Most Injury Prone Starters In The NHL, Redux

Jonathan Willis
April 16 2010 09:57AM

Calgary Flames v Edmonton Oilers

I did this article last summer when people were wondering how durable new signing Nikolai Khabibulin was relative to the average starting goaltender. In yesterday’s piece, I was told that Khabibulin shouldn’t be considered injury-prone, since he’s only had one major injury in the last five years. I disagree, and I have proof.

I’ll employ the same list of players as last season, so some of the younger starters (Tuukka Rask, for instance) aren’t on this list, which counts total games missed due to injury since the NHL lockout. As before, I’ve excluded flu and personal reasons from the games missed list.

  • Pascal Leclaire: 145 games (back, left knee, knee, left knee, hamstring, neck, right thumb, ankle, ankle, broken jaw, concussion)
  •  Kari Lehtonen: 145 games (groin, sprained ankle, groin, back, upper body, back surgery)
  • Rick DiPietro: 138 games (concussion, knee, groin, lower body, neck, headache, knee, hip, knee, knee, groin, right knee, knee)
  • Nikolai Khabibulin: 127 games (groin, knee, finger, knee, back, lower body, lower body, lower body, back)
  • Vesa Toskala: 57 games (groin, groin, groin, groin, groin, groin, hip, hip, knee, groin)
  • Martin Brodeur: 56 games (right knee, left elbow)
  • Ray Emery: 54 games (wrist, wrist, abdominal, groin)
  • Mike Smith: 50 games (concussion, arm, knee, post-concussion, neck)
  • Cristobal Huet: 44 games (knee, hamstring, groin, back)
  • Marc-Andre Fleury: 42 games (ankle, lower body, broken finger)
  • Cam Ward: 38 games (knee, groin, lacerated leg, upper body)
  • Ryan Miller: 35 games (thumb, lower body, left ankle)
  • Roberto Luongo: 33 games (knee, rib, groin, ribs)
  • Evgeni Nabokov: 32 games (shoulder, groin, groin, abdominal, groin, lower body, lower body)
  • Jose Theodore: 32 games (knee, heel, hip, knee, back, hip, back, lower body)
  • Tomas Vokoun: 29 games (knee, thumb, ankle, back, ear)
  • Chris Osgood: 23 games (groin, hand, finger, groin)
  • Ilya Bryzgalov: 17 games (groin, groin, back)
  • Niklas Backstrom: 13 games (lower body, groin, back, groin)
  • Carey Price: 12 games (lower body injury, groin)
  • Steve Mason: 9 games (knee, mononucleosis)
  • Henrik Lundqvist: 7 games (hip)
  • Tim Thomas: 6 games (lower body)
  • Marty Turco: 5 games (lower body, neck, lower body)
  • Chris Mason: 4 games (groin)
  • Jonas Hiller: 4 games (back)
  • Craig Anderson: 4 games (neck)
  • Pekka Rinne: 0 games missed, 113 GP
  • Jonathan Quick: 0 games missed, 116 GP
  • Miikka Kiprusoff: 0 games missed, 373 GP

The point to all this should be obvious. Since the NHL lockout, Nikolai Khabibulin has averaged a little over 25 games per season out of the line-up with a series of injuries, and given that he’s 38 years old there is no reason whatsoever to expect his health situation to improve. Even before this year he was one of the five most injury-prone goalies in the post-lockout NHL; as it stands he’s in that elite category (Leclaire, Lehtonen, DiPietro, and Khabibulin) who have missed more than 100 games.

When someone says that Khabibulin is durable, they’re either lying to the listener or lying to themselves or just plain ignorant of the facts. There is no doubt that Nikolai Khabibulin’s health is going to be a key story – perhaps the biggest story – in the Oilers’ on-ice success for as long as he’s under contract.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Crash
April 16 2010, 12:28PM
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Bucknuck wrote:

the debate of JDD or Dubnyk is going to start after the question of Hall/Seguin is settled. It will be a hard one for sure, since JDD has been better this year, but he is older so how good will Dubnyk be when he is JDD's age?

