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Six teams who made the wrong moves in net during this off-season

Aug 12, 2011, 12:40 PM EDT

Rich Peverly, Steve Mason, Chris Kelly AP

It’s reasonable to expect NHL teams to make decisions that seem disagreeable from time to time. On occasion, they simply have more information about a given player or situation than the general public. Every now and then, they’re just flat-out wrong even if their hearts and minds are in the right place.

If there’s one area in which teams shouldn’t be given much benefit of the doubt, it’s when they make wild risks with their goalies. The goaltending position can be a very unpredictable one, but smart teams hedge their bets. Here are a few teams who simply dropped the ball this off-season.

Anaheim – Let me start this off by saying that I’m a huge fan of Jonas Hiller. The Swiss-born goalie isn’t underpaid ($4.5 million per year), but he might be underrated. Unfortunately, he’s dealing with vertigo problems that could endanger his career; the unusual malady isn’t exactly something he can “ice” or “walk off” either.

It’s a tough situation for the Ducks, especially since they’re a very budget-conscious team. All of that aside, I still cannot fathom why they wouldn’t try to bring Ray Emery just in case Hiller remains in limbo. Judging by his willingness to accept a meager training camp tryout, Emery probably would have taken a two-way contract, which would have reduced the risk of adding Emery if Hiller ended up fine. Instead, Anaheim might be forced to throw Dan Ellis to the wolves.

source: APToronto – The Maple Leafs are putting a whole lot of eggs in the James Reimer basket, aren’t they? Brian Burke warned Reimer of the dangers of being a one-hit wonder goalie, but all the motivational ploys in the world can’t change the fact that Reimer has only played 37 games in his career. It’s not the worst gamble on this list, but Burke won’t hear the end of it if Reimer falls flat.

Columbus – Read this post for all you need to know about the Blue Jackets’ blind gamble with Steve Mason, who might as well be a cautionary tale for Reimer. Columbus decided to double down on risk when they allowed experienced backup Mathieu Garon to depart via free agency in favor of Mark Dekanich, who has exactly one NHL game on his resume.

Edmonton – Obviously, the Oilers are in a pickle because they cannot get rid of Nikolai Khabibulin‘s 35+ contract. Still, the Oilers decided to stand idly by and hope for the best, which means that their starting goalie battle will come down to Khabibulin vs. Devan Dubynk. Even Fox’s Celebrity Boxing matches were less depressing.

source: APFlorida – The Panthers’ situation might be the least acceptable of all because they had the most options. Going into the off-season, it made sense that they would part ways with Tomas Vokoun. Yet when you consider that the Panthers were basically dying to give away money and Vokoun needed a home, was it unreasonable for them to give the statistical darling of a netminder a hefty one-year deal? Maybe he wouldn’t have taken it, but whatever gains they made with their ridiculous free agent spending spree might be lost thanks the enormous talent gap between Vokoun and odds-on starter Jose Theodore.

Phoenix – I think Mike Smith could make a nice career for himself as an above average backup, much like Dan Ellis. The problem is that he’s the Coyotes starting goalie, which means he’ll get little goal support and less defensive help than some might expect (at least if Phoenix’s troubling 2010-11 shots allowed stats weren’t a fluke). Smith probably wouldn’t be in this situation if not for Dave Tippett, so we’ll see if the 2009-10 Jack Adams award winner is as brilliant as he seemed two seasons ago. Logic points to things getting ugly in the desert.

Two teams who could go either way

Islanders (if they trade Evgeni Nabokov) – You can kiss that “dark horse candidate” talk goodbye if the Isles hitch their hopes to Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro. That might be the same if Nabby sticks around, although that situation would be a whole lot more interesting.

Colorado – For some strange reason, I have a weird feeling that the Semyon Varlamov experiment might just work out for the Avalanche. That being said, they overpaid to get both of their goalies so that’s often a recipe for disaster.


Again, goalies can be an unpredictable bunch. It’s possible that one or more of these teams could find a Sergei Bobrovsky-type prospect who comes out of nowhere to save their season. That being said, I think that the Ducks, Blue Jackets, Maple Leafs, Oilers, Coyotes and Panthers will kick themselves for their decisions during this off-season. Where do you come in on these and other teams’ situations in net, though? Let us know in the comments.

  1. cannonblast14 - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    I would rather have mason than Varlamov right now. Because of injuries and such.
    Also its hard to say that all these teams made the “wrong move” until after the season gets going. Who knows, maybe they were brilliant in what they did. Hard to say, but to say they were all “wrong moves”

    • James O'Brien - Aug 13, 2011 at 6:41 PM

      No doubt about it, all six teams could get great goaltending. I just would bet against most of them.

      Mason is an interesting case, though. If nothing else, the Blue Jackets should give him more margin of error by scoring more goals. (At least that’s the way it looks on paper.)

      • cannonblast14 - Aug 13, 2011 at 9:30 PM

        You also have to look at the D corpse in front of him. I mean last year Marc Methot was arguably the best D man we had. Mason’s rookie year, the D group in front of him played a lot better than they were the last few years. His rookie year, we had Hejda and Commodore who were playing like a top shut down pair in the league. We havent had that since then.
        Improve goals for and get a better D group, and Mason will be back to his rookie form. He just needs a little help.

