October 28, 2011
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Conventional wisdom for the last few years has dictated that goaltending — at least, goaltending good enough to get you anywhere worth going — can usually be had on the cheap.
Last year's Stanley Cup Finals showdown between two of the top-10 goaltenders in the league in terms of their cap hits was a significant deviation from the trend laid out in previous few playoffs. The previous two Cup Finals goaltenders were Brian Boucher(notes), Michael Leighton(notes) and Antti Niemi(notes). The two years before that it was big-money Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) against not-so-big-money Chris Osgood(notes).
Of that group, only Fleury made anything close to top-10 money and in fact most of the goaltenders into whom teams had sunk big money (Henrik Lundqvist(notes), Cam Ward(notes), Ryan Miller(notes), Niklas Backstrom(notes) for some reason, Miikka Kiprusoff(notes)) haven't fared particularly well in the postseason.
The fact of the matter is that just because you buy a goalie for a lot of years and a lot of money doesn't mean anything. The Flyers think they're going to buy their way to a Stanley Cup by throwing a dump truck full of money at Ilya Bryzgalov(notes), and it's foolish. A guy they signed out of the minors and a career backup got them to Game 6 of the Finals a few years ago and while it certainly was happenstance, it also illustrated that you can't just go out and have a great goalie guarantee anything.
But everyone, I think, more or less knows that at this point. Which is what makes this gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the slow starts for two guys who were perceived to have been among the best in the game (they're certainly paid that way).
Let's start with the more prominent one, though — Ilya Bryzgalov.
(Coming Up: What Perry Pearn did and Pearls of BizNasty.)
Not that it's entirely fair to go around saying that Ilya Bryzgalov is a categorical bust in his time with the Flyers. He's on Game No. 7 of a nine-year deal, and while his start hasn't been great, there's little doubt that he'll continue to be a top-level goalie for at least the next few years. We think. But at least a few knives are being sharpened on Broad St. nonetheless, anointing the still-green Sergei Bobrovsky(notes) as the guy the Flyers need to go forward with right now.
We saw how that worked out Thursday night, with Bobrovsky giving up five goals on the first 15 shots he faced, and Bryzgalov coughing up four on 10. Neither goaltender played especially well, obviously, but wouldn't allowing nine goals on 25 shots to the freaking Jets indicate the problem is systemic and doesn't begin or end with either guy.
Look, I get that Bryzgalov has been bad, but the team is without Chris Pronger(notes) right now and will be for a while, and that's not going to help anyone. Bobrovsky is an OK goalie who punched above his statistical weight in two appearances against the twin terrors of Ottawa and Toronto before slamming to earth hard and fast. The easy answers people would have you believe are out there simply don't exist.
The same is true for the St. Louis Blues, where the passage of time has started to show us that maybe Jaroslav Halak(notes) (who's 15th in goalie cap hits at $3.75 million a year but also cost a couple of prospects) wasn't the all-time world-beating goalie that one playoff run for the Canadiens two years ago. Especially now that it seems Brian Elliott(notes) of all the goaltenders in the National Hockey League is poised to take his starting job -- or may have even done so.
Obviously, we don't need to once again review the many varieties of rotten from with which Roberto Luongo(notes) is being pelted by Vancouver Canucks fans and media alike, but that furthers the point as well.
The fact is it's only October, and all this sorrow over their performances is misguided and premature. But while paying a lot of money for a goaltender is something GMs do to improve their team's chances of winning Stanley Cups, it's becoming increasingly rare for that plan to actually pan out.
In the end, all that you're buying for your $4 million or more per year for a top-flight goalie is a more or less guaranteed playoff spot, as only three of the top 10 highest-paid goalies didn't make the playoffs at least twice in the last three years (Kiprusoff, Backstrom and Ward).
For most teams, getting to the playoffs and trying your luck might be enough. But with that comes a boatload of criticism, second-guessing and armchair GMing the minute anything goes wrong.
You might want to just spend the money on a forward or defenseman next time.
As you may have heard, Montreal Canadiens management successfully scared their team into beating Philadelphia 5-1 on Wednesday night by firing assistant coach Perry Pearn just hours before the game, ostensibly scapegoating him for an awful start caused by poor asset management, poor utilization of cap scape and a slew of injuries to top players.
So what else is Perry Pearn responsible for?
@SkinnyPPPhish: Installed original stanchions in Bell Centre
@JoNana: Drove Pacioretty to the movie theatre
@mlse: Made Carey Prices Sv% sub-.900
@TheMontrealBias: Tupac and Biggie
@Doogie2k: Prevented the Habs from scoring at EV in Games 5-7 last year
And your winner:
@NonAmericanHero: Knocked over the set of the Krusty the Klown show
Pearls of Biz-dom
BizNasty on physiology: You ever Twooped so long your legs fell asleep?
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