A New Empire’s Birth

Justin Goldman

2008-11-24

 Ersberg

 

There is no solace that comes with losing your starting goaltender due to injury. There’s no extra IR spot on the roster or free agent acquisition to be made, there’s no antidote to fix the scar. Live with it and move on. Roberto Luongo has been placed on the gurney, clad in white sheets and neatly lined up next to Rick DiPietro, Kari Lehtonen, Martin Brodeur, and for now Evgeni Nabokov and Marc-Andre Fleury.
 

Yes, for fantasy owners everywhere, the aforementioned warriors have been reduced to withered ghosts. Their value has been destroyed (some for much longer than others) along with the archaic notion that goalies come with a stamp of credence for long-term success. But it looks like nothing lasts for long this season, regardless of whether it’s from an injury or incompetence. There’s a number of perfectly healthy goalies worthy of the gurney status as well, including Marty Turco, Jose Theodore, Martin Gerber and even guys like Jason LaBarbera, Andrew Raycroft and Freddy Norrena.

It seems to me that what once was achieved with a single goaltender slowly changed over the years into the need for a real solid one-two punch in goal. And now with the advent of equipment restrictions and rule changes, almost every NHL team not only needs to secure a THIRD strong goalie in their system in order to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they downright must have one.

So all of the backups and AHL starters will continue getting more chances to play; that we know for sure. But for how long is really what matters. In a position where culpability is overshadowed by capability, it all comes down to consistency – and for longer than two or three games. The proof is in the rising number of coaches that now follow the mantra of ‘to the victor goes the spoils’. Those playing consistently play more – those that fail are doomed to the bench, ultimately struggling to stay at the top of their game from the lack of minutes.

This shift has already gripped a number of teams – the Vancouver Canucks being the latest victim. Luongo is gone and the only speculation now is whether it’s a knee or groin injury and whether he’s out for the rest of the season or until March. Cory Schneider, the AHL’s best goaltender bar-none, is obviously going to get his chance to inaugurate his NHL career, so the real dilemma for you simply becomes which goalie to acquire – Schneider or Curtis Sanford?

Well, the answer depends on if your need is short or long term. If you already have another successful starter, that’s a little different than someone who banks on Luongo 75% of the time. For those that have a long-term need, show a little patience and go with Schneider. Give him a five-game trial and watch to see how quickly he adjusts to the speed at the NHL level. If he gets comfortable in less than three games and gets a little puck luck and some offensive support, you may have the birth of a new goaltending emperor.

If you need a short-term fill, then your line of reasoning sides with Sanford. He’s a capable netminder that has practiced under the best goalie in the Western Conference and is just biding his time for this exact opportunity. He did a great job in relief against the Penguins and technically, Sanford is just as talented as any other backup goalie out there, with great size and strength. But will he show any consistency, well, that’s the root of the dilemma my friend. If you’re asking me, I say not any better than Schneider will be able to do.

So whether you’re battling between the two Canucks goalies, Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen, or Johan Hedberg and Ondrej Pavelec, you’re all looking f