Three goalie controversies worth following


There has been a lot of talk in Vancouver recently about goaltenders and whether Roberto Luongo is the right guy to carry this team. But early in the season, this is a narrative that carries across many hockey markets, and, valid or not, the play of a goaltender is one that dominates headlines as the goalie is the most important player on the team. Here are three goalie controversies that bear slightly more weight than the Luongo/Cory Schneider discussions, and may have stronger repurcussions repercussions as well.

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The situation for Ilya Bryzgalov is worse than it could possibly be for Roberto Luongo. The perception (and possible reality, who knows) is that the Flyers moved both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to accommodate Bryzgalov and his massive 9-year deal with a cap hit of a little under $5.7M per season.

Bryzgalov has gotten off to a rocky start in Philly, describing himself as being “lost in the woods” after a particularly rough outing against Winnipeg in which he stopped six of ten shots he faced. In his first ten games with the Flyers, Bryzgalov has recorded four quality starts and has a save percentage of just .887. Conversely, Sergei Bobrovsky who actually had a save percentage of .915 last year, has three quality starts out of four tries this year (he also played poorly against Winnipeg and his save percentage is .883 so far). Bobrovsky also, by the quality start measure, was the better goalie than Bryzgalov last season. Phoenix appears to be treading water just fine without Bryzgalov, leaving open the question as to whether the 9-year signing was the appropriate move for Paul Holmgren and the Flyers…


Does somebody want to explain why Brian Elliott is playing like Jaroslav Halak and Jaroslav Halak is playing like Brian Elliot? After two consecutive seasons at a sub-.900 save percentage, Elliot has started this campaign with a .941 percentage and a 1.72 goals against average, earning him the starting spot in St. Louis despite making $2.9M less than Halak this season. He also has five quality starts in his six starts.

Halak is having by far his worst campaign. After a well-publicized career in Montreal and an at least passable .910 save percentage last season, Halak lost the starting job after opening with an .843 and 3.58 goals against average in six games, going 1-5 without a single quality start. In his current four-game losing streak, he has allowed 3, 4, 4 and 4 goals, and has yet to play in November.

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Finally, the third major goaltending controversy deals with a situation in Minnesota. Josh Harding, the goalie formerly wearing the coolest vintage pads on the planet, is coming off a couple of injury-plagued years and will start his fourth consecutive based on the quality of his play so far. He has a perfect quality start record and is a .964 save percentage early on with a 3-0-1 record. It’s a limited amount of games, but he has outplayed Niklas Backstrom, a goalie whose paychque is more than $5M more than Harding’s.

Backstrom isn’t playing inherently bad as Bryzgalov or Halak, but one thing to consider is that he’s on the wrong side of 30, and goaltenders tend not to age like fine wine or cheese. Harding has a career save percentage of .918 (albeit in just 87 career games) but being six years the younger of Backstrom he definitely has some advantage. Wild coach Mike Yeo may want to limit his starts this season—Harding will be an unrestricted free agent this summer in a very limited free agent class for goalies.

  • ButtermilkBiscuitsAKAoilers2k10

    When was the last time that the flyers were able to rely on the same starting goaltender for multiple seasons? Was it during the Ron Hextal era?

  • ButtermilkBiscuitsAKAoilers2k10

    Looking at the top 10 goalie cap hits you have Lundqvist, Ward, Miller, Backstrom, Kiprusoff, Bryzgalov, Huet, Luongo, Brodeur, with Thomas and Fleury tied for 10 both making 5M.

    Considering how many struggling tenders and goal tender controversies are on the list it boggles the mind how Nashville gave Rinne 7-million for 7-years. Rinne will be 30 on the first year of his contract. Boggles.

  • ButtermilkBiscuitsAKAoilers2k10

    How many more times are we going to see GMs rewarding good goaltender performance with ridiculous long term contracts that will handcuff the team for years to come? (see VAN, NSH, PHI, NYI etc.) Goaltenders can go from good to great to horrible to something else quickly and often and predicting long term goaltender performance is impossible. Teams cannot move an overpaid underperforming goaltender into a different yet still useful role (Horcoff) when he is no longer performing. All you can do is sit the 5.5 million on the bench and hope that they do a stint in Tent City to get their game back.

  • jeremywilhelm

    I think there’s a lot more goaltender conflicts out there than what you have listed. How about Buffalo? Holy smokes, Enroth has started back to backs!!! Many Sabre fans want to trade Miller. That’s huge. Bryzgalov is too soon to include on this & Bobrovsky had his chance last year, there’s a reason why Philly went the route they did. If Karlsson keeps playing the way he did in Buffalo, we’re going to have one here in Calgary. He looked like vintage Kipper in his Vezina year. It’s funny, goalies can be so hot & cold, even the good ones. Rinne could have a Vezina year & Nashville looks like rocket scientists. Next year Rinne could be .878 save percentage & Nashville will look like they have a Luongo albatross around their necks. Who knows, but I think a 7.0mill cap hit is way too high at the goalie position. Once they sign Suter & Weber, Nashville will have no $$$ for star power on the forward lines & that will cost them just like the Kipper/Phanuef/JBO contracts prevented us from getting another star to play with Iggy.

  • Nice to see a Canuck writer write about goalies that isn’t focused on Luongo on that premise alone this is a great article and if people think Cam has missed some goalie conflicts maybe they should blog about and do more than point out a single spelling error.