The Small Effects of Losing Antti Niemi
As most Blackhawks fans know, Antti Niemi is now part of the 10% of Americans that are unemployed. As a result, Marty Turco doesn’t have to wait for a job opening anymore. What are the negative effects of losing Niemi and replacing him with Turco? Other than lost revenue from Niemi merchandise, little!
Does Niemi possess the experience and hardware new goalie Marty Turco has? That’s a big N-to-the-O. Niemi has played in a total 64 games in the NHL including playoffs. Turco has played in nine times as many with 556. The numbers are similar in the GAA and SV% departments. Both of them have GAAs below 2.35 in the regular season, and both goalies have a save percentage hovering around 91%. Turco is definitely not downgrade to Niemi. Also, Turco has won two Roger Crozier Saving Grace Awards, while Niemi has had no recognition with an award in the NHL.
I see Turco making the impact that Nikolai Khabibulin had a few years ago. He brings boatloads of wisdom into the locker room, as has the skill to take himself in the net. Putting up impressive numbers of four shutouts and a 91.3% save percentage behind a porous Dallas defense, who knows how well he’ll perform between the pipes with the best defense in the NHL in front of him. Furthermore, he’s a better deal than Habby because he’s not broken goods, and he can handle the puck!
For most Blackhawks fans, losing Niemi leaves a sour aftertaste. Unfortunately, the cap restraints of $59.4 million meant that Niemi couldn’t be re-signed for the $2.75 million the arbitrator stated the Antti-dote would get if he were to stay on the Blackhawks. Simply put, the arbitrator put a premium price tag on a premium player. Meanwhile, Turco was willing to be a bargain. Signing for a scant $1.3 million, Marty was a diamond for one-fifth of the price he would usually be. To compare, Turco made $5.4 million with the Stars in 2009-10; A year they didn’t make the playoffs, a year they finished last in their division, and a year they gave up more goals than they shot into the net. This was a once in a lifetime deal.
Of course, Turco will be backed up by longtime Blackhawks prospect Corey Crawford. Corey has been itching to make his way into the NHL. He’s had to wait behind Khabibulin, Huet, Niemi, and now, Turco. But this year is different. With Huet playing anywhere but Chicago next season, Crawford will finally get a crack at making it in the big league. It’s his chance to finally shine. A big goalie who is methodical in his crease sounds like the quintessential backup goalie. If he does well this year, he can finally get that raise he most probably wants.
So what’s the downside of losing Niemi? No one knows if he can handle being a starting goalie. He has never played in more than 50 games in any league ever. Will the Finn be fatigued after a long year being a full-time starting goalie? That’s a risk that some other team will have to make. For today, the Blackhawks’ goalie situation is finally stable for the first time in over a year.
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