I think Dubnyk the last 7 or 8 games he played was pretty darn good. My gut feel is he will be a better Goalie than JDD.

Well to start the debate out IMO Dubnyk passed JDD sometime during the last couple of months as the better goaltender...

Also IMO we don't need to go out and give something up for a Josh Harding or a Cary Price because I think DD is ready now to be our starter if Khabby can't go...

Don't look at his yearly stats..it took him 10 or so games to find his way...his last 8 games were outstanding...his GAA avg was around 2.50 and his sv% was around .922 and these numbers got even better over his last 5 games...he had a 1.98 GAA and a .926 sv%. As someone stated he is such a humble guy, he is so calm and cool which is so important for a goalie, he seems to have figured out his positional play and he is a big body in there.

If Khabby can't go I feel just fine with DD as our guy...and if the team is better he won't have to face 40+ shots every game.

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Harlie wrote:

thanks Captain Obvious.

Ya because with Oiler fans something is obvious.

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#53 Petr's Jofa
April 16 2010, 12:31PM
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Whoa,

Slow down a second there Jonathan, you missed an important factor which as Tambelini like to remind us... Khabibulin is a cup winner.

Look at this list:

2000 - Brodeur

2001 - Belfour

2002 - Hasek

2003 - Brodeur

2004 - Khabibulin

Lockout

2006 - Ward

2007 - Gigure

2008 - Osgood

2009 - Fleury

Sure, all the other pre-lockout winner except Brodeur have retired but that doesn't mean anything. I just look at it as of all the goalies that know how to win, Brodeur and Khabibulin are the hungriest...

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#54 Crash
April 16 2010, 12:32PM
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David S wrote:

They'll both look really good in Oklahoma next year when we acquire an NHL caliber backup.

*crosses all fingers and toes*

I don't know about JDD but I don't think there's a chance in heck that DD would clear waivers and end up in Oklahoma. Looking at the league there are a few teams that I think would jump at the chance to have Dubnyk as their backup...

Time to go the same direction as Ottawa did with Brian Elliot IMO...Dubnyk is ready IMO

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#55 The Fish
April 16 2010, 12:32PM
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@Crash

Neither are very good. JDD is awful and DD is not much better as far as I'm concerned, but either will do for the next year or two while we finish between 25th and 30th.

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#56 Crash
April 16 2010, 12:37PM
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The Fish wrote:

Neither are very good. JDD is awful and DD is not much better as far as I'm concerned, but either will do for the next year or two while we finish between 25th and 30th.

So you're saying Dubnyk's last 8 games doesn't give you any sense at all that he could be a very good tender?

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#57 Darren
April 16 2010, 12:44PM
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@Crash

You think that in 8 games you can determine how good or bad a goalie is going to be?

I think Brian Boucher is an amazing goalie considering he hold the record for consecutive shutouts. Best goalie ever.

Er... or not.

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#58 Bombay
April 16 2010, 12:46PM
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Enough with the stats and logic, Willis. Can't you just let some of us eternal optimists believe that between Khabibulin and Dubnyk the next couple years, the Oilers goaltending is going to be very solid?

Being an Oiler fan can be hard sometimes, but I find that it you keep positive and envision best case scenarios, it's a lot easier. Sure you end up with some disappointment, but you can move on and say "there's always next year."

So props to all my fellow optimists on this issue. After Khabi plays in 55 games next year with a save % over 91, we'll be able to tell the rest of you that we told you so. :)

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#59 Darren
April 16 2010, 12:49PM
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Bombay wrote:

Enough with the stats and logic, Willis. Can't you just let some of us eternal optimists believe that between Khabibulin and Dubnyk the next couple years, the Oilers goaltending is going to be very solid?

Being an Oiler fan can be hard sometimes, but I find that it you keep positive and envision best case scenarios, it's a lot easier. Sure you end up with some disappointment, but you can move on and say "there's always next year."

So props to all my fellow optimists on this issue. After Khabi plays in 55 games next year with a save % over 91, we'll be able to tell the rest of you that we told you so. :)

And this is how you quickly become known as the West Coast Toronto Maple Leafs. Congrats on the esteemed title.

