at long last they have their starter
for years to come. However, he hasn't genuinely proven himself,
and there were some games against the Canadiens in the playoffs
in which he looked like a raw rookie. I didn't hear much about
where he played in the lockout season, but he may be a prime
candidate for a sophomore slump, especially with the expectations
of the Bruins faithful piled upon his young shoulders. It's happened
just ask Blaine Lacher. The Bruins will be upset
that they didn't dabble in the massive free agent market if he
does falter. He does seem to have a decent chance of sticking
HANNU TOIVONEN- Oh, look, another Finnish rookie! He's played
a couple of great seasons in the AHL and has earned his promotion.
Jury's still out on his NHL potential, but he's known for being
a reliable tender. He'll play maybe twenty games this year in
MARTIN BIRON- This guy's been almost traded how many times, and
yet he's still in Buffalo. Why do I have a feeling he's not going
to be the starter here come October? A fast, capable goalie that
could be a starter pretty much anywhere, Biron may just need
a change of scenery. He just hopes he has a chance to be a number
one somewhere! Maybe Chicago, with an injury prone Thibault and
no good young help on the horizon?
MIKKA NORONEN- Hey, another young Finnish goalie! Noronen was
supposed to have taken over by now, but may be cast as a backup
from here on in. I have a feeling he may have a chance once Biron
is gone, but Darcy Reiger's plans appear to be focused on someone
RYAN MILLER- Played a spectacular season in Rochester and has
re-established himself as the premiere prospect in the Sabres'
system. Expect him to start the season with the big club, and
be given every opportunity to take the starters' job. He hasn't
really impressed in his brief time in the NHL, but this season
of seasoning has done nothing but help his confidence. Lots and
lots of potential here!
MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF- One win away from the Cup, and carrying a once
faltering franchise on his back. Not bad for a guy who came over
from San Jose for a couple of pucks and a roll of tape. Has been
an absolute treat to watch (even for an Oilers fan like me) as
he tries to make the saves with his glove instead of parking
his pads in front of the puck and smothering rebounds. Could
he also fall victim to a slump? He didn't take the year off and
played in Europe so he should still be relatively sharp. If anything,
he might have missed out on the big payouts that he would have
been in line for (see: Giguere and Theodore), but hey, I'm sure
he won't be hard up for cash. The Flames WILL re-sign him.
ROMAN TUREK- He just signed a contract for next season to play
back home in the Czech Republic. He was actually very amicable
through the ascension of Kiprusoff in Calgary and we probably
won't see him again in the NHL, so let's wish him well.
DANY SABOURIN- Youngster has been learning the ropes at the NHL
level but doesn't appear to be getting a shot at a starter's
role any time soon, at least not with the Flames. I wouldn't
be surprised if he ends up a free agent. Played with Marc-Andre
Fleury and Andy Chiodo in Wilkes-Barre Scranton this season and
didn't see a whole lot of playing time.
BRENT KRAHN- The Flames organization still seems pretty high
on this large goalie, but I'm not entirely sure why. They drafted
him very high, but that was a few years ago. He or Sabourin will
be the backup next season, but I'd bet on Krahn (barring a signing).
He played with a stacked Hitmen team as a Junior and quite frankly,
I think they made him look better than he was. We'll see. Played
well in the AHL last season for the Carolina farm team. More
MARTIN GERBER- Two Swiss born goalies in starting jobs at the
NHL level; who'da thunk it? The question is whether or not Gerber
will get the start or if the 'Canes can't resist dipping into
the Free Agent pool for a proven goalie. Gerber's experience
consists of backing up Giguere in Anaheim, but when he did play,
he played very well and Carolina thinks they scored a coup landing
him before the Leafs did. Someone has to give him a chance, why
not them? Lots of upside: he's young and fast!
CAM WARD- I said the same thing about him that I did about Krahn:
he played for a Sutter team (the WHL's Red Deer Rebels) and that
made him look better than he was (go figure: he and Krahn split
the duties in Lowell and both posted excellent records!). His
play for the Lowell Lock Monsters in the AHL this season may
have proven me wrong! Ward had a stellar campaign and posted
the league's best save percentage (.937!). The Hurricanes are
going to have a big decision on their hands as whether or not
to promote him to backup or let him keep playing as much as possible
in the minors.
