Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Domino Effect

More than any other sports league, the NHL loves having a domino effect scenario. Usually it involves defenseman. I remember just prior to the lockout, once Gonchar was dealt, the other defenseman followed. This offseason we saw Redden and Lidstrom go, then the others followed. We're at that point again right now, except this time we're not talking defenseman. We're only two weeks into the season, but we're on the verge of seeing a domino effect happen. Goaltending is a very important thing in the NHL, and if you don't have it, your not going to succeed. Thankfully at this point, if you need goaltending, you have a lot of options.

The price for goaltending at this point is higher than you might think, simply because the teams with extra goalies are all strong and well-rounded. They don't have to deal one of their goalies, but will if the price is right. There are a few goalies on the market right now that are very good #1 goalies that could turn a struggling team around, and though your not hearing a lot about it, there are several teams already thinking about making an offer for one of them, if they haven't already.

We'll start with Philly, who got shelled for 9 goals against tonight. Their two goalies have allowed 26 goals in 6 games. They're record is 1-4-1, nowhere near where it should be. The Flyers need a goalie, its that simple. Richards, Umberger or Carter is likely what it will cost them, but it's worth if they can land a goalie from San Jose, Anaheim of Buffalo.

Taking a step back for a second, I believe Giguere will stay with Anaheim. His game seems better than ever right now, and his salary isn't that easy to move. At this point it's hard to say who San Jose will part with, if either of their goalies. Toskala has played very well this season, but he makes less money than Nabokov which makes him more attractive.

So Philly is the first team in need of a goalie, and they are my guess for the first to go out and get one. Just like that, one goalie is off the market. That leaves two goalies (assuming San Jose decides to move one) on the market. Phoenix looks like they could use a goalie after allowing 25 goals in their first six games. Curtis Joseph is getting older, and it may be time to bring in someone to split some time with him. If I'm Phoenix, I bring in Martin Biron (because I don't see Anaheim or San Jose dealing a goalie of quality to a division rival). Biron could split time with Joseph this season, and then sign long term after the season (both Joseph and Biron will be UFA's after this season).

So two goalies gone, and now there is only one very good goalie left on the market. Boston has two goalies, and neither one is working out for them. They may be in the market to bring in a better goalie. The Rangers have allowed 25 goals in just six games, showing they may need some help between the pipes as well.

Then we get into injuries. Several NHL teams are currently relying heavily on their starting goaltender. Many of today's top NHL teams are a goaltender injury away from disaster. In Vancouver, New Jersey, Atlanta, Carolina, Florida (If Auld goes down, your stuck with Belfour, who has been awful), Minnesota, Calgary, and Dallas, you don't have a backup that can perform at a top level. Sabourin can't handle any more than a game a month at this point, Clemmenson has been sharp at times but in no way could be strong for any amount of time, Hedberg and Grahame are very streaky, Belfour has already shown how dangerous he is to his own team, Backstrom and Smith have no NHL experience and McLennan has never been a #1 NHL goalie and will never be one.

At this point it may look like there are a lot of goalies available, but the reality is, there isn't. Sure, there are a lot of quality backups available such as Tellqvist, Aubin, Bacashihua, Labarbera and Garon, but they won't help a team in need. The truth is, there are three big goalies available, and once one goes, the pressure is on.

Now with all that being said, a few more "bigger" name goalies may be added to that list. Montreal has two fairly good goalies, but niether one has been consistant enough to be named the true number one. The same thing goes in Ottawa, though Emery appears to be miles ahead of Gerber.

Bobby Clarke's team is currently in 30th place in the NHL, and he's not a man who usually sits back and waits for change. Clarke will shake things up at some point, and though his defense needs some work, I think everyone knows the real problem in Philly is the goaltending. Once one domino falls, the goalie race will begin.