Dissecting the Niemi Deal

Justin Goldman




Of all the cities where Antti Niemi could have played, very few ever imagined that his final destination would be San Jose. Even I figured it was only a matter of time before he cut his losses and played anywhere that guaranteed him enough starts to improve.


You know…like Finland…or Sweden, maybe?


And of all the frustrating rumors floating around over the past few weeks, how many times did the Sharks find a way to let people know they were totally comfortable with Antero Niittymaki and Thomas Greiss as a tandem? Too many to even pay attention.


Well…surprise, surprise. Niemi is now a Shark for the 2010-11 season.


So what exactly happened that caused San Jose's ship to change course? Where, and more importantly why did the Sharks compromise their original plan of attack? Which side manipulated the other and what does this mean for the Sharks' goaltending pipeline? Let's break it down, School of Block style!


When dissecting a major acquisition or trade that drastically changes the complexion of a team's goalie depth chart, I break down situations. As you know, goalies cannot be judged by statistics alone. One must take into account who they are as humans and athletes, where they come from, where they are going and what the organization might have planned for each goalie's future.


Essentially, in order to get a better understanding of the influences behind this signing, one must start at the top. Enter Wayne Thomas, the Sharks vice president, assistant general manager and two-way goalie consultant. He not only works with the Sharks goalies, but the ones in Worcester as well. His resume is beyond impressive, staggering in fact, as he has a lot of control over what the Sharks are doing in the goaltending department.

"For the past four seasons, Thomas has taken on a more advanced, day-to-day role in working with the Sharks goaltenders on- and off-the-ice."


Having an "off-ice" role in goalie development, to me, means the following – video analysis and coaching the non-tangible aspects of motivation and mental toughness. Thomas clearly knows how to teach the true elements of the position that can take an average goalie and make them great. In that sense, who wouldn't enjoy the opportunity to continue molding a guy like Niemi?