Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 01/19/12 at 08:57 PM ET
from Micael Farber of Sports Illustrated,
The adage is the handiwork of coach-turned-broadcaster Harry Neale. Or maybe of the late Pat Burns, the Stanley Cup—winning coach who repeated it with such ardor throughout his 14-year career with four teams that sometimes he is credited as its source. The origin is less critical than the point: The primacy of the goalie is conventional wisdom in the NHL. “Our record wouldn’t be what it is without goaltending,” Predators general manager David Poile says. “As an expansion team, goaltending has been one of the major reasons we’ve been competitive and have made the playoffs six of the last seven years. It’s the foundation.”
Poile buttressed his foundation for seven more years on Nov. 3, when he signed Pekka Rinne to a $49 million contract extension, the richest long-term deal for a goalie on an annual value basis in the salary-cap era. The contract had unassailable internal logic. The 29-year-old Vezina Trophy finalist would have been eligible for free agency at the end of the season. “If we didn’t give him a seven-year contract,” Poile says, “on July 1 someone else would have.”...
Long-term contracts for goalies generally have been a mug’s game. And with the exception of the seven-year deal that Marc-Andre Fleury signed with the Penguins in 2008, and the four-year, $20 million extension that Tim Thomas signed with the Bruins in ‘09, the mug has not been a Stanley Cup. The Canucks’ Roberto Luongo, who in ‘09 signed a 12-year, $64 million extension, melted down in the finals against Thomas last June, and despite a strong stretch last month when he won four straight and nine of 11, every match seems like a referendum on his play. The Islanders’ Rick DiPietro, with his 15-year-goalie-for-life deal, has been a disaster. The eternally goalie-bereft Flyers, belatedly embracing a Neale-ist approach, signed the chatty Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million contract last June after his four seasons in low-pressure Phoenix. He has rewarded their faith with a save percentage of .891, well below the modern Mendoza line of .900.
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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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