Monday, October 1, 2007

Dryden For Office

As the NHLPA takes their sweet time finding just the right man to lead their union, I am throwing out a name here. Ken Dryden.

Now my nomination might be said tongue in cheek, as it has not been brought about due to his legal resume. But what better person than a guy who could possibly represent the one group most hit hard by the latest collective bargaining agreement.

The goaltender.

Two years in and we have begun to see many patterns that can be directly tied in with the salary cap and other rule changes. But perhaps no more than the effect on the philosophy dealing with the men that happen to play the most important position on the ice. Between the pipes.

Gone are the days of the goaltending tandem. With cost saving measures brought to the forefront, general managers around the league seem unwilling to spend upward to a million dollars for second stringer. And the only teams that do happen to have two recognizable names on their rosters, prove to be the unfortunate ones that have previously locked into deals that went bad. Really bad.

Two seasons ago you might remember the joke that was the Atlanta Thrasher's goaltending situation. Going into a season with all their eggs in one basket, only to have the rookie Kari Lehtonen fall to injury in the preseason with little to back him up with.

Last season, it was the Los Angeles Kings debacle with Dan Cloutier, and the unwillingness of putting Jason LaBarbera through the waiver wire for recall.

Others such as Theodore, Gerber, Denis, Khabibulin and Raycroft have also hamstrung their teams with cap space and contracts.

This past offseason, we saw the San Jose Sharks trade away Vesa Toskala due to a new contract on the horizon. And now they are passing off a Cup contending team with ole'"what's his name" behind Nabokov. A theme mirrored by the Flames.

... and if one of the big men go down...?

There seem to be no teams willing to give the Belfours, Josephs, and Esches the light of day, nowadays. And yet 18 and 19 year old rookies are given the red carpet treatment, just prior to being fed to the wolves. Which used to be the #1 rule of what not to do.

It will be very interesting to see what unfolds for this third 'new' NHL season. Whether or not Jonathan Bernier in LA can handle the load. Or if Carey Price in Montreal will be able to perform with suitable playing time, so as not to rust on the bench. If Ward will bounce back from a sophomore hangover, while Lehtonen and Fluery respond from post seasons that exposed them for exactly what they were. Kids. And now with Toskala, Mason, Biron, Aebischer and Backstrom all being handed the baton for a complete season, the pressure cooker has never been greater.

Goaltending has always been a tough position to play, but now it seems it has become a tough career choice as well.

~ LS
The NHL Arena


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