King Nothing- Henrik Lundqvist and the changing value of goaltending at the top level.
Henrik Lundqvist, Vezina winner and multiple time nominee was bought out of his New York Rangers contract this week, replaced by by a younger, significantly cheaper model.
Russian star Prospect Igor Shesterkin. The Rangers, like many other teams in their position have made the right call.
Look how in control of his movements and poised he is here!!!
Shesterkin is one of many young, talented goalie prospects who have been taught proper metrics and offer far better value for money on entry level deals or sub 5 million dollar contracts compared to elite goalies on 8-10 mill.
Others include Carter Hart on the Philadelphia Flyers, Thatcher Demko on the Vancouver Canucks and very soon Ilya Sorokin on the Islanders also.
As a goaltender myself (albeit at a ridiculously significantly lower level than Lundqvist) it pains me to say it, but the value of having a top top goaltender has diminished as more focus on salary has been required on the players in front.
Great teams win Stanley Cups, not goaltenders stealing them. Goalies can often nick one game, but doing it over a 7 game series is nigh on impossible.
This trend of going younger and cheaper is actually made possible due to massive strides in goaltending coaching, and thinking behind the position.
Goaltenders nowadays are significantly better athletes than before the invention of the butterfly, and the difference between the best goaltender in the league and the worst is significantly smaller than the difference between a good NHL roster and one that is rebuilding.
It is massively unfair on guys who have been stellar goaltenders for years such as Lundqvist and Montreal’s Carey Price have no team accomplishments, whereas distinctively average but competent goaltenders in comparison like Corey Crawford and Marc Andre Fleury have multiple rings.
The biggest instance of a goalie not getting their just rewards was of course Dominik Hasek in Buffalo.
For those who aren’t aware of him, check his playoff stats for the Sabres below and then take a look at what was in front of him!
Fortunately for the dominator, he was traded to a stacked Detroit Red Wings team, and got the cup he so richly deserved!
This brings me back to the main point.
If the greatest goaltender of all time (Sorry Roy and Brodeur fans!) couldn’t get it done on his own, then a legit hall of famer like Lundqvist didn’t have much of a chance either!
It makes far more sense for teams to use goalies as a production line, short contracts, cheap salaries and spend big on making sure that the team in front is the best that the salary cap can buy.
Limiting shot quality is a far better way to go, than expecting a superhuman performance from your goaltender every single night.
Of course there are outliers to this on both sides.
It can be argued that Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick’s performances earned Boston and LA cups respectively, but neither team was exactly lacking in star power.
Bad goaltending can also cost a team big.
As Michael Leighton did for the Flyers back in 2010.
But for the main part. Keep your goaltending tandem cheap, and young and build a team around star centres and defensemen.
Conversely at European levels of hockey this trend is yet to hit.
At our very own Coventry Blaze, a single change in goaltender turbo charged the team to be title contenders. CJ Motte showed through his play that a great goalie at EIHL can instil a different sort of confidence in the team in front of him.