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Despite his recent struggles, Marty Turco is still a (slightly) above average goalie

Jul 11, 2010, 9:00 PM EDT

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Thumbnail image for depressedturco.jpgMarty Turco is in a rough spot right now. There simply aren’t a whole lot of options for a veteran goalie in a netminder market gone considerably dry.

Tomorrow night, I’ll take a look at a few semi-reasonable possible destinations, but honestly, he might be the equivalent of a hockey goalie hitchhiker at the moment, hoping that someone somewhere will pick him up on a whim.

Before I get into who might give him a chance at redemption, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at his post-lockout struggles.

Adam Gretz of NHL Fanhouse had a nice breakdown that featured three hypotheses for why Turco has struggled. Before I get to those, here’s a screen grab of a very telling pre vs. post lockout comparison for Turco’s career from Gretz’s post. (click to enlarge)

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for turcoprevspost.JPG

(Note: The post-lockout sample is obviously MUCH larger, so you might want to take that into consideration when looking at the undeniably telling contrast.)

If you’re curious, here is how I feel about Gretz’s hypotheses. His first guess, “The Trapezoid Rule” might account for a bit of discomfort for Turco, but I doubt it had much of an impact. “Declining athleticism” might have a tad bit to do with his struggles – he is already 34 years old – but I think that the league, in general, is becoming an unfriendly place for unorthodox goalies. Sound positioning, on the whole, is becoming a lot more valuable than abstract goalie expressionism.

The strongest point (one I’d guess Gretz feels the most favorable toward, as well) is that the defense in front of Turco dried up considerably. As the Stars shifted from a veteran defensive lineup featuring the criminally underrated Sergei Zubov to a young, shaggy-dog group lead by (not so young) Stephane Robidas, things started to fall apart in front of the puck-moving netminder. It doesn’t help, either, that Turco lost a sharp defensive-minded coach in Dave Tippett for … well, whatever you want to call Marc Crawford.

The problem is that NHL GMs may look at Turco as the mere beneficiary of a great defensive system. He missed the playoffs two years in a row, isn’t getting any younger and has been prone to his fair share of brain farts.

After a truly disastrous 08-09 campaign (he finished the year with a sub-90 percent save percentage but was even worse in the beginning of the season), Turco actually had a respectable save percentage (91.3) but only went 22-20-11 in 09-10. At times, he was out-played by temporary backup Alex Auld and then relinquished some starts to Stars goalie of the future Kari Lehtonen.

Now, anyone who expects Turco to bounce back to the form he showed in his first three seasons (once at a magnificent 93 percent save percentage and 1.72 GAA, two more times above 92 percent and twice under two goals per game allowed) is dreaming. Still, he’s played in nine NHL seasons and only dipped below the standard 90 percentage mark twice. He tends to hover around 91 percent, which I’d say makes him a clear starter, even if he’s not always at an All-Star level.

In other words, Turco is a worthy NHL goalie. The often-cocky goalie might need to get a little more realistic about his own aging abilities, though. I’ll discuss some semi-reasonable possibilities on Monday (none of which, mind you, are outrageously promising), but my ultimate finding is that Turco is worthy of an NHL job somewhere. Even if it’s a 1a-1b situation.

Overall, he needs to accept the fact that a starting job won’t come easy, if it comes at all.

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