Despite his recent struggles, Marty Turco is still a (slightly) above average goalie

Thumbnail image for depressedturco.jpgMarty Turco is in a rough spot right now. There simply aren’t a whole lot of options for a veteran goalie in a netminder market gone considerably dry.

Tomorrow night, I’ll take a look at a few semi-reasonable possible destinations, but honestly, he might be the equivalent of a hockey goalie hitchhiker at the moment, hoping that someone somewhere will pick him up on a whim.

Before I get into who might give him a chance at redemption, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at his post-lockout struggles.

Adam Gretz of NHL Fanhouse had a nice breakdown that featured three hypotheses for why Turco has struggled. Before I get to those, here’s a screen grab of a very telling pre vs. post lockout comparison for Turco’s career from Gretz’s post. (click to enlarge)

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(Note: The post-lockout sample is obviously MUCH larger, so you might want to take that into consideration when looking at the undeniably telling contrast.)

If you’re curious, here is how I feel about Gretz’s hypotheses. His first guess, “The Trapezoid Rule” might account for a bit of discomfort for Turco, but I doubt it had much of an impact. “Declining athleticism” might have a tad bit to do with his struggles – he is already 34 years old – but I think that the league, in general, is becoming an unfriendly place for unorthodox goalies. Sound positioning, on the whole, is becoming a lot more valuable than abstract goalie expressionism.

The strongest point (one I’d guess Gretz feels the most favorable toward, as well) is that the defense in front of Turco dried up considerably. As the Stars shifted from a veteran defensive lineup featuring the criminally underrated Sergei Zubov to a young, shaggy-dog group lead by (not so young) Stephane Robidas, things started to fall apart in front of the puck-moving netminder. It doesn’t help, either, that Turco lost a sharp defensive-minded coach in Dave Tippett for … well, whatever you want to call Marc Crawford.

The problem is that NHL GMs may look at Turco as the mere beneficiary of a great defensive system. He missed the playoffs two years in a row, isn’t getting any younger and has been prone to his fair share of brain farts.

After a truly disastrous 08-09 campaign (he finished the year with a sub-90 percent save percentage but was even worse in the beginning of the season), Turco actually had a respectable save percentage (91.3) but only went 22-20-11 in 09-10. At times, he was out-played by temporary backup Alex Auld and then relinquished some starts to Stars goalie of the future Kari Lehtonen.

Now, anyone who expects Turco to bounce back to the form he showed in his first three seasons (once at a magnificent 93 percent save percentage and 1.72 GAA, two more times above 92 percent and twice under two goals per game allowed) is dreaming. Still, he’s played in nine NHL seasons and only dipped below the standard 90 percentage mark twice. He tends to hover around 91 percent, which I’d say makes him a clear starter, even if he’s not always at an All-Star level.

In other words, Turco is a worthy NHL goalie. The often-cocky goalie might need to get a little more realistic about his own aging abilities, though. I’ll discuss some semi-reasonable possibilities on Monday (none of which, mind you, are outrageously promising), but my ultimate finding is that Turco is worthy of an NHL job somewhere. Even if it’s a 1a-1b situation.

Overall, he needs to accept the fact that a starting job won’t come easy, if it comes at all.

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    Huge step? Doctors may find a way to identify CTE in living NHL players

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    Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper and TSN’s Rick Westhead pass along what could be a breakthrough Boston University study  – or at least the early stages of a breakthrough – in how concussions/CTE are handled in sports.

    The key: after only being able to study brains of deceased athletes, there’s a chance that living athletes with CTE might eventually be identified.

    On face value, that’s great news for player health. Hockey, like other contact sports such as football, is no stranger to careers and lives being derailed by brain injuries.

    Of course, the NHL and NHLPA would need to cooperate to make the most of potential progress. If you’ve watched hockey long enough, particularly postseason hockey, you know that certain protocols can stand as great concepts met with hesitant execution.

    Westhead expounds on such thoughts, and some of his findings aren’t very pretty.

    The league is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit regarding concussions, and its actions have been elusive enough that politicians have gone as far as to accuse Gary Bettman and the NHL of being “delusional” about the issue.

    Don’t just put this on the league, though.

    Players might be hesitant to take such tests if it means that they’ll miss playing time (or even see their careers end). It brings back memories of Peyton Manning willfully sandbagging his baseline concussion test. For better or worse, these guys want to play.

    Not great, yet you can also understand the human element.

