Theo, Huet, Bulin: contract year goalies?

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I couldn’t help but snicker when I read that Chicago GM Stan Bowman decided not to trade Cristobal Huet because he “believes in the Detroit model” of protecting an average goalie with great defense and goal support. That’s a cute concept, Stan, except for the fact that Detroit didn’t wildly overpay a goalie who hadn’t shown that he could consistently produce results over the long haul.

The affliction might not be limited to these three goalies, but I’ve always had a suspicion that Jose Theodore, Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin mysteriously play a whole lot better when they need to earn a new paycheck. It’s human nature, after all, but NHL teams need to be weary of these anomaly seasons.

Let me say that these guys aren’t the only possible culprits and this isn’t a universal issue. Really, though, you have to hand it to Marty Turco – the guy’s just too honest to pretend to be an NHL goalie anymore. I’m also sure that some of this comes from my own weird grudges toward the goalies (Khabibulin’s facial tics, Huet’s smarmy demeanor and Theo’s … existence).

But there’s a little fire to back up all the smoke.

While the Bulin Wall was fairly steady in his Lightning days, he won a Cup in his contract year there. That encouraged Chicago to give him a big contract that he didn’t live up to until (wait for it) his contract year in 08-09. Khabibulin’s save percentage went from about 91% to about 92% (more significant than you think), he won 25 of 42 GP and had his lowest GAA in Chicago. This prompted Edmonton to sign the aging goalie to a sizable deal; he’s had a disastrous season ravaged by injury and his DUI charges. Yikes.

Theodore’s career features “convenient” improvements too. There’s some evidence this year in Washington, but his Avs’ run was particularly comical. Suddenly, a goalie who had a GAA above 3 and a save percentage below 90% became a solid NHL goalie again.

Huet is a master of the contract year hot streak. He burst onto the scene with Montreal that way, but really swindled Chicago with the run he had after being traded to the Capitals. Huet had an otherworldly run of 11-2-0 with a 93.6% save percentage and a 1.63 GAA. Now he’s back to being mediocre.

The lesson of this rant is that NHL teams need to be weary of atypical years for goalies. Before you give a guy $5.6 million per year, make sure he can actually do that for more than one season. Or, I guess, you can go with the Caps and Blackhawks models (the blindfolded dart throw).

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

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Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.


Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.

Stepan to miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs


Derek Stepan is out 4-6 weeks with broken ribs, the New York Rangers announced today.

Stepan was hurt Friday on a controversial hit by Boston’s Matt Beleskey. The Bruins’ forward did not receive any supplemental discipline for the check, despite admitting it was “maybe…a little bit late.”

At any rate it’s a big loss for the Rangers, who suddenly find themselves on a three-game losing streak. Considering the timeline, New York could be without one of its top centers for 12-18 games, give or take.

The Rangers host Carolina tonight.

Related: Yep, Alain Vigneault went there — ‘I remember Aaron Rome in this building’

Price to miss minimum six weeks, so no Winter Classic for him

Carey Price,
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Carey Price will miss a minimum of six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens announced today.

That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 28-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.

On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.

Related: The latest on Price’s injury