Oct 052010
Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton

Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton

October 5 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Frank Seravalli:

“Can you name the last five Stanley Cup-winning goaltenders?

For the casual hockey fan, it’s not a distinguished list filled with marquee players. In 2006, then-Carolina coach Peter Laviolette rode unheralded rookie Cam Ward to a parade in downtown Raleigh. Jean-Sebastien Giguere won it for Anaheim in 2007, with Chris Pronger on the blue line. Chris Osgood captured his third Cup in 2008. Marc-Andre Fleury helped the Penguins exact revenge on Detroit in 2009.

And Antti Niemi backstopped the Blackhawks to that all-too-familiar win last June in South Philadelphia.

Niemi was such a prized commodity that the cash-strapped Blackhawks let him walk as a free agent this summer after an exorbitant arbitration ruling. The reigning Stanley Cup-winning goaltender sat on the market for a month before signing with San Jose for $2 million.

Niemi is the poster boy for a sweeping change in goaltending philosophy since the salary cap was instituted after the lockout in 2004-05.

Teams have realized that it doesn’t pay to tie up big dollars for big-name goaltenders when a marginal player can accomplish the same thing for less.

“It really is amazing how things have changed,” former Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said yesterday. “For years, the Flyers have made decisions on goaltending the same way and have been criticized. The simple fact is that a goaltender can’t cost you [games]. That’s the bottom line; he just can’t be a risk.”

For proof, look at the Hockey News’ list of Top 30 goaltenders: Ryan Miller, Martin Brodeur, Craig Anderson, Tomas Vokoun, Miikka Kiprusoff, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jonathan Quick, Roberto Luongo, Evgeni Nabokov and Henrik Lundqvist are the top 10.

Most are highly paid. Brodeur is the only Stanley Cup winner. And he is a dying breed.

“I say it all the time: Why didn’t Buffalo win the Stanley Cup last year?” Clarke asked. “They have Ryan Miller now, the best in the game. They had Dominik Hasek before, one of the best in the game. Look at Detroit, they’ve always won with marginal goaltending.”

Four of the top five teams that spent the most on goaltending – Minnesota, Toronto, the New York Rangers and Islanders – did not make the playoffs last season.

Neither Michael Leighton nor Brian Boucher cracked the top 30 last season. Both players helped carry the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals. Niemi, Nabokov and Jaroslav Halak were the other Final Four netminders. All but Leighton have changed teams. Halak was traded to St. Louis and Nabokov is playing in Russia.”

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