Dallas columnist puts Lehtonen on blast

14 Comments

Dallas Morning-News columnist Tim Cowlishaw had a pretty pointed piece today, taking veteran Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen to task for his inconsistent play.

A sampling

Lehtonen has not been a good goaltender this season.

Not even close…

…Lehtonen doesn’t fight the weight issues that troubled him in Atlanta and in his first season in Dallas. But he still fights the puck, and this season he has been a loser too often.

Lehtonen’s goals-against average of 2.96 is his worst in his five full seasons with the Stars. The same goes for his .904 save percentage. When you’re ranked 27th in goals-against among the 30 teams’ primary goaltenders, you’re more likely the problem than the answer.

“I think Kari’s probably disappointed in some of the things that have happened this year,” general manager Jim Nill said. “We win as a team and lose as a team, but I think there’s times where Kari would like to be more consistent.”

Tough to argue what Cowlishaw’s saying. While Dallas has been plagued by defensive issues from its inexperienced blueline, Lehtonen has time and time again failed to bail his club out, and his even-strength save percentage (.916) is down significantly from a season ago (.927).

What’s more, the Stars are paying an awful lot of money for rather pedestrian netminding; Lehtonen, who turned 31 in November, is in the second of a five-year, $29.5 million deal with a $5.9M average annual cap hit.

But Dallas’ goaltending problems extend even beyond Lehtonen.

Anders Lindback and Jussi Rynnas have failed to establish themselves as consistent No. 2 netminders and the club’s one-time “goalie of the future” — Jack Campbell, the 11th overall pick at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft — is now a 23-year-old that can’t get regular games in the AHL (just 19 this season.)

With the window for amnesty buyouts now closed, Dallas is essentially stuck with Lehtonen through 2018. For a team that snapped a five-year playoff drought last year and is under relatively new ownership, that’s not a good situation — the Stars don’t want to take steps backwards.

Thing is, that’s exactly what poor goaltending has led to this year.