JOCEYLN THIBAULT- "T-Bo" missed a lot of last season
due to injury and may have worn out his welcome in the Windy
City. There've been times he's stood on his head to keep the
Hawks in a game, but their woes have not been his fault by any
stretch of the imagination. Now Chicago has a new GM and the
possibility of actually being a player in the free agent frenzy,
so if there's someone else to be had, cheap, Thibault could be
on the way out. If they buy him out early, he could be picked
up as a backup with starter potential, and he wouldn't ask too
much, either. A pleasant, capable goalie.
CRAIG ANDERSON- Don't know too much about this fellow except
that he played a lot when Thibault was injured and didn't turn
into the second coming of Ed Belfour. Will likely end up in the
minors again where, although he posted a 1.83 GAA in 15 games,
he was overshadowed by
MARK LEIGHTON- Another so-so player in his NHL time, but he played
steady on the farm. Will likely play some kind of backup role,
but an unlikely NHL starter.
MARC DENIS- It's time to step up for Denis, but that might be
a bit easier if they add to their team in the off-season. Denis
has been excellent on many nights for the young Jackets, and
while he has faced some criticism for letting in a crucial goal
once in a while, his upside still remains high. He's used to
a heavy workload and he's got a spectacular personality, so he
should remain Columbus' starter for as long as Doug MacLean will
have him, which should be quite a while.
ARTURS IRBE- It remains to be seen if Irbe will actually play
again, but if he does, he should be an effective backup, but
only in the short term. Nearing the end of his interesting career,
he is 38 years old.
PASCAL LECLAIRE- Hopes have been high for this lanky goalie since
he was drafted, but so far he hasn't lived up to expectations.
He only played in fourteen games in the AHL last season, posting
a 5-6-1 record while Karl Goehring posted a winning record with
23-22-0. His time may be up.
DAVID AEBISCHER- There were those who believed Colorado would
crash and burn without Patrick Roy to save them. David Aebischer
has quieted most of his naysayers by now. Admittedly, he's had
some of the league's best defensemen in front of him in Blake
and Foote, but he plays a simple, steady game and can make the
saves required of him. A lot of question marks in Colorado this
season, but he may be one of the cornerstones of this franchises'
future. Currently the best player to ever come out of Switzerland
and actually STAY in the NHL.
PHILLIPE SAUVE- Sauve didn't exactly live up to his expectations
when he was called upon to step in for Aebischer, which prompted
a trade for Tommy Salo (which was no real improvement) at the
deadline. Ended up signing with Mississippi in the ECHL at mid-season,
and posted a great record there. May have to duke it out with
Peter Budaj for the backup spot, but I wouldn't be surprised
if Colorado picks up an experienced veteran like Potvin or Snow
to fill in this season.
MARTY TURCO- Has been very impressive since taking over the starter's
job in the Big D. He consistently posts very low GAA and high
save percentages, yet can be vulnerable in high-pressure situations.
Turco has inhuman hand-eye co-ordination. He'll be staying put
while the Stars figure out how to rebuild.
DAN ELLIS- Had a putrid outing (10-19-0) playing for the Habs'
farm team in Hamilton, while starter Yann Denis put up a 28-17-6
record. Coach's favouritism may have something to do with it,
or it could be Ellis just didn't play all that well (in his defense,
a 2.77 GAA and .908 S% isn't all that awful). Stars may consider
a seasoned backup, but they still like Ellis.
CURTIS JOSEPH- With a monstrous contract, the Wings may consider
cutting ties with CuJo. He is starting to show signs of slowing
down and this year off may not have been good for him. Another
team will sign him if the Wings do let him go, but it will be
for quite a bit less money. Still a capable stopper, but does
he have enough left in the tank for a Stanley Cup run? Depends
where he plays.
MANNY LEGACE- Has been waiting for his chance to shine and if
the Wings do let Joseph test the waters, should be their choice
for a starter. However, I wouldn't be shocked if the Wings went
for another goalie should one of high caliber come available.
With Legace, his time might be now or never! Solid and reliable.
STEFAN LIV- This Swedish tender is a character in every sense
of the word and is very popular in his home country. Has had
great success in the Swedish Elite League and at 24 years old,
should be ready for the big time by now. Played on the ice a
lot like Dominik Hasek, but has recently played a more stand-up
style, which has helped his consistency.