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#60 rubbertrout
April 16 2010, 12:55PM
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Bombay wrote:

Enough with the stats and logic, Willis. Can't you just let some of us eternal optimists believe that between Khabibulin and Dubnyk the next couple years, the Oilers goaltending is going to be very solid?

Being an Oiler fan can be hard sometimes, but I find that it you keep positive and envision best case scenarios, it's a lot easier. Sure you end up with some disappointment, but you can move on and say "there's always next year."

So props to all my fellow optimists on this issue. After Khabi plays in 55 games next year with a save % over 91, we'll be able to tell the rest of you that we told you so. :)

What about for the other two years on his contract after that? IF (and that is a very big if) he is able to play 55 games a year each of the next 3 years and maintain a decent save percentage it still doesn't make up for the year lost to injury. It boggles my mind that people try to defend this ridiculous contract.

I guarantee that at the end of Khabby's contract nobody defending it will be able to say "I told you so".

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#61 Bombay
April 16 2010, 12:56PM
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My attitude really has no effect on how the team performs. It only makes it less frustrating when they perform poorly.

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#62 The Fish
April 16 2010, 12:58PM
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No

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#63 Bombay
April 16 2010, 01:00PM
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Actually, Khabi getting injured was the best thing that could have happened this year. It was a key factor in getting us the number 1 pick. So if he is able to stay relatively healthy the next three years, I will be able to say I told you so.

I mean, for all we know, this was Tambi and Khabi's plan all along. ;)

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rubbertrout wrote:

What about for the other two years on his contract after that? IF (and that is a very big if) he is able to play 55 games a year each of the next 3 years and maintain a decent save percentage it still doesn't make up for the year lost to injury. It boggles my mind that people try to defend this ridiculous contract.

I guarantee that at the end of Khabby's contract nobody defending it will be able to say "I told you so".

I think it's more about dealing with the contract then anything. Right now does it really matter who is in net next year? I'm sure if he struggles again this year that Tambo will have to look at getting someone else, but right no there is no reason to make a knee jerk reaction.

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#65 Crash
April 16 2010, 01:11PM
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Darren wrote:

You think that in 8 games you can determine how good or bad a goalie is going to be?

I think Brian Boucher is an amazing goalie considering he hold the record for consecutive shutouts. Best goalie ever.

Er... or not.

No, it's not just the 8 games...it's all the other things I mentioned...the fact he is cool as a cucumber, he isn't all about himself, he's big, he's humble....all traits of a good goaltender in the making...and yes his last 8 games have been amongst the best...

After starting out a little lost at the beginning he seems to have become accustomed to the speed of the NHL game...his positional play in the net has improved vastly from when he first arrived...he is a very smart kid too.

He's also played very well in the AHL...he's soon to be 24 yrs old...

There sure is enough negativity around here...is there any optimism anywhere?

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#66 Harlie
April 16 2010, 01:14PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Ya because with Oiler fans something is obvious.

well it's a good thing that you're here to help all of us idiots out.

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#67 Scott in Grande Prairie
April 16 2010, 01:43PM
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I'm kinda joining this late, but was anyone else as surprised that Khabby's average number of games missed due to injury was only 25 or so? That seems pretty low and, quite frankly, quite manageable.

Yeah - that number is bound to go up as he ages, but surely we can find a backup who can come in and play 30-40 games.

And there's no reason right now that JDD or DD couldn't be that kind of backup. Anyone who doubts that probably doesn't really understand the developmental process with goalies. Not all of them step in an become stars. Some - like, say, Bill Ranford (remember him?) - require several years of understudy work before they turn into stars ... or even starters.

One of the few silver linings of this dreadful season (other than the No. 1 pick) is that it gave everyone a chance to see exactly what they had for almost-NHL-ready goalie prospects. And, considering both have had to spend much of their pro careers riding the pine of another NHL team's minor-league team, I was pleasantly surprised.

I'm sure there are others who will shout me down for the word "pleasantly," but I really don't think that either DD or JDD or that far from being bona fide NHLers.

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#68 GSC
April 16 2010, 01:49PM
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Ender wrote:

The idea being that IF you could get his contract voided, his cap hit falls off the books and you pick up someone else for that money that doesn't need to spend the evenings in traction.

