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The Puck Stops Here

If Only They Had Goaltending

Every year I pick out a team that could be a solid contender if only they had goaltending.  Last year I picked the Ottawa Senators, a team that did not solve their goaltending issues and wound up losing in the first round of the playoffs.

My choice this year could not be more obvious.  It is the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Tampa has the second lowest shots allowed per game at 27.1.  They also have the worst goals against average in the league at 3.47.  Their goaltenders Dan Ellis and Mike Smith have the two worst saves percentages in the league at .876 and .872 respectively.

Tampa has two of the best offensive players in the league this season in Steve Stamkos and Martin St Louis.  This offence will be even stronger when Vincent LeCavalier is healthy.  If that was coupled with good goaltending, this team could make a strong run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Part of their problem keeping goals out is probably also related to weak defence.  Tampa does not have any all star calibre defencemen.  Victor Hedman has potential, but he is yet to put it together.  Pavel Kubina and Mattias Ohlund were likely once at that level, but they no longer are.  Tampa’s goaltending problems (as shown by a low saves percentage) is related to a team that is allowing high quality shots.  That isn’t to say that a strong goalie cannot help to solve the problem.  Neither Ellis nor Smith has played well.  This leads to rumors that any available goalie is Tampa bound.  Evgeni Nabokov may be available since he has his KHL release, so the rumor mill immediately has him heading to Tampa.  Of course Nabokov must clear waivers before entering the league this season, so it is unlikely that any team will sign him, because he is unlikely to clear waivers to stay with that team.  Tampa will more likely have to acquire a goalie who is already in the NHL or try Cedrick Desjardins, who is in the AHL.  If they go to the playoffs with Ellis and Smith playing at this level they will be first round fodder (if they make the playoffs at all).

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Comments

Chris from NOHS's avatar

Wish I could have a .972 save percentage…

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 12/14/10 at 05:05 PM ET

Chris from NOHS's avatar

But I sorta doubt that if a team signs Nabby, other teams will grab him.  There seems to be an overabundance of goaltenders generally already.  Unless it is somewhere around the league minimum, I sorta doubt other teams will have interest. 

In addition, it can’t hurt a team to try.  Worse case is that some other team will pick him up. 

I’m not sure what is wrong with Ellis this year, he’s a better goalie than this.  Just another DanEllisProblem I guess.  Life is tough when you are a millionaire.

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 12/14/10 at 05:09 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

It is completely pointless to sign Nabokov this season.  He won’t clear waivers.  You are signing him for another team - so why bother? 

The only way around it is to sign him to such a big money contract that nobody else would want him.  An affordable Nabokov would never clear waivers, but a high priced one just might.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 12/14/10 at 05:13 PM ET

Chris from NOHS's avatar

Teams that MIGHT be looking for a 35 year old goalie who is a strong regular season player, but has a history of failure in the playoffs, family issues, and was average at best in an AHL caliber league this season:

Tampa Bay
Ottawa…maybe…they always seem to be looking for a goalie.
Florida, if they want to get rid of Vokoun…

I can’t think of anyone else that’d be interested, even at a reasonable $1 million per year.  So far, it’s been said that three teams have spoken with his agent. 

Here’s McKenzie’s take and he’s even more cynical than I: 

TBay may, and I stress may, have some interest in Nabokov, but maybe Cedrick Desjardins callup an option. Or Dwayne Roloson if he gets moved

As for Nabokov, can’t really think of any other teams looking for a goalie or in position to be able to sign one.

I know you love the guy, but if he’s signed, I think he’ll make it through waivers without a problem.

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 12/14/10 at 05:28 PM ET

Teebz's avatar

So is the problem poor goaltending, or is the problem a combination of poor goaltending and weak defence? Because the problem, as you’ve written it, is not just poor goaltending.

In fact, I’d argue that the problem with the goaltending is, in fact, due to their weak defence. Otherwise, the Flyers would be in the same situation with an unproven rookie goaltender in Bobrovsky and a fairly weak backup in Boucher.

