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Boudreau doesn’t know how Ducks goalie situation will ‘shake out’

Aug 30, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

Bruce Boudreau AP

For better or worse, Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau seems to be the type who “rides the hot hand” with goalies rather than sticking with a No. 1 guy no matter what. It’s easy to foresee such a situation repeating itself next season, too.

While Jason LaBarbera represents an emergency backup plan for a variety of situations, the battle comes down to two promising-yet-largely-untested options in Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Boudreau’s assessment of the situation to NHL.com is honest, if nothing else:

“We think we’ve got two really good goalies and an experienced, veteran goalie,” Boudreau said. “I think we’re OK there, I just don’t know how it will shake out.”

Quite a bargain

The Ducks are taking an interesting and calculated gamble with their goalies.

Whether it’s Andersen – Gibson, Gibson – LaBarbera or Andersen – LaBarbera, the combined cap hit never rises above $2 million. In a league brimming with contenders who have made beefy, long-term commitments to a position that’s often erratic, Anaheim enjoys rare flexibility.

Of course, the flip side is that they face even more uncertainty than usual; while LaBarbera is an experienced (if unremarkable) journeyman at 34, Gibson, 21, and Andersen, 24, combine for 42 NHL appearances counting the regular season and playoffs.

Hindsight will dictate if the Ducks’ strategy will be considered brilliant or foolish, yet it falls into the larger narrative quite well.

Boudreau and goalies

It’s easy to beat up on the Boudreau for a tendency to rotate netminders, but it’s also fair to note that he’s rarely been handed a reliable top goalie. As great as Semyon Varlamov was last season in Colorado, he never managed to play more than 27 regular season games for the Washington Capitals in large part because of injury issues. Departed Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller suffered from his own bad luck and his numbers dipped when he was able to play. It’s difficult to argue that Boudreau has enjoyed any better long-term options through the years, so it’s not as if he’s flippantly benching people like a more robust Mike Keenan.

Long story short, it’s easier to criticize Boudreau’s practices than it is to point out what precisely he should have done differently, yet the Ducks face arguably more uncertainty than ever in net going into the 2014-15 season.

It’s interesting to note that Anaheim has been unusually willing to let goalies walk, too. Many franchises would cling to a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe-winner like Jean-Sebastien Giguere, yet they transitioned to Hiller quite seamlessly and also parted ways with a then-promising backup in Ilya Bryzgalov. One could argue that the GM and coach see eye-to-eye on this matter as much as any in Anaheim, really.

***

The Ducks have been a fixture in the playoff picture through many of these seasons, but Boudreau has never coached a conference final series in the NHL. Being less chained to goalies might actually be the best strategy, yet it could be one of the talking points if this coach continues to fall short of expectations in the postseason.

Of course, the advantage is simple enough: the Ducks can easily hit the “Reset” button once again if this doesn’t work out.

  1. patthehockeyfan - Aug 30, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    “I think we’re OK there, I just don’t know how it will shake out.”

    Anyone want to bet that Boudreau will still be saying that come playoff time?

  2. terrier92 - Aug 30, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    This guy just can’t handle goalies.

    Good luck

    • areaman714 - Aug 30, 2014 at 7:21 PM

      I agree. The Ducks had three prominent defensemen 22 years old and under. One was 19. I question the wisdom of starting a goalie with four NHL games experience against a vastly more experienced Kings in a game seven. The result? . . . A Kings team that wasn’t close to scoring 3 goals against the Ducks all year putting in six. You go with the veteran. Not that Hiller would have made a difference in that game’s outcome. His presence might have have kept the Ducks in the game until they got over the game seven jitters.

  3. jinx21fan - Aug 30, 2014 at 6:23 PM

    I have no idea how this is going to “shake it” either. I do know if it shakes out with LaBarbera playing more than the other two the Ducks are in trouble.

  4. paulerhythm - Aug 30, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    Banking on two young netminders with 42 games of experience for both sure doesn’t bode well for the Ducks. Quite a gamble, especially in the NHL.

  5. areaman714 - Aug 30, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    Gibson is a much better goalie than Andersen; he appears to have an unique elite pedigree. He will be the starter come late January, early February. Whether Gibson will have the experience to benefit the Ducks come playoff time is another story . . .

    The Ducks have other issues. If they had even a remotely decent PP, there wouldn’t have been that debacle of a game 7 against the Kings. The kids on their defense got some great experience last year and they will be better. Face off percentage was dreadful, especially in the playoffs. Kesler and Thompson were acquired to help in that regard (as well as make the Ducks bigger up the middle). Adios to the smallish but talented Bonino and Perreault.

    I think the Ducks will be better this year. The goalie situation is a question mark for sure . . . But if the moves they have made pan out, the goalie thing is less critical.

  6. scout202sport - Sep 1, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    Ducks organization thought Gibson was the savior in their series against Los Angeles. The Kings responded by lighting the kid up like a christmas tree. That being said, I would think that they would have Gibson as their #1 going into the season.

  7. cyggyx1 - Sep 2, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    Well, the Kings style of clutch and grab, hold and tackle sure had a ton to do with those wins……..Hey Queens, it’s not Rugby…………

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