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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Yzerman’s Goalie Predicament – Yet he is Not Interested in Roberto Luongo? – Other Goalies he Could Trade For – Can Anders Lindback take the Lightning all the Way? – Mathieu Garon?

Steve Yzerman, VP and GM of the Lightning, probably made the worst all-time goalie decisions after the 2010-11 season. First, he let Mike Smith go—and for nothing! Second, Yzerman rested his hopes on a 42 year old Roloson and gave him a one-year deal worth 3 million! You can’t gamble your entire season on a retirement-ready goalie and neither is it wise to count on one goalie without providing an exceptional back-up—and Yzerman did not provide a good enough back-up in Mathieu Garon (who actually became the starter). Furthermore, you should always strive to have at least one other competent goalie in your system who can be brought-up in case there are one or more injuries—it simply is the most important position in hockey and you need a lot of depth, and you can ask the Penguins about that since Fleury choked big-time in the playoffs and they had nobody who could effectively take over. I guess Yzerman felt that a goalie would be given to him as a gift because he also passed on the chance of taking the #1 goalie prospect in the 2011 draft—John Gibson! Instead, he opted for a Russian center for his first pick, a Russian winger for his second, a Russian defenseman for his third (Round 5), and he finally took a goalie in Round 6. All said, Yzerman was entirely responsible for the Lightning missing the 2012 playoffs—a series of some of the worst NHL managing mistakes ever! He was a great player but obviously needs a lot of advice in managing and directing a team (and the same goes for Kevin Lowe of the Oilers). Yzerman selected a goalie for his second of two picks in Round 1 of the 2012 draft (19th overall), but too little too late, and again the player was a Russian. He also took a Russin in Round 7. Yzerman is going way overboard on Russian players in my opinion, and you tell me if fans in North America want to watch a team full of Russians rather than Canadians and Americans? Also, Russian players are a risk because they could go to the KHL, like Radulov did once, and will likely do it a second time this year—the baby that he is.

So, Yzerman needs an excellent starter (someone who can be a Top 20 goalie) if he wants to salvage the 2012-13 season, and a good back-up as well. A week before this year’s draft, Yzerman acquired 24 year-old netminder Anders Lindback from the Predators, along with forward Kyle Wilson and a 7th round pick in the draft, in exchange for two 2nd round picks in the 2012 draft, a 3rd round pick in the 2013 draft and goalie Sebastien Caron. Yzerman had put himself into a position where he really had to do this deal because he has nobody of merit between the pipes and Lindback could develop into a starting goalie. Currently, he is a back-up caliber goalie, but if Yzerman does not obtain a goalie by trade this summer or fall, I believe that Lindback will earn the starting spot over Mathieu Garon. Lindback played 22 games for the Preds in the 2010-11 season and his Save Percentage was acceptable at .915 and he had two shutouts. Last year he played just 16 games (with a 5-8-0 record) and his Save Percentage was .913. As for Garon, he had to play the starting role for the better part of last year due to Roloson’s terrible play. Garon proved that he is not a starting goalie because in 48 games his Save Percentage was .901, he only had one shutout, and his GAA was 2.85. The 34 year-old has never proven to be good enough to be a starter and his two previous seasons with the Blue Jackets were very similar to last year—with .901 and .903 Save Percentages. Only one season since he has been in the NHL has he shown any better and that was when he was with the Oilers back in 2007-08 when he had a .913 Save Percentage. Well, the chances of Garon significantly improving to the extent that the Lightning can make the playoffs this year are not good at all. So, unless Yzerman trades for a goalie it looks like Lindback should win the spot over Garon. However, it is too much of a gamble to trust in Lindback to be good enough to get the Lightning into the playoffs (either) so I see no logical choice but to trade for a goalie before the season starts. Yzerman has put himself in an extremely embarrassing position and has compromised the Lightning in a huge way, and I prefer that he suffer and miss the playoffs again this year so that people can see what a brutal job he has done with the team; however, if he has any commonsense he will sacrifice part of his team (including a couple of Russian prospects) and trade for a goalie before the season starts. He has no depth in the position and he needs injury protection and not just a starter. The ideal is to have a Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott situation where two good goalies are battling for the starting spot. Let Lindback battle for the starting position with whoever Yzerman can trade for and send Garon to the minors where he can stay ready in case needed. People, it is all about trying to make the playoffs and Yzerman has to provide goalie support so that his team can have a chance. When you have 60-goal scorer Steven Stamkos on your team and you can’t make the playoffs you need to make a big goaltending move so your players can have a chance at the Cup. To wait two or three years for an NHL-caliber starting goalie is wasting the talent of Stamkos—and not many Stamkos’ come around. Stamkos has said repeatedly that being in the playoffs is most important to him. Do the Lightning really have a chance of making the playoffs with Lindback and Garon? In the East, the Bruins, Rangers, Penguins, Flyers, Capitals, and Hurricanes are going to make the playoffs in my opinion, and that only leaves two spots open. The Canadiens are going to be tougher this year and I expect them to battle hard for a playoff spot. The Senators should have a decent year with Karlsson inspiring his teammates, the Sabres shouldn’t be far back, while it does not look good for the Devils without Parise but I wouldn’t entirely discount them since they could add some players before the start of the season. All said, I cannot see the Lightning in the playoffs unless they trade for an excellent goalie, or, unless Lindback is able to improve—possible, but again, why not have two very good goalies battle for the starting spot?

