Friday, August 16, 2013
Top goalie timeshares for 2013-14
By Tim Kavanagh
Every season, there are some NHL teams that play out the string with a true No. 1 netminder, and the backup is there to handle the occasional spot-start. But, there aren't enough goaltenders with that level of talent (and, let's face it, endurance) for every NHL team to have one; on the other hand, some teams have two players that both seem worthy of the gig. As a result, many clubs go with a timeshare in net. Here's a preview of the teams that will operate from this latter position in 2013-14.
Anaheim Ducks: Viktor Fasth was one of the most intriguing stories in the shortened 2012-13 season. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Fasth won his first eight starts, earning himself an extension through 2014-15 in the process. Jonas Hiller, meanwhile, overcame a slow start to finish the season strong. Hiller is entering the final season on his current deal, so it'll be interesting to see how Bruce Boudreau -- no stranger to goalie timeshares -- uses him in what could be his final campaign in a Ducks jersey.
Florida Panthers: For the past couple seasons, Jacob Markstrom has loomed as the Panthers' franchise goalie of the future, and it looks like the future is now: the club let Jose Theodore's contract run out, and does not seem to be in any rush to re-sign him. Instead, they'll have Markstrom and Scott Clemmensen split the duties, hoping that the 23-year-old will take the next step this season.
New Jersey Devils: For the past three seasons, future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur split the goaltending duties with fellow long-time veteran Johan Hedberg. Cognizant of the fact that Brodeur is on the far side of age 40 -- and is signed only through the end of the 2013-14 campaign -- the Devils traded their first-round pick in this offseason's draft for Cory Schneider, who had served as half of the timeshare in Vancouver through 2012-13. The opinions on how this timeshare will work are mixed; though Schneider is foreseen as the club's next long-time franchise netminder, it's unclear that Brodeur is willing to take a back seat. Fortunately, Schneider is used to splitting the duties, and at least now there's more of a clear succession plan in place than with the Canucks.
Philadelphia Flyers: Based upon overall 2012-13 statistics alone, it's easy to say that Ray Emery should be the starter for Philly this season, with Steve Mason serving as the backup. However, Mason did well for himself during a seven-appearance run for the Flyers at the tail end of last season: in that septet of contests, the former Blue Jacket posted a 1.90 GAA and .944 SV%, giving Philadelphia even more reason to buy out Ilya Bryzgalov's contract (which happened later in the summer). Emery is no stranger to timeshares -- he split time with Corey Crawford in Chicago -- and that appears to be what's in store for him again in 2013-14.
Pittsburgh Penguins: This should be Marc-Andre Fleury's job. Should being the proper word. 2012-13 brought on more bouts of inconsistent play for the former No. 1 overall pick, and this time, the Pens had an able alternative in Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun is back for 2013-14, and while one supposes Fleury will be the starter at the season's onset, the leash is quite short.
St. Louis Blues: 2012-13 saw Ken Hitchcock deploy three different players as his starter in goal at various points, and with all three back on the roster for 2013-14, we could get another trifecta performance again. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott had their moments of fine production, but it was Jake Allen whose future with the team may be brightest: after all, he's the only one of the three signed beyond 2013-14. Allen will likely begin his season in the AHL, but may see significant time depending upon the health (and play) of the two vets ahead of him.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Prior to the start of the 2012-13 campaign, the Lightning traded for Anders Lindback (formerly Pekka Rinne's backup in Nashville), thinking that he projected to being a starter in his own right at the NHL level. He may still develop into such a player, but the short 2012-13 campaign was one that saw Lindback battle injuries and inconsistency in the crease. Ahead of the trading deadline, Tampa Bay added Ben Bishop, who had done well in his stint with the Ottawa Senators. Neither man appears to have a significant upper hand in the battle, and we could certainly see them rotate until a leader emerges.
Toronto Maple Leafs: All James Reimer did during the 2012-13 season was go 19-8-5, with the best GAA (2.46) and SV% (.924) of his career, leading the Leafs back to the playoffs. His reward? The team was smack dab in the middle of any and all trade rumors involving goaltenders this offseason, finally landing Jonathan Bernier from the Kings. Reimer has the track record, but Bernier was excellent in his small sample of work in 2012-13 (including a 1.84 GAA and .922 SV% in 14 appearances) and has confirmed that he wants to be the No. 1 starter. This is another one that's too tough to call at this point.
Washington Capitals: For some portion of this offseason, there was a sense that the Caps could trade one of their promising young netminders -- Braden Holtby or Michal Neuvirth. Previously, they were able to get multiple draft picks (including a first-rounder) from Colorado for Semyon Varlamov, so there was reason to believe they could get a fine package in return for one of their new crop. Both men remain on the roster heading into training camp, and though Holtby put up some impressive stats in 2012-13, the sample size isn't large enough yet to declare that he's definitely the future of the position in Washington. Expect some work for both young 'tenders early on.