Philadelphia – The Quest for a Keeper Continues

Jeff Angus

2010-04-01

Goalies

Another season of instability between the pipes has once again come and gone for the Philadelphia Flyers. After trading for Chris Pronger last summer, the Flyers were forced to go digging in the bargain bin for a starting goaltender, as Pronger's salary pushed them very close to the cap. They signed Ray Emery, hoping that a year in exile playing in the KHL would make him a better goalie on the ice and a more stable person off of it. Emery started the 2009-10 season very well, winning 10 of his first 14 starts. However, his level of play dipped in December and January, and his season (and potentially career) was abruptly ended early in February when he suffered a severe hip injury.

 

After Emery sustained his injury, the Flyers turned their hopes to Michael Leighton, a goalie who they had recently plucked off of the waiver wire from Carolina. To his credit, Leighton played very well for Philadelphia in February and March, and probably stole a few points for them that they didn't deserve. He was playing so well that GM Paul Holmgren decided against making a move at the deadline to bring in a proven veteran like Tomas Vokoun, Tim Thomas, or Marty Turco. However, Leighton suffered a high ankle sprain shortly after the deadline, and is expected to miss the rest of the season and the playoffs (provided the Flyers qualify for them).

 

Enter Brian Boucher, the man famous for posting five consecutive shutouts with the Phoenix Coyotes back in 2003-04. Boucher has been able to elevate his game for brief stretches over his NHL career, but has shown no ability to play consistently enough to warrant a starting position in the league. However, with both Emery and Leighton out, the Flyers have no choice but to believe in Boucher. Since taking over the starting job a few weeks ago, he has won only two of eight starts, giving up 20 goals in the process. Even if the Flyers, who have been extremely inconsistent all season, figure out how to get things going in time for the playoffs, don't expect them to make much of a run with Boucher starting in net.

 

Paul Holmgren has vowed to make the acquisition of a legitimate starting goalie his priority this summer. The Flyers have a team structure similar to years' past – fantastic depth and skill at both forward and defense, but no stability between the pipes. From Jeff Hackett to Roman Cechmanek to Robert Esche to Sean Burke to Martin Biron, there hasn't been a guy to take ownership of the starting gig in Philadelphia since Ron Hextall. In their entire history in the league, Philadelphia has had 44 goaltenders start at least one game. Only three of those 44 have started more than 200 games for the team (Doug Favell, Hextall, and Bernie Parent). Philadelphia will have to move out salary if they want to add a legitimate goaltender, so expect one of Brayden