Goaltending problems in Edmonton, Anaheim and Dallas may open up jobs for out of work veterans like Martin Brodeur, Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun; more NHL notes.
Martin Brodeur, please stand by.
We're barely two full weeks into the new season and already it's clear that there are a few places where a veteran goalkeeper might come in handy. None of the situations are dire—yet—but you have to believe that teams are examining their options before things get out of hand.
In Edmonton, folks have stopped arguing about whether Ben Scrivens should be the No. 1 and Viktor Fasth the No. 1-A and started wondering if either one of them will ever win a game for the Oilers. Scrivens put on his best performance of the young season last Friday, stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced in a 2–0 loss to the Canucks, but that was after he had given up 14 goals on the first 70 shots that came his way in his previous three appearances. He still has much to prove. Fasth, the Ducks castoff, is currently on IR. Since he allowed seven goals on 54 shots in two games this year, maybe he's suffering from severe red light burns.
What this team really needs is three capable NHL defensemen, but since that's not happening a goalie is the only real possibility.
In Dallas, the Stars have to be concerned about the way Kari Lehtonen has struggled to close up his gaping five hole. His teammates handed the Finnish Olympian a five-goal lead against the previously winless Flyers on Saturday, but he couldn't close the door (or his legs) in a 6–5 overtime loss. Lehtonen can be spectacular at times, but his inconsistency is an issue. So is the team's lack of a viable backup for him. Jack Campbell's not ready, Jussi Rynnas didn't impress in camp and Anders Lindback stumbled when given the chance to play against his two former teams, losing 4–1 to the Predators on Oct. 11, and 5–1 to the Lightning in the preseason. Dallas can't afford to have its momentum stalled by sloppy netminding.
The most intriguing scenario might be in Anaheim, where a preseason goaltending controversy has been solved thanks to a historically good start from Frederik Andersen, who over the weekend joined Bruins immortal Ross Brooks (1972 to ’75) as the only goalies ever to win 25 of their first 30 NHL starts. That's terrific for the Ducks, but lousy for John Gibson. The rookie looked overwhelmed at times last spring and wasn't ready for the challenge this fall, coughing up six goals in his only start of the season. He needs time to get his game in order ... and he won't get enough time as long as Andersen keeps rolling. It might make sense to send Gibson back to the AHL, where he recently saw action in two games in an attempt to correct his problems, and to find Andersen a veteran backup capable of challenging him for playing time.
That's where one of the unemployed goalies might come in. And the best choice might not be the one you're thinking of.
Despite Brodeur's pedigree and Brygalov's recent track record, Vokoun looks like the best option for each of these teams. He sat out last season after doctors discovered blood clots in his hip, but he was solid in 2012–13, with a .919 save percentage. He played so well, in fact, that in the playoffs he replaced the shaky Marc-Andre Fleury as the Penguins' No. 1. That kind of experience would serve any of these teams well.
Bryzgalov might be a viable second option, especially after his impressive stint with the Wild proved that concerns about his character were overblown. Brodeur, though? Given the pronounced decline in his performance during the past couple of seasons, it's hard to imagine any team seeing him as the answer.
Except maybe Edmonton because ... well, they are the Oilers.
Banged-up D in Dallas
Goal isn't the only area on the ice where the Stars are in need of immediate help. The team learned on Monday afternoon that rookie blueliner Patrik Nemeth was done for the season after he suffered a severe gash to his arm in the early going of Saturday's loss to Philly. Hard to imagine the extent of the muscle/nerve/tendon damage he must have suffered, but it had to be catastrophic if he will be sidelined for more than a few weeks. Dallas recalled Jyrkki Jokipakka from AHL Texas, and the rookie is expected to make his NHL debut on Tuesday night, but you have to believe that GM Jim Nill is making calls—and maybe kicking himself for not getting in on the preseason Johnny Boychuk/Nick Leddy action.
Good deal for the Flames
It may take longer for NHL defensemen to develop, but it doesn't necessarily take much time for teams to commit to them long term.
Take the Flames' T.J. Brodie. The 24-year-old has played just 192 games, not even 2½ seasons, but that didn't stop Calgary from locking him down with a five-year, $23.25 million contract extension on Monday morning.
That's the third such contract in a less than two weeks: On Oct. 12, Minnesota agreed to a six-year deal worth $4.17 annually with Jonas Brodin (128 games played); and three days later, the Kings and Jake Muzzin (134 games) came to terms on a five-year, $20 million contract.
Like the other two players, Brodie has developed into a solid top pair defenseman while playing alongside a gifted veteran. He's comfortable for now playing Robin next to Mark Giordano's Batman, but he might have an even higher upside than his partner. Brodie already averages more than 25 minutes a night, he's a key part of the Flames' power play, he matches up against the opposition's best players and he's a possession monster.
“He won't dazzle you, but he'll win you games with his work ethic and his smarts,” a scout told SI.com. “I think he's just scratching the surface.”
Not bad for a 2008 fourth-rounder.
An NHL scout on Boston forward Milan Lucic: “[If I'm Bruins coach Claude Julien] I sit him the next time they play Montreal. You want the guy to play with emotion but there's a line he has to learn not to cross. He was a negative asset [in Boston's 6–4 loss to the Canadiens last Thursday]. He was unglued. You could see that right from the whistle. He sees those [Montreal] sweaters and just loses it.”