On the Hot Seat is our newest column which will post on every other Saturday and will discuss the likely changes between the pipes at the moment. Think of this as a primer that will go over basically any starting goalie position that might be in jeopardy whatsoever.
The battle between Mike Smith and Dan Ellis has been a number of adjectives. Together they have allowed 100 goals in only 29 games and have been far from the reason why the Tampa Bay Lightning have had any success this season. Regardless, neither netminder has been able to nail down a starting goalie role for what is arguably one of the best offenses in hockey. This inconsistency of course has led to speculation of a trade or even demotion to the AHL but we will need to wait and see on this one.
Unlike most controversies, these two continue to battle it out with poor start after poor start. Smith started the season winning most of the games while surrendering more goals than Ellis– who has now also started to look like a sieve. Regardless, this battle of netminders is on fire and should be monitored by every fantasy GM. Ellis is owned in only 43 percent of Yahoo! leagues while Smith only 12 percent, making one wonder who the fantasy darling is. Regardless, both netminders have a long way to go.
This tandem is on fire, let’s look at some of the other controversies around the League:
Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth form one of the better goaltending duos out there with both fighting for a long, promising future with the offensively charged Capitals. Head coach Bruce Boudreau recently announced that the team will employ a “win, you’re in” strategy with the netminders in an attempt to get one of them going. Neuvirth starts tonight so if you own him, hope for a win. Varlamov has been stellar since returning, nevertheless, and has only allowed more than three goals once in his seven appearances.
San Jose Sharks
Antti Niemi has somehow captured the role of starter and is honestly the most boom or bust of the two. While Antero Niittymaki has won nine games opposed to just three regulation losses, his SV% continues to plummet while his GAA climbs. Niemi putting together three solid starts in a row before giving up a customary blowout is enough for coach Todd McLellan to instill some additional confidence in him as it is clear the Sharks signed him to start and not sit on the bench. If you see him on your waiver wire, he should be a decent addition, but remember to sit him against stronger competition as the Sharks’ defense is not what it used to be.
If Pascal Leclaire can remain healthy, the job is clearly his. Known to be the most potentially talented of the two netminders, Leclaire is finally starting to win games after taking hard-luck loss after loss. His 3-7-1 record does not show just how good he has been as three isolated blowouts combined with a lack of goal support make him look like an inferior goaltender. By contrast, Brian Elliott has a winning record and much better peripherals but has probably hit his ceiling. Despite epic winning streaks and proving to the League he can start on an NHL team, he has failed to hold down the starting gig and for the time being has lost it.
Although Corey Crawford has started and won seven consecutive games, the rookie has not been appointed the top goalie on the team just yet. The defending Stanley Cup Champions are desperate for wins and the young rookie has given them just that. Shades of Niemi come out in Crawford but then again all the Blackhawks needed is a consistent presence between the pipes to win it all. The team will continue to ride whoever can get them Ws, so if Marty Turco starts and begins winning again expect him to take over the starting role once again.
Out of nowhere it appears Jose Theodore still has something left in the tank. Discarded by the Washington Capitals and unable to find a job until late into the summer, Theodore at times over the past month seems to be the more consistent netminder between himself and Niklas Backstrom. While he never completely took over the starting job, the veteran provided the breathing room Backstrom needed to stay on top of his game. It seems like now Theodore is just receiving starts as a reward for his previous work, but will have to really impress in order to take away the position altogether.
Even with Michael Leighton on the road back to Philadelphia, veteran Brian Boucher somehow worked his way back into the mix. Opposed to last year, when Boucher seemed to lose every game he suited up for the Flyers, the 33-year-old has a winning record and has only allowed five goals over his last three starts. His rookie counterpart, Sergei Bobrovsky, has been excellent regardless but has two starts over the last month in which he allowed four goals. While we don’t find this to be cause for concern over his job, he will likely begin yielding starts to one or both of the team’s veteran options.
Devan Dubnyk has earned more playing time but will likely continue to alternate starts with Nikolai Khabibulin. Even if Khabibulin was hurt, which he was towards the latter part of November, coach Tom Renney seems reluctant to rely on Dubnyk. Standing at a lanky 6’5″, the young Oilers’ netminder holds a .913 SV% which is much more respectable than his counterpart’s .897. Regardless, they both play on the Oilers so there are likely better options.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Jonas Gustavsson played every game with Jean-Sebastien Giguere out but since the veteran returned has found the pine. With only one year left on his contract, the Leafs probably want to get every penny out of the 7 million dollars they are paying the former Conn Smythe winner. Gustavsson by all accounts has looked ready for the role but will have to wait one more year or at least until Giggy gets hurt once again.
New York Islanders
Despite a very serviceable 2.50 GAA and .913 SV%, Dwayne Roloson finds himself receiving less starts than Rick DiPietro. It probably has something to do with DiPi earning the team’s only win in over a month. DiPietro also has a resounding 10 more years left on his contract. Seeing as Charles Wang is never wrong, DiPietro should continue to see the majority of starts for the next 10+ years while Roloson will probably be traded this year.
We hope you enjoyed our segment on starting goalies and fending off their backups as much as we enjoyed writing it. If there are glaring omissions such as the hot start of Cory Schneider or your love affair for Johan “The Moose” Hedberg, let your voice be heard in the comments. Regardless, make sure to take all of the advice in and continue to check our renowned starting goalies section, which is updated all day until game time.