JIM HOWARD- After developing in the US Junior system, Howard
has played extremely well since joining the University of Maine
Black Bears, and now holds some records in the NCAA. Very capable
and may in fact be one of the best prospects in the Wings system.
Might be a couple of years away, but if his talent demands it,
we could see him a lot sooner, or as trade bait.
TY CONKLIN- One of the best American born goalies in the league
plays for a Canadian team. Conklin has shown he's a steady customer,
if not too flashy. If a free agent goaltender comes available
that Kevin Lowe considers being of a higher talent level than
Conklin, don't be surprised if Conklin is relegated to backup
JEFF DROUINS-DESLAURIERS- The youngster had good and bad games
playing for the already defunct AHL Road Runners. Some nights
he was capable of outplaying the best teams, and others
well, he ended up 6-13-2 with a .888 S%. Needs more seasoning
and will play with the aforementioned Habs' farm team, the Hamilton
Bulldogs, next season.
DEVYN DUBNYK- this towering goalie will likely continue to play
for Kamloops of the WHL next season. He'll face a lot of scrutiny
and comparison to the Vancouver Giants' Marek Schwarz, whom he
was drafted ahead of. Dubnyk kept the Blazers close in a lot
of games this year, and it can be said even won a few for them.
Takes up a lot of net, and is just starting to fill out.
ROBERTO LUONGO- Poor Luongo. There's no guarantee that the Panthers
are going to get a lot better with the free agent frenzy, especially
with Mike Keenan as GM. His numbers may improve if they stock
the team with defensive forwards, and they do have the league's
best young blueliner in Jay Bouwmeester. New coach Jacques Martin
will have lots of time to work with him; he is, after all, the
heir-apparent to Martin Brodeur as Canada's best goaltender.
It'll take a sweetheart deal for any team to pry Luongo away
from Florida; the Panthers would likely fold first.
JANI HURME- A season lost to injury followed by a season lost
to lockout may seriously hurt this Finnish goalie. Once considered
a player with starter written all over him, Hurme may be all
but forgotten behind Luongo. He may have to settle for a backup
role while he gets his career back together, or else face being
replaced. The farm system has very little of interest in terms
of goalies, so this might be an ideal opportunity for him.
ROMAN CECHMANEK- Let's make this simple: the Kings would have
been way better off keeping Felix Potvin than signing this guy.
Extremely streaky, temperamental and, quite frankly, strange
goalie that can steal the carpet out from your feet one night,
and then do his best sieve impression the next. May not be long
for the NHL.
MATHIEU GARON- If the Kings don't ditch Cechmanek and get themselves
a reliable goalie, Garon might be ready for the task. He earned
a berth at the AHL All-Star game with a stellar record of 32-14-4
for the Manchester Monarchs, and looks like he could be a NHL
starter. Nowhere for Garon to go but up!
DWAYNE ROLOSON- The winner of the ongoing duel between himself
and Manny Fernandez for full-time starting goalie honours, Roloson
plays a simple, effective game and that suits the Wild just fine.
I'd be surprised if they pursued another goalie in the free agent
frenzy and will likely just keep Roloson, who's earning his fans
JOSH HARDING-After putting together a strong season for the Houston
Aeros, this guy's ready for the big league, if only as a backup
to start. Had a fantastic WHL career with Regina and Brandon,
and is as cool a customer as they come. Will be an NHL starter
within the next five years.
JOSE THEODORE- after being dogged by all sorts of family scandals,
Theodore needs to keep his focus on the ice. He is skilled, but
I still think the media is overrating him. Can have his share
of bad games, but usually rebounds well after a loss. The Habs
have no interest in parting with Theodore
yet. He might
benefit from escaping the pressure-cooker that is Montreal and
distancing himself from his family, but so far, he's handled
it all with aplomb and grace. Didn't have a lot of help against
Tampa in the last playoffs.
CRISTOBAL HUET- this French (and I mean FRENCH French) goalie
played well when Cechmanek got hurt and showed he was a decent
backup. Unlikely to find starters' work, but will play well when
called upon. Will probably enjoy his time in Montreal.
TOMAS VOKOUN- The Czech Republic's best puckstopper, and one
of the NHL's best as well. I wonder how many people thought Vokoun
would eventually be regarded this highly when he started out
with Montreal? Nashville will be quite content to hang on him
for this season. Plays a smart game and covers angles well. Has
a pleasant personality.
