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The Stanley Cup push: Plug the hole in goal Print
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Written by Justin Bourne   
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 17:03

For teams like Washington and Philadelphia, it's time to deal for a top-flight goaltender. Their Cup window is open and their current goalies aren't the kind that usually backstop championship teams.

Justin Bourne

I've never understood why an NHL general manager would allow his exceptionally deep hockey team to be dragged down by a massive hole in goal, of all positions.

You only have a small window of years in which a possible championship-winning team comes together (especially with a salary cap) and passing up that opportunity based on a hope seems bizarre.

MIDWEEK MUSINGS
The days of the true dynasties are dead. Organizations like the Islanders that hope to draft young players, develop them all together, and become a force in five-or-so years simply won't be able to. Once their entry-level contracts expire, each of those players is going to want (and some will be worth) millions of dollars that the team can't afford.

For the past few years, the Washington Capitals have had an extremely good team, and in my view, below average goaltending. Despite last year's disappointment, they've never felt more than a piece or two away from threatening for the Cup.

It's not that Jose Theodore wasn't once good, it's not that Semyon Varlamov can't become good, and I'm not saying that Michael Neuvirth won't be good.
It's just that, at those particular moments in time – the past few years – they weren't at the peaks of their careers. (And yes, I know Theodore won a billion regular-season games in a row two years back. That's how good the Capitals have been.)

The Philadelphia Flyers have been doing this for a decade. 

They've run through Robert Esche, Roman Cechmanek, Ray Emery, Marty Biron, Michael Leighton and a bunch of others before hailing Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky as their guys who're going to be able to get it done.

And I just don't get it.

Fine, most NHL teams would be ecstatic to have the promising young rookie in Bobrovsky, and Leighton is, well, a capable NHL-level goaltender, we'll say.

But as a GM, at what point do you say "OK, the time is now," and make a big all-in push?

As a GM, at what point do you say, 'OK, the time is now' and make a big all-in push?

The Flyers in particular are the team that should get aggressive and get themselves a proven NHL goaltender, even if it comes at great cost. As with the Marian Hossa deal that essentially cost the Chicago Blackhawks Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and crew, all is forgiven because it earned them their first Stanely Cup since 1961. Why don't other GMs do the same?

Chicago actually did a horrible, horrible thing for GMs not willing to make changes around the league: They won the Cup with an unproven netminder, making their push with a goal-scoring forward.

Antti Niemi was solid behind the Blackhawks' fantastic defense corps and fantastic defensive forwards. He's the exception to the rule, as those occasionally happen, and has given justification for other teams to say "Hey, if they can win with generic goalie X, then why can't we?"

You can. It's possible. It's just not half as likely.

I'm aware that acquiring a top-end 'tender isn't as easy as just up-and-grabbing one. 

But with the right deadline bargaining, and willingly overpaying to give your team the chance to win this year, you can make it happen.

For the Flyers and Capitals, I just don't get it. So you sacrifice some draft picks and/or prospects, which hurts your future – it's a risk they should be willing to take.

At least you could justify that in interviews by stroking your Stanley Cup ring.

Photos by Getty Images

Comments (1)

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Little Confused here...
Last week on Puck Daddy you wrote a column about goaltending not mattering as much. Essentially saying a well-trained goalie with good positioning, size and strong defense can carry most teams. The Flyers have two 6'2" goalies and both in Washington are over 6'. Philly has put together a deep D by shopping the discount bin on goalies and letting last year's hero fall to the minors.
So are you for or against banking on big name goalies?
NikolaiNYR , January 21, 2011

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Last Updated on Sunday, 23 January 2011 02:55