Pretty interesting tidbit from the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk in his column on Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.
Amidst all the praise from various folk within the organization — Shane Doan called Smith “the most valuable player to his team in the league,” — comes this nugget from ‘Yotes head coach Dave Tippett:
Even if you’re not prepared to proclaim Smith one of the top three goaltenders in the world’s best league, certainly you’d have to concede he’s the hottest with a Canadian passport. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett has said Smith will “certainly be in the conversation” for the role of netminder should Team Canada be in the market for an NHL goalie en route to the 2014 Olympics.
“I mean, it’s a long ways off here still—there’s still a lot of games to be played between (now and then),” Tippett said. “He’s willed our team into the playoffs and he’s willed us to a first series win.”
Lately, the goaltending position has been cause for concern north of the 49th parallel. (Yes, I know the Olympics are two years away. But this is Canada, we fixate on these kinds of things.)
Why the concern? Consider the following…
— Of the last 12 Vezina nominees, only three (Steve Mason, Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo) were Canadian.
— Canada’s three goalies from the 2010 Olympics: Brodeur will be 41 by the time of the Sochi Games, Luongo’s been supplanted as Vancouver’s No. 1 and Marc-Andre Fleury is coming off the worst postseason of his life.
— This comes at a time when:
- The Americans project a four-man battle between Jonathan Quick, Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard and Cory Schneider. (PHT Note: Wow.)
- The Finns could roll with Pekka Rinne, Kari Lehtonen and Tuukka Rask (assuming the old guard of Miikka Kiprusoff and Niklas Backstrom is ready to call it a day.)
- Sweden lacks depth, but will still likely have Hart and Vezina nominee Henrik Lundqvist.
- Russians will choose from Ilya Bryzgalov, Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky. (PHT Note: Yes, I realize this isn’t exactly the most overwhelming choice of netminders. But it’s…something?)
So…back to Canada.
If we were to go on current form, Smith would probably be on a shortlist that includes Fleury, Luongo, Carey Price, Cam Ward and Brian Elliott. (I’d love to throw Braden Holtby and Jonathan Bernier on the list, but their bodies of work are awfully small.)
It’s not exactly a murderer’s row of talent, and it begs the question: Could Smith really be the guy?
If things keep going the way they are, you’d have to say yes.