We have a winner!

Exactly what I was going for.

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#69 Bucknuck
April 16 2010, 01:50PM
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Crash wrote:

No, it's not just the 8 games...it's all the other things I mentioned...the fact he is cool as a cucumber, he isn't all about himself, he's big, he's humble....all traits of a good goaltender in the making...and yes his last 8 games have been amongst the best...

After starting out a little lost at the beginning he seems to have become accustomed to the speed of the NHL game...his positional play in the net has improved vastly from when he first arrived...he is a very smart kid too.

He's also played very well in the AHL...he's soon to be 24 yrs old...

There sure is enough negativity around here...is there any optimism anywhere?

I'm with you Crash. In a goalie I am looking for IMPROVEMENT since they are both young and learning and thrown into a situation that they were both unready for. In my opinion, Dubnyk has shown improvement a lot while JDD has hit a plateau.

I think that I would go with the younger rising star and hope for the best. Dubnyk inspires more confidence from me when he is in net.

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#70 Reagan
April 16 2010, 02:10PM
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•Vesa Toskala: 57 games (groin, groin, groin, groin, groin, groin, hip, hip, knee, groin)

I feel sorry for this guy the most...

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#71 Bucknuck
April 16 2010, 02:18PM
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Reagan wrote:

•Vesa Toskala: 57 games (groin, groin, groin, groin, groin, groin, hip, hip, knee, groin)

I feel sorry for this guy the most...

unless the injury is due to extreme fatigue caused by an awesome personal life!!! :-D

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#72 VMR
April 16 2010, 02:18PM
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Crash wrote:

I don't know about JDD but I don't think there's a chance in heck that DD would clear waivers and end up in Oklahoma. Looking at the league there are a few teams that I think would jump at the chance to have Dubnyk as their backup...

Time to go the same direction as Ottawa did with Brian Elliot IMO...Dubnyk is ready IMO

Which teams? and if they do keep him who do they waive?

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#73 Crash
April 16 2010, 02:44PM
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@VMR

I know some teams may have a good young goalie and those teams that I knew did for sure I left off the list such as LA, WAS, TB, etc.

But here's a list of teams who I think would more than likely put in a claim for Dubnyk and only of these teams would have to waive a goaltender all of the other don't

Atlanta - Johan Hedberg is UFA

Buffalo - Patrick Lalime is UFA

Carolina - Manny Legace is UFA

Calgary - Vesa Toskala is UFA

Colorado - Peter Budaj is UFA

Dallas - Marty Turco is UFA

Nashville - Dan Ellis is UFA

New Jersey - Jan Danis is UFA

New York Rangers - Alex Auld is UFA

Philadelphia - Everyone is UFA except Brian Boucher

Phoenix - Jason Labarbera could be easily waived

San Jose - Evgeny Nabokov is UFA

I'm not sure how many of these teams have goalies in their system that are as ready as Dubnyk but I'm thinking at least one of these teams would love to have Dubnyk as their backup or near future goaltender.

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#74 Mike
April 16 2010, 03:07PM
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I would love to know if deep down, Tambellini knows he screwed up the Khabibulin deal. Is he standing by his goalie because he's trying to save face? Or does he genuinely, truly believe that Khabi is the answer and his last injury is a fluke?

I'd be much happier with a blowhard than an idiot...

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#75 Offthebandwagon
April 16 2010, 03:17PM
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Why is it necessary to send Dubnyk down to the minors? At this point, what's the problem with keeping all three goalies on the roster? I mean, its not like a "three-headed goalie monster" ala Roloson, Garon, and Deslauriers would keep the team from competing. Send each goalie for a conditioning stint, give Dubnyk and JDD 20 games each and a conditioning stint for development, and protect Khabibulin from being overworked. It may be necessary to leave MPP/Eberle in the AHL for most of next year to free up contract space, but so what--no rush on these guys.

