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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    Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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    Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

    McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

    With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

    1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
    2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
    3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
    4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

    As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

    Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

    The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

    Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

    Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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    Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

    Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

    McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

    Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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    The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

    They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

    The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

    Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

    The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

    The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

    Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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    Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

    Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

    Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

    via Getty Images

    The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.