by PuckStopsHere on 12/07/08 at 08:03 AM ET
I have annually written a post looking at a team that would improve significantly with an improvement from their goaltending. Goaltending is the position that most affects the success or failure of an NHL team. The addition of one goalie is enough to significantly change the fortunes of a team - even if the goalie is far from superstar quality.
In 2005/06, my choice for the team that could best benefit from a better goaltender was the Edmonton Oilers, a team that added Dwayne Roloson at the trade deadline and went on to make the Stanley Cup finals. In 2006/07 I picked the Tampa Bay Lightning who did not add a goalie and missed the playoffs. Last season, it was the Pittsburgh Penguins who had the goaltending arrive internally first with surprisingly good play from Ty Conklin and then with Marc-Andre Fleury playing the best hockey of his NHL career. The Penguins wound up in the Stanley Cup finals.
This season, my choice is the Detroit Red Wings.
Detroit’s supposed number one goalie is Chris Osgood. Osgood has been a good enough goalie to be a starter in the NHL most of his career. Now that he is 36 years old, it is reasonable to expect those days might be over. In fact, there were many who doubted his ability to remain a starter before last season when he played in the All Star Game and was part of a Stanley Cup winner. That season, which looks like an anomaly in the context of his most recent few seasons, is the reason he is seen as the Detroit starter. This season he is tied with Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars for the worst saves percentage in the league at .876.
The backup goalie is Ty Conklin. He is a familiar part of teams that I have picked as needing better goaltending. He was in Edmonton in 2005/06, Pittsburgh last year and is in Detroit now. While his numbers are OK, he sports a .901 saves percentage and has a 2.81 GAA, they are far from league leading.
In the minors is Jimmy Howard. He has long been considered the Detroit Red Wings goalie of the future. It’s not clear he is the solution. He seems to be losing his starting job in Grand Rapids to Daniel Larsson.
More than likely, Detroit is a team that will trade for a goalie for their playoff run. If enough salary cap space can be cleared, Nikolai Khabibulin would be a nice solution for the Red Wings.
It is very hard to repeat as Stanley Cup champion. Even upon adding Marian Hossa as a free agent, the Wings are finding it very tough. Their biggest problem so far is that goaltending has failed them. Will they manage to sort that problem out this season?
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