Analyzing the trend of 'skimping' on goaltending

niemileightonhandshake.jpgI firmly believe that there isn’t a “magic bullet” or specific formula when it comes to building a winning hockey team. Simply put, the NHL changes too much year-to-year in the post-lockout era to claim that there’s one way to skin that Stanley Cup cat. Before I expand on this point, though, let me point you to an NHL.com article that features Craig Button’s “4-2-1-2 Theory” of putting together a hockey team.

Former NHL general manager Craig Button has a theory that if you allocate 65-70 percent of your salary cap money to nine specific players, you’ll be giving your team a chance to contend for the Stanley Cup. He calls it his “4-2-1-2 theory,” and with the way things have gone this offseason, it’s not at all surprising to learn that according to Button, the goaltender is the seventh-most important asset when it comes to distributing money from your salary cap.

“You need four good defensemen, two really good centermen and then your goaltender comes in before you get two more good forwards,” Button, now an analyst for the NHL Network, explained to NHL.com. “If you put most of your money into a goaltender and you don’t have defense, those teams are not winning.”

The article points out that the four teams who will pay the most for goalies next season are the Rangers, Maple Leafs, Wild and Islanders. Conversely, the teams who spent the least are the Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks and the Presidents Trophy-winning Washington Capitals. When you look at a playoff run that featured the downfall of franchise goalies such as Ryan Miller and Marc-Andre Fleury versus the rise of previous backups such as Jaroslav Halak and Antti Niemi, skimping on goaltending definitely seems “chic.”

But the truth is that one year does not make a trend and it’s just not that simple. Sure, the Blackhawks skimped on goalies, but their team building model will be in question immediately after entry level deals for elite players turned to hefty second contracts. Look at the other Cup winning teams over the years, too. The Pittsburgh Penguins spent $5 million per year on their goalie Fleury. The Red Wings spent very little on Chris Osgood. The Anaheim Ducks poured a bunch of money into J.S. Giguere but also featured two Hall of Fame defensemen in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. The Carolina Hurricanes were spending very little on Cam Ward the year they won the Cup but put nearly all their resources into promoting amazing forward depth.

What does that summary tell you? In my eyes, it says to accomplish the easier-said-than-done goal of putting the best team possible on the ice. You need forwards who will win tough matchups against checkers, defensemen who can log big minutes and a goalie with the mental makeup to shake off the occasional bad goal.

If I had to choose, I’d spend less money on a goalie if I were a general manager but walking that netminding tight rope can be very dangerous. Sometimes you get lucky and land a Niemi or Tuukka Rask, but sometimes, you get what you pay for.

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    Fight video: Someone other than Evander Kane beats up Alex Petrovic

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    Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.

    Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.

    (Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)

    Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …

    It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.

    Outdoor game rumors: Jets host Oilers, Red Wings at Maple Leafs

    The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings face off during the first period of the Winter Classic outdoor NHL hockey game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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    Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and so are rumors about hockey fans bundling up for outdoor games next season.

    Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman went over two possible outdoor matchups coming for 2016-17 during Saturday’s Headlines segment.

    A smart move for a potential game in Winnipeg: Imagine the Jets hosting a game in Winnipeg in February? Ilya Bryzgalov almost turned off his TV in protest.

    Instead, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the Jets are likely to host the Edmonton Oilers in October. That would be a smart logistical move, as long as it isn’t too hot.

    (Also, playing it then would hopefully increase the odds of the mainstream sporting public seeing Connor McDavid in an outdoor game.)

    Toronto’s turn: Friedman reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to host the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 Winter Classic (or at least an outdoor game), almost certainly on New Year’s Day 2017.

    The two teams combined for a great Winter Classic at Ann Arbor in 2014, so that could be a fun time.

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    Keep in mind these are reports (and well-placed ones at that) rather than official announcements for the NHL. These things could always change.

    Related: Could the Penguins host the Flyers outdoors next season, too?

    Ducks likely to recall Khudobin after Gibson injury

    Chicago Blackhawks' Richard Panik (14), of Slovakia, collides with Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Chicago. Anaheim won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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    “Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.

    The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).

    The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.

    Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:

    The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”

    Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.

    Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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    For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

    They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

    • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
    • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
    • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

    Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

    Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

    Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.