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Mike Keenan and NHL Goaltending.

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Old
03-08-2004, 03:08 PM
  #1
igor*
 
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Mike Keenan and NHL Goaltending.

Just thought I'd ramble on about goaltending and Keenan for a while. In lieu of work ...

.

You don't have to be too old to remember at time when very few goalies played more than 50 games in a season . The thinking was that the fewer starts a goalie had ... the more effective he would be in the games that he did play. And I think there is a lot of truth to that, in fact much truth.

In the 80s Mike Keenan really changed the way that coaches handled their goalies. Keenan believed that while it may be true that you could get better goaltending from both Goalie A and from Goalie B by evening out the games they played ... is that really the objective? What if Goalie A was just better, and his average games were as good as Goalie B's good games?

His approach, if he liked one goalie better (and he always seemed too) was to sit down with this #1 goalie and give them two choices:

#1. I can play you 50 starts this year.

#2. I can work you harder, and give you 70 starts. But, if you agree to this I'll probably pull you early in about 10 of those games ... if it looks like you aren't sharp early on.


He claims he never met a goalie that didn't jump at option #2. (Though that would NOT stop most of them from publicly complaining about getting pulled in games later ) BTW: Keenan never apologizes for it ... my sense is Keenan doesn't make a special effort for flakey goalies ... that he has a "we made a deal, I lived up to my end of it ... he can cry me a river :mad: " attitude going with net-minders.

It is a rational approach IMO. One that many copied ... and many others copied the end result rather than the process. i.e. They saw that Keenan was having increased success by playing one goalie heavily ... so they followed suit, even if THEIR two goalies were fairly equal in ability at the time.

In the last decade almost all teams (bar Minny recently, off of the top of my head) now annoint a #1 goalie before the season starts, much like an NFL coach names his starting QB. And I have to wonder ... is this necessarily the best choice in all cases? If you have Theodore, Brodeur, Luongo, Nabakov, etc on your roster ... well sure, it is a no-brainer. But what if you don't?

And when you weigh in the economics of the game, and the fact that goalies with "#1" histories come at a steep price, and guys who play 30ish games (even if they play them well) have seen relatively modest salary increases. Hmmm.

And when you look at the careers of all the bonafide starters in the league ... most have had at least one or two bad, or terrible, years. Year to year, the goalie is the most unpredictable player on the roster methinks.

My point, and I do have one:
The two-goalie system that was abandoned over a decade ago. It wasn't a bad idea in a lot of cases. And it probably makes more sense now than it ever did in the past. So when people say "the Oilers need a bonafide #1" ... I'm just not convinced. Maybe if the Oil were bonafide Cup contenders, for the playoff run, but not until.

My two cents.

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03-08-2004, 06:47 PM
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Big T
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So you feel platooning Jussi and Ty is going to be just fine next year assuming there is a season.

Seems like good fiscal management. Two average goalies will cost less than a "starter" and a backup, (since starters are paid such a premium)

I like the cut of your jib, Igor!!


T

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03-08-2004, 07:11 PM
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I can also deal with that approach - Conks is decent and Juice can steal a game occasionally. With JDD in Toronto next year we should be OK for the future as well - and getting rid of Salo's salary provides the dollars to bag a #1 center (Nedved or someone else).

It's not like we really have any choice - any proven #1 goalie is either unobtainable or too expensive - so why not platoon Juice/Conks and use the dollars we save to fill another big hole (vet #1 center)

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03-08-2004, 07:48 PM
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IMO the guy who had the greatest impact on this was Roy. I have also heard Keenan say the things you quote him saying but up until Roy came along and made the argument that the goalie was the most important position on the team they were the lowest paid and least important in terms of influence. When the huge pay cheques started going their way it became very difficult for a coach to keep them out of games both because the media would have demanded to know why the $300,000 guy was playing 30 games and the $5,000,000 guy was only playing 20 more than him. But also because ticket buyers pay to see the stars and if you make a player a star by paying him that much money then you bloody well better put him on the ice.

I don't think money explains everything but whenever I am not sure why somebody did something or something happened a certain way I generally find that 'money' cures my confusion a majority of the time.

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03-08-2004, 09:28 PM
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Well before Mike Keenan came along goaltenders like Glenn Hall, Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Tony Esposito were all logging 60+ games per year. In fact, in the old days, it seems like the number one goalie played huge minutes. Check out the career stats of Glenn Hall.

The platoon system works imo to camoflage the absence of a # 1 goal. Minnesota is the best example of this with Roloson and Fernandez. However much trade deadline scuttlebutt has Minnesota moving out Fernandez due to Roloson's emergence as a true number 1.

With regards to the Oil, I can see a shortterm platoon of Jussi and Ty. However the Oilers past history and success is built around a true number one goalie (Moog, Fuhr, Ranford, Cujo, Salo). I really hope Jussi/Ty is a shortterm measure and that a bonafide number 1 tender will be on Lowe's shopping list. The NHL has a long and storied history of workhorse backstoppers which supports this recipe for success.

Funny it has been only the past decade or so the NHL have finally begun to realize the importance of quality netminding at the entry draft. Now we are seeing elite prospects picked regularly in the top 5, uncharted territories in years past. Kinda makes sense when this position is the most important to team success.


Last edited by Behind Enemy Lines: 03-08-2004 at 09:34 PM.
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03-08-2004, 09:49 PM
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Superfluous U
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The thing about using a high pick on a goalie is it is a lot like making a huge boom/bust pick. Goalies are very enigmatic, both in their play and development, so GMs always hated using a really high pick on them. It just seems that historically scouts and GMs are more confident about the way they project skaters than goalies, especially since even if a skater isn't quite as good as you thought, he's still useful, compared to a goalie who can't quite keep up.

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03-08-2004, 10:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superfluous U
The thing about using a high pick on a goalie is it is a lot like making a huge boom/bust pick. Goalies are very enigmatic, both in their play and development, so GMs always hated using a really high pick on them. It just seems that historically scouts and GMs are more confident about the way they project skaters than goalies, especially since even if a skater isn't quite as good as you thought, he's still useful, compared to a goalie who can't quite keep up.
This is all very true. Historically, goaltenders were regarded as riskier picks for the reasons you have mentioned. However recent trends have seen higher picks used for tenders. We're also seeing bigger, more athletic individuals playing between the pipes. The historical bias seems to be changing based upon high selection of tenders like Luongo, Depietro, Letonen, Fleury. Other recent high pick such as Pascal Leclaire and the Preds' Brian Finley have had a more rocky road in their development and may or may not pan out. The recent success of these high pick tenders and past selections such as Barrasso and Fuhr seem to have helped overcome some of the past stigmas associated with using a high pick for goaltending help.

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