by PuckStopsHere on 12/27/09 at 04:58 PM ET
When I listed the players I would select for the 2010 Canadian Olympic Team, I picked Jean-Sebastien Giguere as the third goalie on the team. This is a choice that is highly unlikely to be made by the powers that actually pick the Olympic Team. It appears quite likely that Marc-Andre Fleury will be the team’s number three goalie. In all likelihood, there is no consequence in either decision, as it is not too likely the number three goalie plays at all, but I would like to explain why I think Giguere is the better pick.
I think Canada’s number three goalie will be the weakest selection to that position since the NHL started sending its players to the Olympics. In 1998, Patrick Roy played the entire tournament for Canada. This left either Martin Brodeur or Curtis Joseph as the number three goalie. In 2002, Brodeur and Joseph shared the goaltending duties. This left Ed Belfour as the number three man. In 2006, Brodeur and Roberto Luongo shared goaltending duties. Marty Turco was the unused number three man. It looks like 2010 will have Brodeur and Luongo again as Canada’s goaltenders, with Marc-Andre Fleury as the likely number three man.
In 1998, Canada had three of the four best goalies in the world in their line-up (Dominik Hasek of the Czech Republic was the fourth). By 2002, Hasek and possibly Olaf Kolzig or Nikolai Khabibulin were the only non-Canadian goalies that could have been considered as good as the Canadian ones. By 2006, an aging Hasek, Khabibulin, Evgeni Nabokov and Henrik Lundqvist were probably the only non-Canadians on the level of the Canadians. In 2010, there is Nabokov, Lundqvist, Ryan Miller, Tim Thomas, Miikka Kiprusoff, Tomas Vokoun and perhaps Ilya Bryzgalov or Semyon Varlamov are on the level of the Canadian goaltenders. The number three Canadian goalie is likely around the tenth best goaltender in hockey.
The choice of Marc-Andre Fleury is a safe one. He is the defending Stanley Cup champion, despite the fact he did not have a wonderful playoff (his .908 saves percentage is the worst for a Cup winner in several years). This season, Fleury has continued playing at a similar level. He is posting a .911 saves percentage and a 2.39 GAA. His most impressive statistic is his 22 wins, which places him one behind Martin Brodeur for the league lead. The problem is that this is a team statistic. Any number one goalie on a team as good as Pittsburgh who plays almost every game will get a lot of wins as long as he performs adequately. He does not have to be a dominant goalie to get a lot of wins. In general he hasn’t been a dominant goalie (Fleury received zero votes for the 2009 Vezina and is not among the front-runners this year). Fleury is clearly a good enough goalie to win with a good team behind him, but he has not carried the team. Given that Fleury is a former first pick overall in the NHL entry draft and is only 25 years old there is hope that he is going to continue his development into a more dominant goalie. He has shown signs that this might happen.
I would feel more comfortable with a goalie who has shown the ability to carry a team as the number three goalie for Team Canada, if one is available. I think one is in Jean-Sebastien Giguere. As recently as 2008, nobody would have questioned that idea at all. Giguere had been the number one goalie for the Anaheim Ducks for better than half a decade and had consistently posted seasons that were on par with people who appeared in All Star Games. He posted a .945 saves percentage and a 1.62 GAA in a tremendous playoff were he took a surprising Anaheim team to the 2003 Stanley Cup finals. Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his efforts. In 2007, he had another successful playoff run leading Anaheim to the Stanley Cup. This time with a .922 saves percentage and a 1.97 GAA. Giguere is a proven big game goalie.
The problem is that Giguere did not have a good season last year. It looks as though his father’s death rattled him last year and Giguere posted his worst season since establishing himself as an NHL starter. In the process, he lost his starting job in Anaheim to Jonas Hiller.
Giguere is too talented and likely too young (32 years old) to be completely beyond his prime. I think he will be a top level number one goalie in the NHL again if given the chance. He has not been given that chance to play regularly this season, but has shown signs of coming back into form. I think it is a good risk that he will come back into form. I think if he is in form he is a better goalie than Fleury.
At the time of my pick, they had similar saves percentages (Fleury .911, Giguere .908), but Giguere had a bad night last night vs. San Jose, where he allowed five goals and dropped to .904. Clearly there is a risk with the pick. If Giguere plays like that it is a poor pick.
I standby my pick of JS Giguere as Team Canada’s third goalie. I am a bit dismayed by his poor showing last night, but it is only one game. I am pretty confident that Giguere is the most talented number three goalie Canada could potentially pick, but he is in a bit of a slide. That slide must end for him to regain his role as a top NHL goalie. It might be better to pick a goalie who is hot right now as Canada’s number three - but there is no guarantee that he will remain a hot goalie by the Olympics. I am well aware that Giguere will not be the third Canadian goalie, but I think he is a good pick. I think he is the most talented potential third goalie. It is merely a question of getting him playing well in time for the Olympics. He has had a hard year and a bit, but has the ability that he should be able to come back.
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