Kukla's Korner Hockey
by petshark on 09/05/11 at 11:59 AM ET
I came across a poll somewhere, maybe on CSN, asking fans how they thought the Sharks look now, you know, what we think the team could still improve. One of the options was goaltending. Most fans chose depth forwards. Seems reasonable.
Seeing that goaltending option got me thinking. In theory, the team is pretty well set there. In theory, Niittymaki should be able to play enough games so Niemi doesn’t play as many as last year. Like, 30+ would be nice.
It isn’t that I’m worried about Nemo not being able to play 60 games again, but there’s no doubt that playing so many leaves him less sharp for the playoffs. That’s common sense, you don’t need stats to back it up. Much as goalies like to play as many games as you will let them, even if it helps some of them maintain focus, the body simply can’t keep up with the brain and it needs rest.
In theory, the Sharks have a whole bunch of goalies (8) signed. In theory. One of the goalies counted in that bunch is Alex Stalock, who isn’t expected to be ready to start skating until the end of this year.
Also in that bunch you have to allow for some playing in Worcester. It would be nice for them to have some goalies to themselves, instead of having a goalie scramble from bench duty with the big club to an AHL game the same day. That might even contribute to their development, something to think about since two of them have never started an AHL game, one has played just seven. Maybe that doesn’t matter. Bobrovsky has never played an AHL game either.
If there is any doubt about Nitty being able to play more this season than he did last season, bringing Greiss back takes on a different significance. Is he ready to do the job? Can he fill the role Nitty could? Maybe he can do a good job but no, I don’t think he is as capable as a healthy Nitty. I may be underestimating Greiss. I don’t think I’m overvaluing Nitty at his best.
There are a lot of players I haven’t seen skate yet. I didn’t see as much of Nemo as I saw of Greiss. That’s fine. Nemo can’t start that conserving energy thing soon enough to suit me. I didn’t see Nitty on the ice. Again, there are lots of Sharks I didn’t see, but I would still feel better if I had seen him out there. It’s easy to make me worry.
If Greiss does end up the number two for part of this season, will McLellan play him? Will he get anywhere near so many games as Nitty would? Or will Nemo yet again play number one the hard way? Even when he’s not at his best, even when the team really needs everyone to compensate for the scoring we lost this summer?
I very much hope Nitty is ready. If he can stay healthy this season, Sharks fans can feel secure about the team’s goaltending. We might still fret and complain that, even though he’s ready to go, Nitty still isn’t playing enough. But that’s a different issue.
The team needed Greiss last season, it is good to have him now. But I suspect that, even if Greiss had been on the roster last winter and spring, things would have been no different. Nemo would have started every one of those games anyway. The second half of last season was like that for the whole team- no room for error or experimentation. Even when Nitty was declared healthy, he sat. Was that because he was only sort of maybe healthy? Or was it because the MO was “change nothing you don’t have to change?”
It doesn’t take much to make me worry, but it doesn’t take much more to reassure me. I hope to see Nitty skating soon, or else I’d like to see another veteran goalie added to the roster. Call me greedy, but Wilson has made some very good moves so far this season. I think now is a great time to be a little greedy.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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