BRIAN FINLEY- after an up and down career fraught with serious
injuries, Finley will finally get his shot as an NHL backup after
posting a superb 36-22-4 record with a 2.29 GAA and a .921 S%.
He's finally starting to show the promise the Predators hoped
to see when they drafted him.
MARTIN BRODEUR- The best goalie in the world right now, bar none.
His chances for breaking Patrick Roy's records may be in jeopardy
now with the loss of an entire year (yes, yes, I know, Roy had
to lose a half season, but remember, so did Brodeur!). With three
Stanley Cup rings and a couple of Vezinas under his belt, not
to mention Olympic gold, Brodeur has nothing left to prove except
to challenge those records. New Jersey will never let him go.
Ever. As the team rebuilds, however, he may face a few more shots
than he's used to, and with the talk of Stevens retiring and
Niedermayer heading elsewhere, he'll have to get acquainted with
a new group of defensemen and his numbers may suffer slightly.
SCOTT CLEMMENSEN- it was a rough year all around in Albany, and
the two goalies in the Devils system took a beating. Clemmensen
posted a 13-25-5 record but maintained a respectable 2.81 GAA
considering the barrage he faced. It appears he's going to be
a career NHL backup/AHL starter.
ARI AHONEN- another super Finnish prospect, but Ahonen appears
to be having a bit of trouble adapting to the North American
game. Of course, the team he played for wasn't top notch, either
as his 16-20-1 record would reflect. Unlike Clemmensen, his personal
numbers weren't all that hot (3.12 GAA, .910 S%) and Ahonen may
need to stay in the "A" for another year before making
the jump. I'd bet on Clemmensen moving up and Ahonen getting
full time play in the minors.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
CHRIS OSGOOD- When he's good, he's great. When he's bad, he reeks.
Osgood has never gotten a lot of respect, but he can play well
when needed. It's just always smart to have a good backup on
the bench for those nights when his game goes south. Osgood may
find himself on the outside looking in with DiPietro breathing
down his neck. Teams may start considering him backup material
RICK DIPIETRO- brash young upstart ready to make a name for himself
at the pro level. If I'm the Isles coach, it's time to let him
take the reins. There WAS a decent defense in front of him at
the end of 2004, but major changes are on the way. Was he worthy
of being the first overall pick in 2002? Too early to tell, but
it'll be fun to watch!
NEW YORK RANGERS
KEVIN WEEKES- acquired from Carolina in last year's off-season,
it remains to be seen how well Weekes will fit into the Rangers
already crowded crease. He can play absolutely spectacular at
times, as his relatively high number of shutouts will attest,
but he hasn't always been the best at his craft either. Very
athletic, he'll likely be given a chance in a Ranger uniform,
but when there's this many free agents available, who knows what
Sather will do? If he's smart, he'll keep Weekes, who's fairly
affordable, and groom a youngster.
MIKE DUNHAM- Not long for the NHL. Bad attitude and poor play
as of late have caused Dunham's stock to take a nosedive. When
he's on, he plays a sound game, but Barry Trotz shed no tears
when he left Nashville. Unlikely to see NHL action except as
DAN BLACKBURN- a horrible injury may cost this young prospect
a chance of making it. Damage to his catching arm has been severe,
but he's been trying to play in the minors wearing two blockers.
You have to give him immense credit for making it back to even
ECHL level of play, but the odds of him ever recovering enough
to see NHL duty are very long. For his sake, I hope I'm wrong.
HENRIK LUNDQVIST- The Rangers are very excited about this kid.
He's played quite well back home in Sweden, posting a 1.79 GAA
last season and wants to show his stuff at the AHL level as well.
He'll need a season to adjust to the North American style, but
he projects as a starter.
ALVARO MONTOYA- Montoya came with high expectations after playing
a spectacular World Junior Championships in 2004. The Rangers
drafted him sixth overall that summer, but there were those who
suggested Montoya might be the proverbial flash in the pan. The
naysayers may have been on to something: his play was far less
impressive this season, both in the NCAA and at the WJC 2005.
He might just be streaky, but he's going to have to get it together
to show the Rangers' brass that he's better than Lundqvist.
DOMINIK HASEK- the "Dominator" of old may be long gone,
Ottawa fans. Apparently he's been keeping in shape back in the
Czech Republic (hopefully not by using other guys as punching
bags), so he might still have some of his old skills. John Muckler
is banking on it. He relies so heavily on his flexibility and
having a stingy defense in front of him; will Ottawa fit the
bill under Bryan Murray? There's no question that his competitive
fire is still strong, but the big question is whether or not
he's still an elite goaltender.