Posted by Teebz on 12/14/10 at 06:00 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

The problem is both goaltending and defence.  The goaltending has been really poor.  That can be fixed by adding the right player.  That makes it a problem that is much more solvable than defence - which requires a few new players to fix in most cases.

Put a solid, above average goalie in Tampa and this is a team that could have a solid run in the playoffs without changing their defence one bit.

I would also argue that you must not have watched many Flyers games this year if you think Bobrovsky is comparable to Mike Smith and Dan Ellis this season.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 12/14/10 at 06:07 PM ET

Teebz's avatar

Do you really think that one goaltender makes the difference?

If that was the case, is Luongo a terrible goaltender on a good Vancouver team, or did he just not care enough to play hard in Florida?

I never compared Bobrovsky to either Ellis or Smith. Perhaps you should read what I wrote rather than trying to create controversy.

Posted by Teebz on 12/14/10 at 06:15 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Yes one goalie can make a difference.  The best example in relatively recent memory is the 2006 Edmonton Oilers who were looking like a team that might miss the playoffs until they acquired Dwayne Roloson.  They wound up going to the Stanley Cup finals.

Edmonton was a team similar to Tampa in that they could score and allowed few shots on goal, but still allowed a lot of goals due to poor goaltending.  Tampa allows fewer shots and has a better offence, so they could be in even better shape with a good goalie.

As for your Roberto Luongo comment Perhaps you should read what I wrote rather than trying to create controversy.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 12/14/10 at 06:21 PM ET

Avatar

Well there is also the thing called defense that they are lacking in as well… To blame it entirely on goal-tending is an oversight.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 12/14/10 at 06:37 PM ET

Avatar

So is the problem poor goaltending, or is the problem a combination of poor goaltending and weak defence? Because the problem, as you’ve written it, is not just poor goaltending.

Well there is also the thing called defense that they are lacking in as well… To blame it entirely on goal-tending is an oversight.

Part of their problem keeping goals out is probably also related to weak defence.”
by PuckStopsHere on 12/14/10 at 02:51 PM ET

That’s the first sentence of his last paragraph.

Posted by NathanBC on 12/14/10 at 07:19 PM ET

Teebz's avatar

Edmonton had a much better team defensively than the Lightning do, and were far less offensively productive than the Lightning currently are. Roloson got hot at the right time, and the team peaked at the right time to go to the final.

Chris Pronger, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Steve Staios, Jaroslav Spacek, Dick Tarnstrom, and Jason Smith were a solid group of everyday defenders in 2005-06. Compare that to the formidable names on Tampa’s roster of Brett Clark, Randy Jones, Mike Lundin, Victor Hedman, Pavel Kubina, and Mattias Ohlund. I’d take the 05-06 Oilers if I were going into battle today.

So don’t lay it all on Roloson and act like he was the savior. Spacek, Tarnstrom, and Sergei Samsonov (15 pts in the playoffs) made a huge difference in their run to the Finals, Chris Pronger and Steve Staios played out of their minds, and Roloson got on a hot streak. Was he important? Sure. Was he the reason? Only a part of it.

As for Luongo, answer the question. Good goalie, bad defence with Florida. So is he as good as he seems to be, or is he a result of Vancouver’s system?

Posted by Teebz on 12/14/10 at 07:24 PM ET

Da lil Guy's avatar

Why would Nabokov be required to clear waivers?

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 12/14/10 at 09:19 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

When a player returns to the NHL in mid-season after playing in several of the higher calibre European leagues he must clear waivers.  This rule was brought in in the 1980’s when the Edmonton Oilers added Reijo Ruotsalainen to their roster more than once in time for the playoffs after he finished the European regular season.

In effect this means you can only add a marginal talent from Europe in mid-season.  Otherwise some other team will take him from you on waivers after you went to the effort of signing the player if he is good enough to be claimed.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 12/14/10 at 09:27 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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