    Of course, it’s crucial to realize that potential breakthroughs from this study could take quite some time to trickle into functional practices, even if leagues and players end up being more willing to comply than expected.

    Overall, this is promising news. Hopefully such changes could help athletes during their careers and into retirement.

    Sprong continues to impress, just not enough to make Penguins (yet)

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins frequently give prospect Daniel Sprong rave reviews, yet it seems like they believe that he still needs some seasoning before making a dent at the NHL level.

    Sprong and fellow intriguing forward Zach Aston-Reese headlined a group of 21 players the Penguins demoted to the AHL on Tuesday.

    Here is the full list:

    Forwards Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Thomas Di Pauli, Adam Johnson, Sam Miletic, Dominik Simon, Colin Smith, Daniel Sprong, Christian Thomas, Freddie Tiffels and Garrett Wilson; defensemen Lukas Bengtsson, Frank Corrado, Kevin Czuczman, Ethan Prow, Chris Summers, Jarred Tinordi and Zach Trotman; and goalies Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry have all been returned to WBS.

    Sprong, 20, was the 46th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. He’s been generating solid numbers at the OHL, so it will be interesting to see how he converts that to AHL work. Sprong played 18 regular-season games for the Penguins back in 2015-16, notching two goals.

    Sprong discussed that experience with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this summer.

    “I played [in the NHL] at 18 for a reason,” Sprong said. “With the shoulder surgery last year, that was kind of a setback. But I’m excited for this year and hopefully I can start the season here.”

    That won’t happen, but perhaps we’ll see Sprong in 2018-19 … or maybe sooner?

    Aston-Reese, 23, already showed some promise in that regard; he scored eight games in a 10-game audition at the AHL level in 2016-17.

    These moves narrow the Penguins’ training camp roster down to 26 players. They have until Oct. 3 to settle on 23.

    Penguins, Kings among teams with notable waiver moves

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    If an NHL team wants to add a big winger with two Stanley Cup rings,* they merely need to make a waiver claim.

    TVA’s Renaud Lavoie tweeted out Tuesday’s list of waived players, with the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins making some of the most interesting moves.

    In the case of the Kings, they waived Jordan Nolan and former Penguins backup Jeff Zatkoff. Here’s the full list, via Lavoie:

    There are some bullet points that can sell Nolan, but the 28-year-old’s production was quite limited at the NHL level. Nolan’s never scored 10 goals in a single season; in fact, he’s only reached 10 points once in his career (six goals and four assists in 64 regular-season contests back in 2013-14).

    Overall, it wouldn’t be surprising if a team targeted Nolan as a depth guy, even if his ceiling is limited.

    While the Penguins’ entries seem notable for sheer volume as much as anything else, Frank Corrado is another name that stands out.

    Corrado was often the catalyst for debates about his playing time (or lack thereof) with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it doesn’t seem like the defenseman is having much success catching on with the Penguins, either.

    Zatkoff, meanwhile, fits in with quite a few other names on this list: possibly prominent in the AHL, only likely to get the occasional cup of coffee in the NHL, at this point.

    * – Yes, it’s OK to think of Jaromir Jagr before that sentence ends.

    Red Wings are ‘excited’ about Michael Rasmussen’s offensive upside

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    The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years, but there appears to be something good that came from that.

    Instead of drafting in the back half of the first round, the Wings were able to get a top 10 selection in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. With the ninth overall pick, they chose power forward Michael Rasmussen.

    Rasmussen is listed at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. NHLers of that size are a rare breed. Add the fact that he’s gifted offensively, and it looks like the Red Wings may have a gem coming through the pipeline.

    In his first three career preseason games, the 18-year-old has already picked up two goals. His play hasn’t gone unnoticed by the organization.

    “I’m excited about him as a prospect,” head coach Jeff Blashill said, per MLive.com. “He’s big, he’s smooth, he’s got good hands, he’s got good offensive sense.”

    With all big forwards, a lot of their success will be determined by their skating ability. In today’s NHL, it’s pretty clear that you need to be able to move if you’re going to have a long and productive career. But according to Blashill, skating isn’t a big issue with Rasmussen.

    “I think he skates well. People have questioned that, but I don’t see that at all. I think he covers lots of ground in a hurry. I think he needs to move his feet a little bit more at times in the D-zone, but overall I’ve been happy with his play.”

    No matter what he does between now and the end of training camp, it sounds like Rasmussen will be heading back to the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, where he’ll look to improve his numbers from last year (32 goals, 55 points in 50 games).