Three Keepers: One Net

The year: 2005. As a lockout cancelled the games of the 2004–05 NHL season, the draft order was determined by lottery on July 22, 2005. One by one, teams were eliminated and we were down to five teams still in the hunt to get the grand prize: the number one overall pick, franchise player Sidney Crosby. When NHL assistant-commissioner Bill Daly pulled out the next card, the disappointment of Habs’ fans could be felt around the world.

That year, Canadiens’ General Manager Bob Gainey took the hockey world by surprise by picking, at number five overall, goaltender Carey Price. Many were hoping that they would pick Anze Kopitar and others wanted… Gilbert Brule. But why pick a goaltender at number five when you had, in your net, Jose Theodore, only a couple of years removed from a Hart Memorial and Vezina Trophy? The hockey world was baffled. Not so much today with perhaps the exception of Theodore himself, who seems to carry (no pun intended) a grudge against the organization to this day, but that’s a whole different story.

Jump ahead to today and with Price entering the second of an eight-year, $84 million contract, there seems to be a line-up of quality prospect goaltenders within the Canadiens’ organization trying to make a name for themselves in hope to, one day, take over from the winningest goaltender in the history of the NHL’s most successful franchise.

Log jam in Laval

With the Habs signing veteran backup Keith Kinkaid, the oldest prospect of this group, Charlie Lindgren, will have an uphill batter if he wishes to pierce the Canadiens’ opening day roster. While Kinkaid had a lackluster season with the NHL’s 28th overall New Jersey Devils last season with a 3.36 goals against average and a .891 saves percentage, the 30 year-old veteran is only a year removed from a couple of good seasons as a backup. It is highly unlikely to see the Canadiens go with three goaltenders at the NHL level, which means that Lindgren would have to clear waivers in order to report to the Laval Rockets in the AHL.

Charlie Lindgren’s days with the Habs are likely counted.

However, the Rockets already have two young, promising prospects in Michael McNiven and newly signed NCAA star Cayden Primeau. The problem? Players need to play in order to develop, and that applies to goaltenders as well. But there’s only one net on any given night. The AHL season consists of 76 games so sharing the duties with two prospects will result in each one starting about 38 games. Add one more goalie and you’re down to around 25 starts each, which is far from enough for any given prospect goaltender to properly develop.

We’re only in mid-August but the Canadiens’ rookie camp will be starting in a few weeks, followed by the team’s main training camp with the first pre-season game scheduled for September 16th against Kinkaid’s former team, the New Jersey Devils. A lot can happen until then and Habs’ GM Marc Bergevin isn’t afraid to go against tradition in making trades in the Fall, even major ones, as we saw a year ago when Max Pacioretty was sent packing to Vegas. Could Lindgren find a new team by training camp? It’s entirely possible. Would he clear waivers if sent down? At 25 years old and with the statistics that he has had, one would think that he would. But the net in Hamilton must belong to McNiven and Primeau. There’s simply no room for Lindgren who should be the odd-man out. Go Habs Go!

A Case for Smaller Goalie Equipment

GoalieEquipment

There is no doubt that the NHL and its Governors are trying to find ways to make the game more exciting and one way to do that is definitely for teams to score more goals. While some low scoring games are very entertaining, a lot of them are as boring as it gets, especially since the NHL, in its wisdom, decided to get rid of tie games and give an extra point for wins in overtime and/or in skills competitions, which they like to call shootouts.

The league has taken an important step this past season by going with a 3 on 3 overtime format, which has eliminated the need to have to endure players showing their skills on a one on one shootouts. The 3 on 3 is exciting yet, it is still a team concept. Personally, I wish that they would adopt a five minutes 4 on 4 OT followed, if needed, by another 5 minutes at 3 on 3. The winner would get two points and the loser… well, zero. If tied after 70 minutes, both teams would have earned to get a point.

Bigger nets

For a while now, people around hockey have hinted that making the nets bigger has become a necessity. The goaltenders are bigger and better than ever and so is the coaching with all of the video review and heavy scouting, resulting in less goals being scored on many nights. Personally, I am totally opposed to having bigger nets.

First of all, players are bigger and faster than ever in the NHL yet, the rinks are still the same size and the NHL refuses to go to Olympic size rinks because it would mean the loss of important tickets sales income, having to eliminate a row or two of prime seats in every rink. This results in players having less room on the ice to maneuver and make plays.

Then, they have added another referee on the ice and that has proven time and time again to contribute to the congestion and obstacles that players must deal with while trying to play the game. Having bigger nets would only take even more space away from players and ultimately, would not solve the issues. As a matter of fact, it would create other problems with a bigger obstacle to go around to chase the puck and make plays.

Goalie equipment is still too big

Has anyone ever wondered why the piece of added equipment between the wrist and the thumb of a goaltender’s catching glove is called “the cheater”? No, it is not for protection and yes, its sole purpose is to stop pucks, or to “cheat”. Same goes for the length and width of the pads and the extra pieces on the chest protector.

Yes, people claim that the new “self-breaking” sticks are better than ever but yet, at (true) skills competitions, the hardest shots are very similar to Al Iafrate and Al MacInnis were shooting back with wooden sticks. Yet, look at the goalie equipment from back then! Even at that, with the improvement in the materials used for goalie equipment, it protects them better than ever. Let’s cut on the cheating part of it. Look at what former NHL goaltender Corey Hirsch proposed. The computer generated graphic is excellent.

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As clearly shown in this video, there are easy ways to address the goaltenders’ equipment size without compromising their safety. Now if only someone at the NHL, the Governors and decision makers listened to their fans and did what they want. But if they did that, there wouldn’t be any lockouts either…