23 Intently Staring Goalies
There's one area where the advent of improved and lighter goalie equipment made a radical change in goalie behavior that just never seems to be discussed by the tv/radio announcers, and that's fighting. Way back when (and we're talking about when bench clearing brawls weren't punishable by multi-game suspensions) goalies would skate out to the center of the ice, make a game attempt at grappling, and then fall down, hopefully far enough away from the action to keep from getting involved. The old leather pads with the horsehair and who- knows-what stuffing were heavy--especially after they got wet.
The Southeast Division is in a state where the winner goes on, and everyone else goes home. Carolina is currently that team, but with Cam Ward out for the next 6-8 weeks (read: rest of the season) with an MCL sprain, the playoff waters are now a bit more muddied. Even if there's a "medical miracle" and they braced Ward's affected knee, he would lose balance and lateral stability, and a goalie with lowered balance and lateral stability is one who gets beaten on a lot of wraparounds and second shots.
Dan Ellis now has the chance to show he can once again be a number one goaltender in the NHL. Ellis has gone from being the starting goaltender for the Nashville Predators in the 2007-2008 season to a role as backup. At this point in his career, he has to show he can take over the role as the lead goaltender, or he'll find himself watching from the bench as Justin Peters, called up from Charlotte, takes the role away from him.
It's always good to have a backup, backup plan for when your goalie goes down, and the "hot spare" (or in this case, his equipment ) isn't immediately available. Some teams are lucky enough to have local universities with club teams. Some teams have one working their front office. The Florida Panthers had their goaltending coach, Rob Tallas.
A couple of thoughts about putting DiPietro on waivers:
A while back, and in another sport, the San Francisco 49ers signed their quarterbacks to long term contracts, both partially to lock them in, and also to backload the contract. This meant that San Francisco was going to pay out more money as Montana and/or Young came to the end of their contracts, even if they wren't playing. This ended up burning the San Francisco franchise over a number of seasons. You'd think that other franchise owners would have paid attention and said "nope, don't want to do that". The DiPietro long-term contract has had the extra added flavor of DiPietro seeming to spend more time on the IR than in the net.
It's a harsh thing to say, but having a player on an ultra-long term contract who spends a lot of time injured, and who doesn't end his career by injury is the worst possible outcome for the franchise.
Given that the Islanders just acquired Tim Thomas's contract to allow them to make the salary floor, waiving DiPietro, while relieving them of some of his contract payout, has them back toward the contract floor. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first of a set of coordinated moves to bring on some new players, or make trades to try and bolster their team. It doesn't make a lot of sense for this to be happening in a vacuum, but hey, these are the Islanders….
We're at that point in the season where you've not only noticed some goalies aren't in the NHL, but you also start looking around to see where they landed. Some are in Russia, some in Sweden, and for Ty Conklin--well, he's in Peoria, starting a new career as a goalie coach with the St Louis Blues AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen.
The "where will Luongo end up?" guessing will continue to the trade deadline, and if Luongo hasn't moved by then, expect it to pick up again after the end of the season. One of the questions not being asked is whether Luongo will solve the problem that the prospective team has:
Do they really need a goalie? Or is the reason the current goalie's GAA is above 2.5 because the defense in front of them are closer to retirement than what's comfortable? Or conversely, does the defense have to find someone old enough to buy the beer on those roadtrips through middle America? In a compressed season, a team with an out of tune defense will be noticed and will be capitalized on.
The Phoenix Coyotes win the "first goalie ouch of the season", with Mike Smith on the IR with a "lower body injury". Mike Smith may be coming back later this week, but in the meantime, the Coyotes had to go to plan B, which in this case was first Jason "still here!" LaBarbera, and then to Chad Johnson, who's been playing for the Coyotes AHL affiliate in Portland, Maine. That's a long way for a goalie to travel, geographically or otherwise.
Having a goalie go down in a regular season is a problem, but if you have a backup who can come in and play for a week while you're sorting things out, you're in the clear; you bring up a backup from the AHL and let him keep notes and collect NHL meal money. In a compressed season, you're both weighing the chance that your backup will get hurt playing too many games over a short period of time, and whether your hot spare in the AHL can do the job of the backup, and play that third game in four nights.
Here's a quick exercise: Take one of those non-woven paper cleaning cloths. You know, the ones that you'll throw away the first time you have to wipe up something noxious. Get it nice and damp. Now, hold it next to your ear and rip it in half.
Okay, that's what tearning a muscle tear sounds like from the inside. Sprains sound like someone is playing slack key guitar with your ligaments. Breaks sort of pop or crunch depending on how you get them. Dislocations, for some reason, are quieter, but you're usually paying attention to the sudden searing pain where one of your joints has parted ways.
You want to avoid all of these.
The goalies are arriving, whether it's a full camp or a lockout. For some of them, it's the chance to prove that last season wasn't a fluke. For some, it's to prove it was. It doesn't matter if it was injury, a change in style, or looking like they were one year past their shelf date, there's always a question as to whether the past season was the goalie hitting an air pocket, or if it's the beginning of a trend.
With the older goalies, training camp brings the question of whether it's time to go with the new kid. With the younger goalie, it's a question of whether someone made the wrong decision, whether it's the GM's pick, the team/goalie matchup, or the goalie coaching.
There's been a serious paucity of goalie stories this past month. August is usually the month of signings and first look at new masks (and yes, Chris Mason has once again come through with a way cool Iron Maiden themed mask!)
Luckily, Junior Hockey has started up. They're currently in the pre-season, and teams are deciding who's in goal, which means there's a lot of new kid getting used to the bump up to Junior hockey, and for a lot of them, getting used to playing in a new locale.
About 23 Intently Staring Goalies
23 Intently Staring Goalies comes from the 23 close-up photos of goalies that used to line the walls of my office.
On the good side, it kept down interruptions, but it also made sure I had to leave my trash outside my door if I wanted it picked up.
I've been watching and analyzing goaltenders for going on 40 years. Some of that was spent drawing goalies on my grade 8 math homework. Then it was taking my card decks and printouts to Indianapolis Racer games. Luckily, the Internet took off, and by 1991 I was half of the duo that would ultimately become the Plaidworks hockey mailing lists. I wrote "Handicapping the Goalies' for the San Jose Sharks mailing list, and took a lot of photos of goalies in action. I have around 5000 slides of mostly goaltenders in action from 1989 through 2001 from the WHL, IHL and NHL. Since I've gone digital, I've added about 10,000 more images to the library. During summers and when the league went dark, I was reading through multiple SF By area news papers, tracking ice hockey from the 1917 recreational leagues up through the California Seals.
We'll be talking about goalies and goaltending. We'll talk about whats going on now, who's in the system, and when the doldrums hit, I'll haul something out of the big bag of history, or something from the photo archives. We'll talk about who's hot and why, and who's not and what they can do to get back on track. We'll take a look at the trends in scouting goalies, and why a style may work for one team but not another. I'll battle with my dictation software to get it to understand Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky.
It should be interesting--hope you want to come along for the ride!