Another gamble in goal
The Flyers will once again roll the dice on the goalie position this season. They gambled last year with Ray Emery on a one year contract and brought back Brian Boucher on a 2 yr contract. At the time I was intrigued with the thought of Ray Emery starting for the Flyers but not as excited in the Boosh reunion. They also gambled taking Leighton off of waivers mid season out of desperation and cap issues. They pretty much had no choice but to start him due to injury. He took over and played well in the regular season and playoffs up until the finals where he struggled a little when the defense broke down in front of him. Leighton’s play is a direct result of the team defense in front of him. They shutdown the opposing offense and so did Leighton, they broke down so did Leighton.
This held true for whoever the Flyers put in net last year. This is why the Flyers invested close to 40% of their cap space on the defense. Paul Holmgren believes that having a great defense and an average goaltender will get him a cup. Especially after last season’s run, seeing how the Flyers had a merry-go-round in goal last year due to injury and still squeaked in to the playoffs last season and into the finals. The problem with that is no defense is perfect and you need to have a goalie that can bail you out of these breakdowns. When these breakdowns happened last season they often resulted in a soft or easy goal for the opposition. The soft goal happens to every goalie once in a while, not once a game like we had last year. Even if the Flyers won you could find a weak goal in the game .
I for one thought the Flyers needed an upgrade in goal this season. There were plenty free agent goaltenders available at the same price or close to the same price the Flyers spent on Leighton. The Flyers tried by negotiating with Turco and Nabokov and for that I will not fault them. I will however fault them for stopping there. I do think Leighton should be here this season and Boucher should not.
The Flyers could have upgraded there and it would have only cost around 1.5 of cap space to do that. Whoever they would have brought in would have been able to challenge Leighton for the starting job and created some nice competition in camp. Now we will start this season with Leighton and Boucher unless Holmgren decides to do the unthinkable and upgrade the goalie position before camp.
I believe there are two options left for the Flyers and that would be Niemi and Theodore. I do not see the Flyers signing Niemi just because I do not think they were impressed with him in the Finals last year and he would cost too much for the Flyers. Although I do see him as a slight upgrade to Leighton especially with the Flyers defense this year. I can see the Flyers signing Theodore and trading or buying out Boucher. I am not a big fan of Theodore but I do believe he would be an upgrade to Boucher.
I am down on Boucher,even though he held the fort down at times last year. I have no confidence in him at all in one on one situations as he has lost a step in his quickness and athleticism. He is not a great position goalie and he does not make himself look big in the net. Therefore he has to work extra hard for every save and be on top of his game at all times. This years backup will have to play 35 games or so as Leighton is not use to a heavy starters workload and will need to be fresh for the playoffs.
Whatever happens let’s just hope the Flyers are not scrambling at the deadline trading a pick or a prospect for some retread from the past. One thing is for certain there will be the annual goalie controversy this year in Philly. Like groundhog day happens every year.