Who to trade for? Luongo?

Well Roberto Luongo is clearly available but Yzerman said that he is not interested in him. That surprises me a little because Luongo is a solid goaltender (but not elite) and would be enough to get the Lightning into the playoffs at least some years in the next six or seven years that Luongo will play before retiring. Luongo was a 10 million dollar man in the 2010-11 season but that dropped to 6.716 million a season and until 2017-18, and then to 3.382 million for the following year, 1.1618 in 2019-20, and then the final two years of the contract pay just 1 million a year—get that cap hit down boys. Luongo is likely to retire after the 2017-18 season which will mean six more years in-between the pipes until he is 39 years old, but, he could bow himself really low and play for the 3.38 million in 2018-10—wink, wink, snicker, snicker. Yzerman could take on Luongo’s contract if he really wanted to. To be honest, I don’t care for Luongo due to his over-rated status (as proven by stats and other parts of his game), his pride, previous poker TV commercials for BC Lottery (not a good example for the kids who look up to him), and his recent radio interview in Vancouver where he kissed the Canucks goodbye despite the fact that he has not been traded! Luongo should have just kept his mouth shut and let GM Mike Gillis do his job, rather than offending him by trying to force a trade. What it comes down to is that Yzerman has dug himself in a huge, extremely deep hole and Luongo would be a sure way of giving the team a decent chance of making the playoffs and advancing. So, I think that Yzerman should consider Luongo more carefully and go ahead and take him unless he can secure another goalie. Just don’t play Luongo in the TD Garden in Boston—enough said. 

Besides Luongo, Yzerman might want to consider a trade with the Kings for Jonathan Bernier. He had a tough year last year but given more ice time he would improve to where he was before and probably become even better. And, he is only 23 years old, a steal at 1.525 million for 2012-13, and would be a RFA at the end of the upcoming season.   

The goalie that I would go for would be Robin Lehner who the Senators have grossly mistreated despite the fact that he had the best Save Percentage of their four goaltenders last year. They only allowed Lehner to play five games in 2011-12, four after Anderson lacerated his finger; and, in those five games he had a Save Percentage of .935, one shutout, and a GAA of 2.01. Furthermore, in the four games he played after Anderson was injured, he was the 1st Star twice and the 2nd Star once. The 20 year-old, 220 lb Swede is going to be another Lundqvist in my opinion (almost already is and has not been given much of a chance), and maybe even better. GM Bryan Murray’s buddy, Ben Bishop, who he clearly favored, played in ten games and had a Save Percentage of .909, zero shutouts, and a GAA of 2.48. Alex Auld played in 14 games and had a brutal Save Percentage of .884, zero shutouts, and a GAA of 3.35. Craig Anderson played in 63 games and had a Save Percentage of .914, only three shutouts, and a GAA of 2.84.

Finally, Mike Smith is out now Mr. Yzerman. You better make a move for an excellent  goalie rather than resting all of your hopes and playoff chances on Lindback. Two goalies are better than one. Furthermore, I would trade a couple of your Russian prospects as part of a goalie trade.  

TJ Stanley