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#76 Rusty Duggan
April 16 2010, 03:20PM
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Wow is this news? It was a bad signing last year and it's still a bad signing this year. Management dropped the ball on that deal, amongst other things. Is/Was Tambo really in charge of this ship? He comes across like a shady politician, not like a manager who knows what he's doing. He has spent most of his tenure as GM putting the spin on things, and eventually the list will pile up and guys like Willis will make sure he's accountable.

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#77 VMR
April 16 2010, 03:21PM
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@Crash

Most of these teams wont have seen much of Dubnyk, surely not as much as they've seen their own prospects so they cant have anyone in their system and remember Dubnyk had a losing record in the AHL each of the past 3 seasons and nothing stellar in the way of stats.

On top of that there is a glut of goaltenders out there with more NHL experience that have looked better at some point in the past. Look how many Philadelphia has gone through this season. Why would anybody think Dubnyk is any better than picking Esche or any of those UFA's on that list?

At this point he looks like a pretty mediocre talent and yeah we could lose him possibly but even if we do is it really much of a loss? Sure Springfield have been bad but is there any other goalie out there that has had this bad a record in the minors that suddenly turns it around in the big league?

I cant see it. I think both of Dubnyk and Deslaurier are easily replacable via free agency or waiver wire action. One of them may suddenly develop into a good NHL goalie but they're both longshots at this point. If the best you are hoping for is capable backup ability then it's not worth losing any sleep over. Put them both on waivers keep whoever doesnt get taken.

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#78 jeanshorts
April 16 2010, 03:29PM
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@Crash

I've agreed with everything you've said in this thread. What is wrong with me????

Seriously though I love how apparently there is no such thing as optimism when you're an Oiler fan. Yeah he had a rough start to his career, but like you said Dubnyk really picked his game up over the last half of the season and he seemed to improve every game. Why are people bitching and moaning that he's still terrible for some reason? It's not like anyone is pegging him to lead us to the cup next year. We're talking about a BACKUP GOALIE for baggedmilk's sake.

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#79 VMR
April 16 2010, 03:44PM
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@jeanshorts

Who's not being optimistic? I'm pretty damn optimistic he'll make it through waivers. ;)

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#80 Reagan
April 16 2010, 03:46PM
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I say keep Dubbie! That would be my personal preference. But JDD needs one more year. If the Oilers could arrange a deal to put Dubbie in OC for a year, depending on how JDD does next year, then make your decisions then. Not totally sure of what the situation is now but the Oilers need both guys.

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#81 Crash
April 16 2010, 03:53PM
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VMR wrote:

Most of these teams wont have seen much of Dubnyk, surely not as much as they've seen their own prospects so they cant have anyone in their system and remember Dubnyk had a losing record in the AHL each of the past 3 seasons and nothing stellar in the way of stats.

On top of that there is a glut of goaltenders out there with more NHL experience that have looked better at some point in the past. Look how many Philadelphia has gone through this season. Why would anybody think Dubnyk is any better than picking Esche or any of those UFA's on that list?

At this point he looks like a pretty mediocre talent and yeah we could lose him possibly but even if we do is it really much of a loss? Sure Springfield have been bad but is there any other goalie out there that has had this bad a record in the minors that suddenly turns it around in the big league?

I cant see it. I think both of Dubnyk and Deslaurier are easily replacable via free agency or waiver wire action. One of them may suddenly develop into a good NHL goalie but they're both longshots at this point. If the best you are hoping for is capable backup ability then it's not worth losing any sleep over. Put them both on waivers keep whoever doesnt get taken.

If you put them both on waivers they may both be taken...You may think Dubnyk has mediocre talent but I see something different...I see the making of a possible elite goaltender...

The teams he has played on in the minors have been very bad teams and from what I've heard he was the only reason they could compete especially lately..

I believe it would be a huge mistake to throw Dubnyk away...the waiver wire is not stock full of goaltenders that can play and IMO he can play. I don't think Dubnyk is as much of a longshot as you are making him out to be.

Other teams will more than likely have noticed Dubnyk in the last couple of months and I'm thinking he's on the radar of other teams. He is a good young goaltender and due to his just getting started in the league he wouldn't be expensive to pick up. Guys like Esche or Emery or Leighton are already all as good as they are going to get or are already past it...Dubnyk is only going to better and better....at least that's how I see it.

