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23 Intently Staring Goalies

Panthers Looking for Some Goaltending Insurance with Thomas

After the Florida Panthers let Theodore and Clemmensen go this past summer, I kept waiting for them to announce that they'd traded for someone, or picked up a European goaltender, or grabbed an undrafted NCAA player, or something. But all that came out of Dale Tallon's office was they would stay with Markstrom.

Okay, nice idea, but they needed someone as a backup, preferably someone who could come in for a string of 5-10 games if Markstrom was hurt, or at least handle the second game of back to back games.

Markstrom did well for as badly as the Panthers played, but you'd think Tallon would want to have some sort of insurance.

So, now they're looking at some insurance, by inviting Tim Thomas in for a professional tryout. The word on the street is that it's going to lead to a one-year contract, somewhere in the vicinity of $2 million.

So, here's the question--will Thomas, at 39 and so far away from the backburner that he's been in the pantry for the past year, be able to function as a backup, not only in October, but in March? With a compressed season, there's going to be more than the usual share of back to back games, and with the Panthers now in the Snowbird, um Atlantic, division, travel is going to be more fun, swapping out trips to Washington and North Carolina with Ottawa and Montreal. 

And I keep coming back to 39. Even with the elite goalies able to play longer than before, 39 is still old. A hitch in his step, or a barely perceptible slowing of his reaction time, and Thomas is letting in goals he would have blocked two years ago.

Thomas is a risk, but he's one that Tallon is willing to take. If Thomas can deliver the goods and work out as a backup, Tallon looks like a genius, and Thomas gets a coda to his career. If it doesn't, well, that arena is still likely to be full of Canadiens fans.

Here's more from ESPN :

Tim Thomas wanted back in the NHL. The Florida Panthers wanted goaltending help.

It might be a perfect match.

The two-time Vezina Trophy winner agreed to a tryout deal with the Panthers on Monday, nearly a year and a half removed from his last game in the NHL. Thomas will be on the ice with Florida for practice Tuesday, and Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said his talks with the star of Boston's run to the 2011 Stanley Cup convinced him that the move was right.

"He really wants to play and he really wants to lead and he really wants to be the starter and he wants to win and he wants to win now," Tallon said Monday while the Panthers faced Nashville in a preseason doubleheader. "I was very impressed with him. His attitude is terrific. I liked everything that he had to say and I liked his approach. We try to strive to get better every day and I think a good Tim Thomas makes us a better team."

Thomas is expected to address reporters Tuesday, team officials said.

Florida's projected starter in goal is Jacob Markstrom, the 23-year-old Swede who went 8-14-1 with a 3.22 goals-against average last season. Markstrom's GAA was tops on the Panthers -- but just 44th in the NHL among regular goalies.

Former Wild and Oilers goaltender Tom Gilbert is also going to the Panthers' camp on a tryout, a source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.

So with Markstrom's relative level of inexperience -- he's made only 29 NHL starts -- plus the departure of free agent Jose Theodore and veteran Scott Clemmensen needing at least a couple more weeks to recover from knee surgery, the Panthers made it known they wanted some help.

"He's a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, Conn Smythe Trophy winner and we need goaltending," Tallon said. "We need somebody to help us get to where we need to go. Right now, it's Tim Thomas. ... The more competition you have for spots internally, the better off your team will be. It's a wide-open competition. Let the best man win."


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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!

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