Kukla's Korner

23 Intently Staring Goalies

Diamonds or Dross?

Let's say you're looking for some diamonds, and you're given a nice big, plug of rough. Your job--figuring out if there's a diamond in the rough that's going to be good enough for your trouble.

You examine the rough, wash it down, and hmmm. Okay, some demantoid garnets. Nice, but not what you're looking for. But you can sell them on another market, so they get put aside. There's some industrial grade crystals, and they go into another pile.

You find a couple of possibilities in the mix, so now it's time to get to work. You clean them up and inspect further. No visible flaws and no occlusions, so it's time to hand them over to the cutter to see what the final product is going to be.

Here's where it gets fun.  You're depending on the cutter knowing their stuff. A mediocre cutter may get lucky, but they'll likely create a mediocre diamond--too shallow, or the table isn't in proper proportion, or worse, the diamond shatters, leaving you with more to sadly put into the industrial pile.

If the cutter is excellent, you get a diamond that's large, brilliant, and just the right shade of blue-white.

If you're really lucky, you get a pink diamond, and then you open up the champagne, because life is about to become very, very, good.

Goalies, like diamonds, don't start cut and polished.

As some NHL teams are finding out, if you're not drilling in the right place, you'll never have anything to work with. Some have overhauled their goalie coaching staff.  Some had added to their scouting staff, or refocused their scouting and methods to look in new areas. Others are still trying to figure out where the process has broken down.

Some have yet to figure out that there is something wrong with the process.

It's a couple of weeks into the season, and there are teams, and not for the first time, who are trying to figure out their goaltending.  Some, like the Rangers, are figuring out that no matter how good your number one goalie is, there has to be an NHL level backup on the bench. Edmonton is trying to figure out what their next move is. Philadelphia has churned their goaltending once again, and it still isn't providing a fix.

Philadelphia--why can't you develop and keep goaltenders? If you're waiting for the second coming of Bernie Parent, do you realize not only is he not arriving soon, but he's probably not the answer to the questions you're asking in 2013?

Edmonton--why do your goalies keep having issues at the NHL level? Are you just really good at scouting for AHL goalies? Is there a lack of support at the NHL level? This doesn't happen in a vacuum.

NY Rangers--do you know you're one ripped groin away from complete disaster? You don't act like it.

Florida--Is there a plan, any plan?

It's time to look beyond their immediate goaltending issues and determine why they keep finding themselves in these situations. They need to take a look at the teams who always seem to have a goalie available, or who have turned their own situation around, and have been able to develop and/or trade for quality goalies.

If that  means they have to rip out a rebuild their system from the ground up, well, it may be painful, but it can't be more painful than the current, chronic situations. But it has to be thought through, and not just getting rid of staff for the sake of getting rid of staff.

But if you're a team whose goalies keep wearing "hello my name is" tags, because they come and go so quickly, or you keep having to dodge those questions about why your goalie castoffs seem to be having a fine career in someone else's organization, you need to seriously think about how you arrived at this point.

Because if you're digging in the sandbox, you're not going to get any diamonds.

 

Eric Duhatschek at the Globe and Mail writes about the current goaltending situation:

One of the great unknowable factors in NHL development circles is anticipating correctly when a young goaltender steps from promising prospect to legitimate No. 1 status.

Consider a trio of goalies in the spotlight during the first fortnight of the season, all of whom are approaching important crossroads in their respective careers – the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Jonathan Bernier, the Colorado Avalanche’s Semyon Varlamov and the Edmonton Oilers’ Devan Dubnyk.


Two are in the news for the right reasons – both Bernier and Varlamov are off to fabulous starts, as the Leafs and the Avalanche posted a cumulative 10-1 record in the early going. The other, Dubnyk, is at the opposite end of the goalie spectrum – lugging around a 5.43 goals-against average into Monday night’s date with the Washington Capitals and forcing people in Edmonton to wonder if, at the age of 27, he will ever be the legitimate starter that will carry the Oilers to championship heights.


The uncertainty over how good Bernier was/is was the primary reason the Maple Leafs were able to acquire him from the Los Angeles Kings for a relatively modest price: goaltender Ben Scrivens, forward Matt Frattin, plus a second-round draft pick.


Bernier was the 11th player selected way back in the 2006 NHL entry draft and the biggest stumbling block to his development was the fact the Kings took Jonathan Quick in the third round one year earlier. L.A. was a pretty terrible team back then – the Kings had three top-five picks between 2007 and 2009 – but when the team started to come around finally, Quick was given first shot at the starter’s job and he made the most of it. It forced Bernier to patiently wait, a la Cory Schneider, for his chance to play.

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Comments

Laran's avatar

Fairly painful to read. Lost me by the third paragraph.  Need to get to the point…6-8 paragraphs (whether short or not) of diamond analogies is a bit much.

Posted by Laran on 10/16/13 at 04:42 PM ET

bigdee89's avatar

What was that?  I feel like I got hit by a truck after trying to read that.  Wow.  Focus man!  That article wasn’t sure if it was coming or going.

Posted by bigdee89 from The Great White North Eh? on 10/16/13 at 05:12 PM ET

BrendonR's avatar

I thought this was actually pretty great. Only thing is here on KK it’s about more snappy stuff that generates conversation versus like, actual long-form writing. Keep it up - this is the sort of thing that belongs more in a sports magazine than with us mostly-Red-Wings-fans here but it’s definitely appreciated.

So going back to the topic at hand, what exactly is the best way for a team to handle it’s goalie situation? Generally having a No. 1 means that whoever is the backup is either a) a lifer back there, or b) going to want to move on a la Schneider and Bernier so they can be a No. 1 themselves. So for Detroit, do you trade Mrazek, who may have a higher upside than Jimmy (who pretty well no one thought would pan out until he got a legit chance in the bigs)?

Sure the NYR are one ripped groin away from disaster, but who the heck wants to play behind Hank “I play every game” Lundqvist?

Posted by BrendonR on 10/16/13 at 06:47 PM ET

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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!