Flyers Learn That Goalie Depth Is Not a Fad

S BCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2009

OTTAWA - DECEMBER 8:  Goaltender Jaroslav Halak #41 of the Montreal Canadiens defends his net against the Ottawa Senators during their game at Scotiabank Place on December 8, 2009 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The Canadiens defeated the Senators 4-1. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

This summer was an interesting one in that there seemed to be a surplus of goalies on the market. Heck, the Islanders managed to land two strong starters, whereas in previous offseasons, they might not have been able to afford one.

Now, we're seeing that goalie surplus begin to evaporate, as several teams are finding themselves short a goalie.

In Edmonton, goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, already out for quite some time, is having spinal surgery. No one is sure when he'll return to the ice.

Philadelphia lost goalie Ray Emery for six weeks with a muscle tear.

And Carolina lost Cam Ward earlier in the season, before he came back Dec. 9 against the Devils.

Even the Islanders, with their two starting goalies, plus Rick DiPietro waiting to come back, suffered a setback when DiPietro couldn't finish an AHL start.

Suddenly, goalies are in short supply around the NHL.

The Flyers just grabbed Michael Leighton off of waivers from Carolina and reportedly are in talks to trade for Jaroslav Halak from the Canadiens. The Habs supposedly want a top-six forward, a steep price, but one they know they can extract given the lack of options for the Flyers.

Philadelphia has consistently under-valued the importance of a good goalie. They finished last season with Antero Niittymaki and Marty Biron, both relatively strong, if not ideal, goalies. Instead of re-signing both or just one, Philadelphia decided to roll the dice on Ray Emery, who had played the previous season in the KHL.

Brian Boucher, who hadn't had a starting job in years, was brought in to be Emery's backup.

So basically, the Flyers decided to go high-risk with both of their goalie slots and now they're paying the price, scrambling to find a way to keep themselves in the playoff hunt.

You can see where a lot of NHL GMs made a similar mistake this offseason, trying to go with one good goalie option, hoping that one goalie would hold up. Edmonton gambled big time on Khabibulin and now their goaltending is in the hands of Jeff Deslauriers, a second-year player who's actually stepped-up for the Oilers.

But not every team has had a happy ending. When Ward went down for Carolina, they were forced to bring in Manny Legace, who wasn't even playing in the NHL anymore.

And you can see other teams who are just as vulnerable. The struggling Rangers have no one to backup Henrik Lundqvist. If he goes down, an already awful season somehow becomes even worse. Yann Danis is Martin Brodeur's safety net in New Jersey. He's looked OK in the three games he's started, but could the Devils really survive if Brodeur went down like he did last season? Is anyone comfortable giving Danis the keys to the net?

Teams, like the Flyers, can walk around thinking goalie depth isn't that big a deal. They can hope nothing happens to their starting goalie, but odds are, something is going to happen, at least for a few games. If you don't have talent in your system or a backup who can start, you're going to end up like the Flyers—trying to sign multiple goalies, and hoping one of them will stick.


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