MARTIN PRUSEK- Having both Hasek and Prusek on the bench is an
ideal situation for the Sens. When one falters, the other picks
up and plays pretty much the same game. This is not to say that
Prusek is definitely the same caliber as Hasek was in his prime,
but he may be a very good goalie. Watch him carefully; as he
gains experience, his confidence may help him reach the upper
RAY EMERY- Emery is full of spirit and is athletically gifted.
He's a fair size and plays a ferocious game. The question is
whether or not he'll be able to harness that long enough to play
at the NHL level. His great record in Binghamton last season
(28-18-5, 2.65 GAA, .910S%) shows that he may have found his
KELLY GUARD- Much like my thoughts on Cam Ward and Brent Krahn,
many have suggested that Guard is a product of his super-defensive
team in Kelowna. Two new goalies stepped in there and picked
up where he left off. There may be something to this: Guard played
for the ECHL's Charlotte Checkers this season, and posted a record
that was just above .500. He may move up to be the backup in
the AHL this time around. He was undrafted and may end up being
a hidden gem like Curtis Joseph.
ROBERT ESCHE- The best American goalie right now, Esche has finally
earned the respect of his peers. He languished in the Coyotes'
farm, but since his arrival in Philadelphia, he's played fairly
well. The Flyers brought in Sean Burke when Esche damaged his
groin muscle, but wished that Esche were 100%. Esche may bring
the most stability to the Flyers' crease since Ron Hextall, but
even he's going to have to watch his back with the arrival of
ANTERO NIITTYMAKI- Niitymaki is yet another stellar Finnish born
tender who did nothing short of lead his AHL team to the Calder
Cup. He has seen limited NHL action as a backup in the playoffs,
but when he has played, he's played very well. Despite the fact
that the Flyers have parted with so many goaltending prospects
over the last few years, they're thrilled that Niitymaki emerged
when he did. He had a fantastic regular season in the A (33-21-4,
2.07 GAA .924S%), but really turned it on the playoffs. He's
shown immense grace under fire, and outduelled super-prospect
and countryman Kari Lehtonen to win it all. How long until he
gets his chance?
BRENT JOHNSON- How can a guy be so good and yet play so bad on
occasion? The Coyotes seem to have the market on streaky goalies
sewn up. Johnson put together three consecutive playoff shutouts
a couple of years ago for St. Louis, and yet, here he is in Phoenix.
A bit of an odd character, Johnson may find himself elsewhere
yet again if the Coyotes chose to go in another direction.
BRIAN BOUCHER- if you were looking up the word "Streaky"
in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of this guy. Now holds
the record for the longest modern day shutout streak (bonus points
to you if you can name the goalie who still holds the ALL-TIME
shutout streak record
without looking it up first!), and
yet, can reek like a thirty-year-old hockey bag. You never know
which Brian Boucher is going to show up, and that's why the Flyers
kicked him to the curb. If the Coyotes can find someone more
reliable, he's off to the bench.
MARC-ANDRE FLEURY- pegged as the future of Canadian goalies,
the Pens have very high hopes for this pleasant young man. He's
already been through the wringer, though, and one can only hope
it makes him stronger. First, he got to start with the big club
last season, and was shelled, as the Penguins were brutal. He
played for Team Canada at the World Juniors in 2004 and a freak
goal caused by his attempt to clear the puck cost Canada the
gold medal. After that, he was relegated to the AHL, and last
season, when the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins were crafting
their upset against the Binghamton Senators, it was Fleury who
was watching from the bench with an .853 S% after three games
as Andy Chiodo made it happen. Does all of this weaken Fleury's
value? Hell, no; any team would take him on in a heartbeat, but
Pittsburgh must be very careful so as not to shake the poor kid's
confidence too quickly. He did, after all, post a regular season
of 26-19-4, 2.52 GAA, .901S% in the A. He might just be the starter
for the Pens again next year, but they'll likely bring in a journeyman
to play thirty games to mentor him.