      • derpdederpdederp - Aug 14, 2011 at 4:27 PM

        their D corpse? is their D really THAT bad?

      • cannonblast14 - Aug 14, 2011 at 6:40 PM

        Yes, they were.

      • derpdederpdederp - Aug 14, 2011 at 10:53 PM

        I knew they were bad, but as bad as 6 dead guys? if you say so bud

  2. capsrockva - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    Varly was always injured for the Caps. That’s one of the reasons George traded him. In my opinion getting Voukoun was a steal, as was sending Varly to CO for 2 draft picks both 1st round

  3. derpdederpdederp - Aug 12, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    Reimer has the most positive attitude Ive seen a Leafs goalie have in a while. the pressure doesnt seem to get to him, he just loves to be out there playing the game. he never stops smiling in interviews. combine that with the fact he is fundamentally sound and battles like a warrior and I think the kids gonna be just fine

    • derpdederpdederp - Aug 12, 2011 at 2:23 PM

      thumbs down indicates youve never actually watched the kid during or after a game

  4. chihawkee - Aug 12, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    I’ve been trying to contact Anaheim’s medical staff for many months now, with a very good idea of what is wrong with Hiller. It’s a condition that rarely leads to vertigo, and therefore always overlooked. I personally spent years of my life and tens of thousands of dollars trying to cure my crippling vertigo, and finally had it properly diagnosed. After that, within 2 weeks, my vertigo was able to be cured. If anyone here personally knows The Ducks training staff, tell them to send me a message.

  5. jpelle82 - Aug 12, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    i think reimer is the real deal. he might not get a lot of wins because of his team but he should keep them in games they shouldnt be in…we know he will have no shortage of shots sent his way.

  6. Mark - Aug 12, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    I’m failing to see how the Leafs made a poor decision here. Instead of spending a shitload of money on an overrated goalie, they decided to let a young, promising player with upside and good #’s in the minors to prove whether or not he’s a legit goaltender going forward.

    You know, the exact kind of move a team in the Leafs position, a young team with promising players, should be making.

    I’m not the foremost expert on hockey or anything, but a guy who is 22 and throwing up 920 SV% and sub 3 GAA deserves a shot at starting after the run he had. If anything, it would be stupid for the Leafs to spend on goaltending when they’re ALREADY paying Gustavson and Reimer.

    Considering how poorly the Leafs have spent over the years, and how much criticism they get for not turning to youth, I think this is an incredibly short sighted criticism of yours to suggest the Leafs made a poor move.

    • derpdederpdederp - Aug 12, 2011 at 5:00 PM

      youre not “the foremost expert on hockey” but I dont think James has ever seen a hockey game except when he plays video games. Toronto made a very good decision here, this guy just obviously doesnt know anything about Reimer and what hes all about

  7. derpdederpdederp - Aug 12, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    oh and one more thing James, instead of just listing a bunch of move you think arent great why dont you offer us some ideas on what these teams could have done better? its easy to criticize, but your criticism of Reimer shows your just spewing nonsense here much like you do on most of your posts

    • cannonblast14 - Aug 12, 2011 at 5:49 PM

      then why read

      • derpdederpdederp - Aug 12, 2011 at 6:34 PM

        who says I read it all? I skimmed it, saw the part about Reimer, threw up in my mouth a bit, then didnt read any more of it

      • cannonblast14 - Aug 13, 2011 at 5:23 PM

        Just saying if your going to talk shit about the writing, then why read and waste your time commenting. You just seem to want to be a dick

    • James O'Brien - Aug 13, 2011 at 6:35 PM

      Aww, I thought we were becoming good pals though?

      Toronto’s decisions were the most understandable of the teams on the list, which is why I said it “wasn’t the worst gamble on this list.” They’re just depending on a goalie who’s been good, but only good for a small selection of games. Getting some insurance (maybe a two-way contract for Ray Emery?) wouldn’t hurt, in my mind. Reimer could very well work out, but the Leafs aren’t well-prepared if he falls on his face. Just saying.

      • derpdederpdederp - Aug 13, 2011 at 6:52 PM

        sure it might be better to have a veteran backup but I just dont see Reimer being a piece of Swiss cheese in net. what Im confused about is how you think they could have done things differently. Burke didnt want to waste money on an expensive vet and the free agent market for goalies was pretty weak once he decided that

  8. bcjim - Aug 12, 2011 at 6:31 PM

    Please revise this to put the Flyers first. Good grief man.

    • James O'Brien - Aug 13, 2011 at 6:38 PM

      Philadelphia’s overall moves were faulty, but looking at goaltending alone, I don’t think you could argue that they didn’t improve. Bryzgalov carried Phoenix to the playoffs for two straight seasons and Bob is probably where he should be a this point in his career: a more appropriate backup role. They might have one of the better goalie situations in the league, to be honest.

      Unfortunately, to get there, they downgraded the team around them.

  9. derpdederpdederp - Aug 13, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    for the record James I havent been able to take any of your opinions seriously since you shared your view on the Chara/Pacioretty incident. that and the fact anyone who went to university in Texas should automatically be disqualified from reporting on or writing about hockey….just sayin

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