Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 07/28/09 at 08:47 PM ET
On Tuesday, the Hurricanes made the very boring and fully expected announcement that they have bought out the contract of Frantisek Kaberle. The 35-year old rearguard had one year left on a contract that would have paid him $2.2M this season. Instead, he’ll be paid $1.467M, spread over two years.
Kaberle scored the cup-winning goal in 2006 and underwent shoulder surgery that summer. After that, he was never the same. In addition to never regaining his old form, Joe Corvo was brought in, followed by Joni Pitkänen. This pretty much rendered him expendable. Those other two guys are better at the “offensive defenseman” stuff and actually passable in their own end. The same cannot be said for Kaberle. I don’t want to take away from what he did for the Hurricanes, but the ugly truth is that he was an absolute nightmare in his own end and by the end of the 2007-08 season, he’d lost at least a step in the offensive end. He became a healthy scratch/seventh defenseman/fill-in player. $2.2M is way too much money to pay a guy to eat popcorn. The rest of us pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to eat popcorn at the games. While some fans are clinging to the sentimentality of the guy who scored the cup-winner, most of us saw a player that was no longer earning his keep and who no longer had a purpose on the team.
There was also another, happier, non-derisive announcement out of Raleigh.
Tom Barrasso, the Hurricanes assistant coach and director of goalie development, has been named to the 2009 class at the US Hockey Hall of Fame. Other inductees in this class are Tony Amonte, John LeClair, the 1998 gold-medal winning USA Women’s Olympic Hockey team, and the late Frank Zamboni.
“Tommy B” was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1983 draft. What made it extraordinary is that he was drafted straight out of high school and was named the Sabres starting goaltender that fall. He was, at the time, the second youngest player to start in and win an NHL game.
In his rookie campaign, he won 26 games including two shutouts. His GAA was 2.84 and his save percentage .893. He was awarded the Calder and the Vezina trophies that season and became the third player in history to accomplish that feat.
Barrasso spent five seasons with the Sabres, twelve with the Penguins, a few games with the Senators, a season with the Hurricanes, a few games with the Maple Leafs and a few games with the Blues. He and Ron Francis won back-to-back Stanley Cups on the Penguins in 1991 and 1992.
In 1985, while still with the Sabres, he and Bob Sauve won the Jennings Trophy (fewest team goals allowed).
Barrasso’s career numbers aren’t exactly earth shattering, but they’re still good. He had 369 wins, 38 shutouts, a career GAA of 3.24 and a career save percentage of .892. He also added 61 playoff wins (the most by an American-born goalie), six playoff shutouts, a career playoff GAA of 3.01 and a career playoff save percentage of .902. Except for the categories of shots against and saves, his numbers don’t really stand out. But that’s not even half of it. Barrasso is best known for being very mobile and for being an excellent puck handler. He still holds the record for career regular season points (48 assists) by a goaltender. For comparison, Marty has 32 (1/31) career regular season points. but has played in 222 more regular season games than Tommy did.
The puck handling and the mobility were two of his biggest strengths as a player, and they’re the ones that he’s trying to teach to the Hurricanes goaltenders. Since his appointment, Cam Ward has become a much better skater and does a much better job of exploding from his right to left. He’s done great work with Michael Leighton, too, getting the guy to use his big frame to his advantage. He, too, has become a better skater and much better at handling loose pucks behind the net. Most importantly in that regard, Leighton has gotten better at knowing when and when not to play a puck.
Barrasso unfortunately became well known for a feud that he had with the Pittsburgh press. After an incident where his name was dragged through the mud, he decided not to speak with the media. It was a silence that lasted over a year. Throughout it all, he felt like he and his family were being unfairly scrutinized, and he broke his silence. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that people remember. Not the two Stanley Cups. Not the things that he did in the community and for the team. The spat that he had with the newspapers.
Here’s a video of him discussing the whole ordeal.
A tiny bit of trivia. The Penguins were featured in the ridiculous 1995 Jean-Claude Van Damme film Sudden Death which is about some terrorists wreaking havoc on the Stanley Cup finals game seven. Some of the players portrayed themselves, while others allowed their name to be used. Tom Barrasso is the only member of the Penguins who did not allow his name to be used in the movie.
For good measure, here’s a video of Barrasso making a ridonkulous save against fellow 2009 USHHOF inductee John LeClair:
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David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.