ANDY CHIODO- the (heaven help me) "Chiodo Dragon" has
had his ups and downs. He got plenty of opportunity to play for
the Pens during their awful season in 2003-04, and while he looked
competent, there were times he stunk and it wasn't just the team
in front of him. Chiodo didn't play much in the AHL (5-7-1, 3.27
GAA, .897S%), but boy, did he come on in the playoffs when Fleury
faltered. Most likely a utility goalie who can patch a hole from
time to time, but that's about all.
EVGENY NABOKOV- Nabokov's career in San Jose has been nothing
short of sparkling. It's just that no one seems to notice because
he plays for San Jose. The Sharks have remained competitive,
even when no one expected them to be, largely because of his
efforts. His speed and skill are in the top five in the league,
and with a couple of extra pieces, the Sharks might again challenge
for the conference title. He was yet another victim of the Cinderella
Flames; his play was about as good as it could be. He'll be a
Shark for a long time.
VESA TOSKALA- The Sharks thought so highly of Toskala that they
wrapped up Miikka Kiprusoff in a big red bow and gave him to
Calgary. Oops. This isn't to say that Toskala isn't a fine goalie,
but man, he's got quite a bit to live up to! He'll play behind
Nabokov again this season and may eventually get his chance a
year or two down the road.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
PATRICK LALIME- cast aside in the wake of a complete and utter
implosion at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Patrick Lalime
is ready to start over in St. Louis. Showed gobs of promise as
a rookie with Pittsburgh, Lalime continued to play well for Ottawa,
even posting a three game shutout streak in the playoffs, only
to fall apart against the Leafs. While most will remember that
collapse, he wasn't the only one on the team who played poorly.
The Blues, who haven't had anything resembling reliable goaltending
since Curtis Joseph was in town, will be ecstatic to have him.
JASON BACASHIHUA- Originally drafted by the Stars a few years
ago, "Cash" didn't impress too many folks in their
organization, and so he found himself a member of the Blues'.
Last season he shared a rather crowded crease with Curtis Sanford
in Worchester, and put up a 18-13-1 season with a 2.51 GAA and
a .902 S% (better than Sanford's 19-25-2). Could conceivably
start on the bench as Lalime's backup this season, and has starter
MAREK SCHWARZ- The Blues couldn't believe their luck when Schwarz
was still available so late in the first round. After coming
over from the Czech Republic to play for the WHL's Vancouver
Giants, Schwarz displayed the skills that made him so highly
rated. The irony was that he found himself playing against the
only goalie drafted ahead of him, Devyn Dubnyk, on a frequent
basis, and they both played quite well. I have a feeling these
two are going to see a lot of each other at the NHL level in
about five years or so.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
NIKOLAI KHABIBULIN- could life have gone any better for Khabby?
First, he sits out in a contract dispute with Phoenix, and then
ends up playing for developing powerhouse Tampa Bay. Before you
can say "Curse of the Jets", Khabibulin is picking
up the Stanley Cup! Not to shabby, Khabby! What does the future
hold? Well, that's a very good question: his contract is a little
on the large side, and the question is will Tampa be able to
carry it with many of its other major stars looking for a well-earned
raise? Should they choose to cut him, there waits
JOHN GRAHAME- since his arrival from Boston, Grahame has done
very well in his time in Tampa's crease. There were a lot of
raised eyebrows when it was Grahame who got the start in Tampa's
final game of the 2003 playoffs in lieu of Khabibulin. Grahame
has always been a more-than-capable backup, and could conceivably
be a starter somewhere, but he's never been given the opportunity.
Might Tampa do just that if they need some cap room?
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
ED BELFOUR- what is it about the Leafs franchise that can seem
to extend the life of goalies that should be well past their
prime and keep them playing at a high level? Turk Broda, Johnny
Bower, and now Eddie Belfour is 39 years young and playing like
someone ten years younger. How long can he go on like this? A
very good question. Some have suggested that Belfour's contract
is more of a detriment than his age and that he might be cast
out because of it in favour of old fan favourite (but underachieving)
Curtis Joseph, but that's just likely hot air. The Leafs will
buy out other players long before Belfour, so long as Belfour
keeps his "Crazy Eddie" persona in a box somewhere.
And keeps a spare back somewhere, too.
