23 Intently Staring Goalies
by lsefton on 01/18/12 at 05:13 PM ET
Marty Brodeur says he wants to play at least one more season. At some level, this has to make Lou Lamoriello happier, because he doesn’t have to figure out who’s going to be in goal next year. On the other hand, New Jersey is going to be playing, if they stay with the current duo, with 40 and 39 year old goalies.
Even if the Devils bring up one of their minor league or currently playing at university goalies, there’s no assurance that if Brodeur needs some help during the season, the backup will be ready to take on 20-25 games.
What concerns me is that I keep seeing goalies trying to break that 40 year mark and having their last season a fairly dismal one. All the dings and scratches from the past add up, and maybe you lose a little bit on being able to get back up in time, or it takes a lot more work to get down into eagle splits.
And then there’s something that’s not visible, but I think causes a lot of goalies to fall off the depth chart. Some background….
I was talking to an opthamologist who is well known for creating custom contacts for a number of players in the NHL. One of our favorite games was my asking “so, how many diopters off is he?”, and finding out how severely nearsighted some of the better players are. I asked this about a backup goalie, who while he had a stellar college career, had never blossomed into a first rate NHL goaltender.
Besides his being nearsighted and astigmatic, both fixable, I was told “his eyeballs are stiff!”
This wasn’t Presbyopia, which is losing the ability to focus up close. Nope, this was his refractory capabilities stiffening up. His ability to switch quickly from long distance to short distance focus was severely compromised, and he was guessing where the puck was, instead of actually seeing the puck. There was no specialty lens in the world that could fix that problem.
If you’re in a high speed game like ice hockey, this is deadly to your career. And it was—he was out of the league within another season.
This poor guy was a special case, but as you age, the ability to quickly focus starts to degrade. And when does this usually kicks in for real? Around your 40th birthday!
Now you have a goalie who can’t see the puck quickly enough to be able to react, even if his reaction time was the same as when he was 20. But he’s 40, and his reaction time has lost a beat as well. And less face it—cleverness only gets you so far, and then it’s back to whether you have the athleticism to do the job.
And that’s what we’ll get to find out next season. I don’t want to begrudge Brodeur a chance for a farewell tour. I just don’t want to see it end up looking like a procession.
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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!