One of the givens of playoff success is that it hinges upon having a proven and thus pricey commodity between the pipes. This year's conference finals seem to bear that out. Three of the starting goaltenders have won Stanley Cups in that role -- Detroit's
But I say
In a sort of unofficial ranking based upon remuneration, Osgood is well below those other three starters. In fact, Detroit's
Both teams are now in the same place, except that the Wings lead the Hawks in the WCF, are favored to win it, and Osgood gives Detroit the edge -- certainly in the return on its investment. For Khabibulin ($6.75 million), this is his first-postseason appearance since winning the Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004. His tenure in Chicago has been spotty at best, with him not displaying his old form until late this season and on into the postseason.
Look further at the playoffs so far. The Washington Capitals with unproven rookie
Then we had the second round where Vancouver led Chicago in all six games and blew two separate one-goal advantages in the third period alone of a wild series-ending loss. Even the Canucks' captain and highest-profile player, goaltender
Don't get me wrong. This isn't some sour grapes piece by a former goalie begrudging the netminders of today what they're able to garner in wages. Good for them. No, this is about a potential shift in priorities in a cap era where it is harder for goalies to dominate or differentiate themselves because of the style of play.
Since the league returned to the ice in 2005-06, the emphasis has thankfully been on skating and skill and scoring. And there are now more variables associated with winning, including the role of mobile defensemen who can help a team by both skating to defend and moving up on the play to aid and abet the attack. A goaltender, no matter how skilled or accomplished, is but one factor in that equation.
In Ward's case, he hasn't been in the playoffs since the Hurricanes hoisted the Cup in 2006 -- a run that he began as their backup before taking over in Game 3 of the first round and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. Silverware aside, he's still a guy who missed the playoffs the past two years -- yet he's also a goalie who has never lost a playoff series at the NHL level and is 4-0 in Game 7 showdowns, including the Cup-clinching game in 2006 and both series victories this year. His price tag: a reasonable $2.5 million.
Then you have Osgood. All he does is win. He backed up
Of course goaltending remains an important element to a team's success. Someone who is dependable and mentally tough enough to roll with the flow and has the ability to make timely saves will never go out of demand. But the realities of the salary cap, especially with the likelihood of it going lower in years ahead as the economy sputters, should give teams cause to take a good hard look at their bottom line in net. Adjusting the pay scale for puckstoppers downward makes good sense as teams look to reprioritize the tighter resources they'll have to allocate across their rosters.
Spending wisely is working in Detroit.