MIKAIL TELLQUIST- The Leafs have been so shallow in the young
goalie position that Tellquist gets to be the backup almost by
default. When he has played, he's been average at best, but somewhat
better than poor Trevor Kidd. Quite honestly, I think Tellquist
is headed back to the AHL or will be cut adrift. With Belfour's
back being rather cranky, the need for an established backup
becomes more and more urgent. Expect a Potvin or Burke to step
DAN CLOUTIER- the Canucks' Wild Child goalie is still smarting
from yet another dismal performance in the playoffs. One has
to wonder how long it will take the new GM to bring in another
goalie. The goalie carousel has continued to revolve since Kirk
McLean left, and it doesn't show any sign of stopping with Cloutier,
even though he's been here for a while. He's tough and can make
a big stop, but he really needs to develop his mental fortitude
under pressure. May be a casualty in the free agent frenzy!
ALEX AULD- this young goalie did very well when Cloutier didn't
in the playoffs, but alas, it wasn't enough. Auld carried the
bulk of the workload in Winnipeg for the Moose this season (25-18-4,
2.56GAA .909S%), and handled it with aplomb. The thing was that
Wade Flaherty found a lot of starts for the Moose in the playoffs,
which makes one wonder if Auld is ready. He'll most likely be
the backup in Vancouver to start the season.
OLAF KOLZIG- "Ollie the Goalie" is finally starting
to reach the downslope of an excellent career with the Capitals.
Even when they sold everything but the kitchen sink, and gave
him an opportunity to be part of the fire sale, he stayed put
and offered to help through the rebuilding. Truly a class act,
this massive goalie continues to bring his steady game night
after night. The Caps would be lucky to find a goalie like him
again once he's gone. However, might they buy him out this time?
Would he relish the opportunity to sign with a contender? Watch
MAXIME OUELLET- once pegged as the cornerstone of Philadelphia's
future, he was traded (along with a first, second and third round
pick?!?) for Adam Oates. Boy, was that dumb. Ouellet saw limited
action in the NHL once the fire sale was over, and he didn't
exactly shine. He was the starter in Portland this season, and
they were brutal, too, as his 15-20-3 record would suggest, but
his personal numbers were still very nice (2.89 GAA, .911S%).
He'll likely be the full time backup in Washington this season,
but the question is, backup to who?
FELIX POTVIN- Potvin thought he was ready to re-establish himself
as a starter in the NHL with the Bruins last season, but the
coach had other plans, starting Andrew Raycroft at every opportunity.
Raycroft was played even when Potvin put together shutouts. Many
believe Potvin to be relegated to backup status, and that's likely
what most teams will have in mind when they sign him, but much
like Sean Burke, he could experience a resurgence with the right
team. Still extremely mentally strong and quite capable of making
the big save, he still has some confidence issues (thanks to
the Canucks' Marc Crawford) and can fall apart if left out to
dry. His best fit might just be his old team: the Leafs, who
will need a backup capable of playing a whole season if necessary.
GARTH SNOW- served as a mentor to young Rick DiPietro on the
Island for a while, and now may find himself without a team as
the season starts up. Still capable when he needs to be, and
may resume backup duties somewhere, but could be near the end
of the line.
MANNY FERNANDEZ- should be a desirable player for a team in need
of a seasoned backup with starter potential. Fernandez has been
around for a while now, and was squeezed out of Minnesota by
Dwayne Roloson. He'll catch on somewhere. Maybe Phoenix?
J.S. AUBIN- was signed by the St. John's Maple Leafs in mid season
and played rather well, posting a 12-9-0, with a 2.87GAA and
.921 S%. Maybe the Leafs were thinking he could back up Eddie
Belfour this year, but maybe he's going to stay in the A from
here on in.
JAN LASAK- the Slovak goalie can play a very good game, and rumour
has is that his lack of NHL time in Nashville frustrated him
so much that he went back home to play last season. He might
come back if he got the right offer, but for now, he's a complete
wild card. Very fast and fluid.
SEAN BURKE- after filling in for Robert Esche in Philadelphia,
Burke will once again find himself without a home at first. He
had a renaissance in Phoenix for a couple of seasons, and was
the prime catch in 2004's trade deadline where goalies were concerned.
Alas, despite a victory over the Leafs, Burke is 38 years old
and may finally be at the end of the road. Some of his comments
as of late may not exactly endear him to others, but he might
just be a quick fix for some team.
Thanks for stickin' with
me through all of this (or even if you just read about your favourite
tenders). I'll be writing on and off over the next little while
(working lots, plus a vacation), but I'll be back now that the
NHL is back, too. Till next time, keep your eyes up and your
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