Goalies at the Trade Deadline: Part I

Justin Goldman

2012-02-09

Whether it's in our minds or with our buddies, we all dabble in trade rumors. Even I can't deny I get weak in the knees when I pontificate potential "perfect fits" for my favorite puck-stoppers. And no matter how hard we want to ignore wild rumors that wedge their way into our daily lives, once we see one or two, we can't stop thinking about others. But for goaltenders, I think it's important to flip the traditional rumor logic upside down by looking at things in a specific order.

 

With that in mind, I'll be publishing a four-part series that previews and recaps all goalie movement during the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline. Part I begins "on the flip side" by discussing potential teams that truly need an upgrade. Part II will find those teams that "perfect fit" for their needs. Part III will prep us for the deadline by assessing and updating those teams and goalies, and Part IV will evaluate the movement by recapping what transpired on Monday, Feb. 27.

 

Why should we start by dissecting what teams need first? Because they are the source of movement, and without General Managers feeling the need to make an upgrade, no goalie trades will exist. When it comes to this possible movement, I feel strongly that most of it is rooted in the element of confidence.

 

For example, how confident is a GM in his goalies right now? How confident is the head coach in his tandem? Finally, how confidently is the team playing in front of each goalie, and how confident are the goalies in their own play?

 

Every GM wants to trade for a hidden gem in terms of talent, but for all of those playoff bubble teams, consistency trumps skill, and experience is the root of consistency. A stabilizing rock might not always look pretty, but they are essential and valuable when building the foundation of a winning team.

 

That being said, I think no team is better suited to kick off Part 1 than the Chicago Blackhawks. Corey Crawford is struggling under the weight of the sophomore slump, as he was just 3-4-1 with a 3.48 goals-against average and .894 save percentage in January. And Ray Emery is no guarantee that he can be a successful workhorse, either.

 

Emery certainly has the experience to be consistent down the stretch, but the big question mark is his durability. I don't doubt that he can handle the starting role for anywhere from 5-10 games at a time, but to lean on him for close to 30 games, and then a potentially deep playoff run, is a massive risk. Furthermore, no NHL team is struggling more right now than the Blackhawks, as they are just 3-5-2 in their last 10 games and losers of three straight.

 

Do I think Crawford can surge in the final stretch of the season? I think maybe in short spurts, but not on a consistent basis. Part of this goes back to my idea that Crawford is no longer a dynamic entity, and part of it is based on the fact that Crawford has also been publicly questioning his own performance lately – two things that erode a GM's and coach's confidence. Whether it is Crawford or Emery, there are just too many questions being asked right now.

 

When speaking about a lack of goaltending experience, maybe no team defines that more than the Maple Leafs. Both Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer are considere