May 8, 2008

Holey Goalie!

Despite the NHL's Herculean efforts to "trick-up" the game and force-feed hockey to the baseball, football, and basketball masses; lovers of a good ol' net minder battle have been treated to some wonderful displays in both this year's playoffs and 2007's.

No matter how the league has limited the goaltender's freedom, these athletes continue to stone opponents regularly - resulting in not only low scoring games, but also several overtime nail-biters.

In Toronto on June 11th, 2008, members of the league and the players union will examine the size and configuration of existing goalie equipment. The reps include Doug Risebrough, Garth Snow, Jim Rutherford, Brett Hull for the NHL, and Marty Broduer, Rick DePietro, Ryan Miller, Dany Heatley and Michael Cammalleri for the players and goalies. This examination stems from the belief that reducing the size of goalie equipment WONT injure the goaltenders (much), but instead will imbue the forwards with more skill... or at least more of a target, and therefore, increase scoring.

Don't buy into the spin. The cockamamy band-aid fixes they have instituted so far have not solved the problem, so they are going back to the well to see if they can handicap the goalies a little more.

I'm not even going to waste time arguing whether higher scoring is going to somehow, magically turn on the "appreciation light" in the heads of American baseball, basketball or football fans. (Frankly, I think it's like trying to sell bikinis to Buddhists.)

And I'm not going to make a cheap joke about how, if every goalie in the NHL was as good as Garth Snow, there would be no need to change anything. (oops!)What I am going to point out is the conflicting expectations that are speeding head-on towards each other.

The NHL keeps saying it wants high-scoring games, but every time a goalie lets in 3 or more goals, he gets pulled like a sky-diver's rip-cord.There are more goaltenders on the unemployment lines than Detroit auto workers. All because they couldn't cover for some of the worst offenses in hockey, or because they had a GAA of over 4.0.

Sure some goalies will let in a stinker, but guess what? THEY ALL DO - even the best of them. It's nothing new. Show me one who doesn't and I'll pay him to dam up the Mississippi.
Carey Price gets shelled by a tough Philly offence and he rides the pine in game 4. Hasek loses a couple of games vs. Nashville and out he goes. Kiprusoff has a couple he'd love a do-over on and... bang - he's working the door from the end of the bench. The expectations that a goalie has to make saves like the US Coast Guard, no matter what the conditions are, have not changed. They've got to.

Here's a newsflash to the coaches (especially goalie-killer Mike Keenan) the league, the critics and the fans: If you're going to continue to effectively hobble net-minders by limiting where they can play the puck, allowing players to crash the net, making the net bigger and tying their blocker hand behind their back, then you better get your head right with higher GAAs, lower SV% and leaving a guy between the pipes after 5 or 6 goals.

You want to devalue "the goal" and turn hockey into a shinny game, go ahead. If you think that's gonna create insta-fans and convert the unbelievers, then you'd probably make Zig Ziglar seem like a chronic fatalist. And bully for you, but the truth is, it's one way or the other.

You can't have both, Mr. Heller.

1 comment:

Warren Fleece said...

Over on the diamond scoring increased after they switched to virgin white game balls.

Arctic white pucks I tells ya. End the contrast crutch! Any netminder that can't use more than sight to stop a puck can go sell suits at Sears.