As we head towards the start of the 2010-11 season, lets take a look at 9 teams who may struggle in goal.
Philadelphia Flyers – Michael Leighton has been a waiver claim 4 times in the past 4 years and another time was traded straight up for a 7th round pick. Despite playing well at times last year, he isn’t anyone I’d be comfortable depending on and he will be starting the season on IR with a bad back. Brian Boucher has had moments of great play in his career too but has never been able to establish himself as anything more than a backup. This is not the goaltending a supposed Stanley Cup contender should have.
Ottawa Senators – The Senators had the third worst save percentage in the NHL and they chose to come back with the same tandem and they haven’t looked any better in the pre-season. Pascal Leclaire might be the worst goalie in the NHL over the past couple seasons (challenging Toskala for that title) though the Senators hope that is in part due to his injury issues. Brian Elliot looked like he was in the process of transitioning from prospect to reliable NHL starter but he also struggled at times, and didn’t look good in the playoffs. What Elliot’s NHL career looks like is still a big question mark. Adding to the problem is the Senators lost a key defensive defenseman in Anton Volchenkov and added an offensive defenseman in Sergei Gonchar so the team may choose to go with a more offensive style of play which would only expose their goaltending issues even more.
Dallas Stars – Kari Lehtonen isn’t a bad goalie, just an unhealthy one. Only once in his 5 year career has he been able to start more than 45 games. Behind Lehtonen you have Andrew Raycroft who probably has been one of the worst goalies post lockout. If Lehtonen gets injured yet again, it could be trouble for the Stars.
Toronto Maple Leafs – The Leafs have had terrible goaltending the last several years. The good news is there is no one on the Leaf roster named Toskala or Raycroft so that has to be a positive. But, with that said young Jonas Gustavsson hasn’t proven anything and has looked iffy in the pre-season and veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere is past his prime. That said, I think Giguere will have a more steady influence on the team even if he isn’t a great goalie anymore and at least there is hope that Gustavsson can provide some upside as he develops.
Montreal Canadiens – I don’t understand the logic of trading away Jaroslav Halak who in addition to being a playoff hero also posted a 26-13-5 record with a .924 save percentage in order to keep Carey Price and his 13-20-5 record and .912 save percentage. Price has looked shakey in the pre-season and if he doesn’t turn it around it could be a long year in Montreal. New backup Alex Auld can be a decent backup but not someone I’d want to have to depend on too much.
Washington Capitals – Like the Flyers, the Capitals are Stanley Cup contenders with big question marks in goal. While the Flyers have a pair of goalies with more experience than the Capitals the Capitals have a pair of young goalies with potential to have very good careers. Both Seymon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth have been solid in goal at times but combined they have just 47 NHL regular season starts. The good news is the Capitals have enough offense that they don’t need great goaltending but even so, that is a lot of pressure to put on a pair of youngsters with no veteran goalie around to support them.
Edmonton Oilers – Khabibulin is one of the most streaky goalies around. When he is good, he can be really good, but when he is bad he can be awful, and there isn’t much behind him to support him during those bad streaks. All that said, goaltending isn’t all the Oilers will have issues with.
NY Islanders – Rick DiPietro can’t seem to stay healthy and Dwayne Roloson is 41 years old. The potential is there for the Islanders to have serious goaltending problems this upcoming season.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Both Dan Ellis and Mike Smith have shown potential to be decent NHL goalies but neither have played well enough to be called a reliable starter and neither are coming off good seasons. Despite some good talent up front, it could be another long season for the Lightning if one of these guys can’t step up their games or the coaching can’t optimize the ‘go with the hot goalie’ strategy.
Honourable Mentions: Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks. I am not overly worried about Turco in Chicago, I think he can still be a reliable goalie for 50-60 games. Can Crawford deliver in his 25-30 games though? I am also not that worried about Niemi and Nittymaki in San Jose. I think between them they will provide solid goaltending, but it probably won’t be as dependable as Nabokov’s.