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.

Scroll Down For:

    Video: Incredibly awkward ceremonial puck drop before KHL game in China

    1 Comment

    KHL hockey is still relatively new in China and it showed prior to Kunlun Red Star’s game against Lada Togliatti earlier this week.

    Prior to the game, the team organized a ceremonial puck drop, which ended up being a little awkward to say the least.

    You can watch the entire thing by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    That’s pretty funny!

    The awkward look the two captains gave each other was priceless too.

    After suffering ‘a bruise on his backside’ on Friday, Dmitry Kulikov misses practice

    kulikov
    2 Comments

    Even though it’s just the preseason, the Sabres had a night to forget on Friday.

    Not only did they get clobbered 8-1 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they also lost Dmitry Kulikov to injury.

    Kulikov left the game in considerable pain after being hit by Colin Greening in the third period. As the Sabres defenseman went into the boards, the door to the Leafs bench opened.

    Here’s how it looked:

    After the game, head coach Dan Bylsma downplayed the injury.

    “He’s got a bruise on his backside, but at this point in time it’s not more than a bruise,” Bylsma said, per the Buffalo News.

    According to beat reporter John Vogl, Kulikov wasn’t on the ice for his team’s practice this morning.

    It’s still unclear how long he’ll be out exactly. It’s good to know that the Sabres don’t appear to be overly worried about this injury though.

    It’s an important year for 25-year-old. He’s entering his first year with the Sabres, but he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

    Patrick Kane, Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban to make preseason debuts on Saturday

    CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15:  Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates after scoring a goal in the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game Six of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center  on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    The deeper we get into the preseason, the more we’ll see star players being integrated into their team’s lineups.

    On Saturday, three big names will make their 2016-17 debuts with their respective teams.

    After a stint at the World Cup with Team USA, Patrick Kane will be in Chicago’s lineup for their game against the St. Louis Blues.

    Kane and the Americans had a disappointing tournament, as he failed to score a goal and the team failed to win a round-robin game.

    Erik Karlsson, who was at the World Cup with Team Sweden, will also play his first exhibition of the season, as the Senators take on the Canadiens this afternoon.

    Sens head coach Guy Boucher wasn’t planning on playing his captain this early, but Karlsson changed his mind.

    “I was thinking of maybe giving him a break and then taking him on the trip (to Winnipeg and Saskatoon) next week,” Boucher told the Ottawa Citizen. “He had two hard practices. I was impressed by his leadership. He wanted to be playing in front of our fans.”

    Finally, P.K. Subban will make his Preds debut against the Lightning.

    Subban was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for Shea Weber this off-season, but he was held out of games because of general soreness.

    It sounds like Subban will play on a pairing with Mattias Ekholm.

    “It’s great having a partner like that,” Subban said, per the Tennessean. “I’ve had some great partners in the past, but he’s definitely right up there with the best that I’ve played with. I’m not sure exactly what the partners are going to be come the regular season. Those things can switch, but I’m happy to be playing with him.”

    Blackhawks’ Rozsival doesn’t know ‘what my role is’ this season

    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks passes against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on December 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Sharks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Getty Images
    2 Comments

    Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival has overcome a lot in his NHL career, but even he isn’t sure where he fits in Chicago’s plans this season.

    After suffering a serious ankle injury in the 2015 playoffs, Rozsival returned to the ice last season where he skated in 51 games with the ‘Hawks.

    The 38-year-old dressed for the first four games of his team’s opening round playoff series against St. Louis before being a healthy scratch in the final three games.

    During the off-season, he signed a one-year, $600,000 contract to remain with the club.

    “After last season I had no indications or expectations that I would be back or not,” Rozsival said, per the Chicago Tribune. “So I’m happy to be back.

    “Right now, I still don’t know what my role is. It might be determined by the way I play. The last four years I’ve played 20 games, I’ve played 30 games and I’ve played 50 games. I’m ready for anything and for any kind of role. Obviously, I would love to be playing. I’m always trying to fight for my ice time.”

    Getting into the lineup won’t be easy. The ‘Hawks already have standouts Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson and they added free agent Brian Campbell during the summer. Add Trevor van Riemsdyk (he’s on a one-way deal) and European free agent Michal Kempny and it looks like finding minutes for Rozsival won’t be easy.

    They also have younger options like Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg looking to make an impact at the NHL level.

    “I think Michal played great hockey last year,” GM Stan Bowman said. “If anything, we probably played him too much. Michal is at the top of his game when we can give him some time to re-cooperate between games. He still has a lot of hockey left in him.”