So in answer to your question, yes I think it really would be a loss to lose Dubnyk. I think he's more ready than people think and no my best hope is not for backup capability...I believe he is close to starter status and is more than capable of being a successful backup...and like I said at the moment he is not going to cost much...

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#82 Crash
April 16 2010, 03:58PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

I've agreed with everything you've said in this thread. What is wrong with me????

Seriously though I love how apparently there is no such thing as optimism when you're an Oiler fan. Yeah he had a rough start to his career, but like you said Dubnyk really picked his game up over the last half of the season and he seemed to improve every game. Why are people bitching and moaning that he's still terrible for some reason? It's not like anyone is pegging him to lead us to the cup next year. We're talking about a BACKUP GOALIE for baggedmilk's sake.

I've turned over new leaf and am making it my goal to get you on my side, lol...although I still don't think I can say I want Seguin over Hall.

But yeah, I think the Oil should try to trade JDD if they can and if they can't he's the guy they need to waive. I don't know why some choose not to see the big about face that Dubnyk did in the 2nd half of his year. They just look at the overall numbers when he started out in a struggling manner but it sure hasn't taken him long to figure it out..

I choose to look at the glass as being half full and I don't think there's anyway he clears waivers....

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#83 Eric Johnson
April 16 2010, 05:47PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Fiveandagame:

Yeah, that's a concern in some cases. Brodeur, for instance, doesn't deserve the 'injury-prone' label, since almost all of his games missed happened in one season.

For the guys at the top, however, I think this is a fair exercise. In Khabibulin's case, prior to this season he missed 17 games a year, now he's up to 25.

Fair enough. I would agree that the higher the number, regardless of how many injuries be it one or 10, would still not give you a lot of confidence in the players over all health.

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#84 Pajamah
April 16 2010, 07:13PM
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Other than Khabibulins major injury this season, his totals are acceptable, especially considering at his age, he should likely only get 60 games anyways.

Still an elite goalie, and for less than 4mill for 60 games is fine with me

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#85 DSF
April 16 2010, 08:59PM
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@Pajamah

His totals are far from acceptable.

How many seasons post lockout has he played the 60 games you are using as a line in the sand?

Chances of him playing 60 are virtually nil.

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#86 THEBIGD
April 16 2010, 10:37PM
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@Crash

Not a chance this kid is done.No NHL dreams for this awful Goalie.Please send packing!!!

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#87 Victoria
April 16 2010, 11:40PM
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@Petr's Jofa

Seriously? The fact that he won one Stanley Cup 6 years ago means crap today.

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#88 KenMcC
April 17 2010, 02:22AM
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Petr's Jofa wrote:

Whoa,

Slow down a second there Jonathan, you missed an important factor which as Tambelini like to remind us... Khabibulin is a cup winner.

Look at this list:

2000 - Brodeur

2001 - Belfour

2002 - Hasek

2003 - Brodeur

2004 - Khabibulin

Lockout

2006 - Ward

2007 - Gigure

2008 - Osgood

2009 - Fleury

Sure, all the other pre-lockout winner except Brodeur have retired but that doesn't mean anything. I just look at it as of all the goalies that know how to win, Brodeur and Khabibulin are the hungriest...

. . . . oh, oh, and Habby's been a "cup ring bearer" for years longer than, say, Fleury or Gigeure. So of course he's better at it and of course we're just plain grateful for the elite world class MVP.

Pass the Kool-aid.

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#89 madjam
April 17 2010, 09:08AM
Trash it!
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VMR wrote:

Who's not being optimistic? I'm pretty damn optimistic he'll make it through waivers. ;)

When "wishfull thinking " comes in the front door you''ll frequently find "optimism , reason and constructive criticizm " creeping out the back door . Our elevated AHL goalies have shown little progress to even say they are good AHL goalies over their tenure in AHL . At the NHL level it is same scenario with both of them so far . I am with you on your assessment on the both of them - i'd like to see some optimism and not just wishfull thinking ! Being an eternal optimist does not mean you have to put on an idiots cap ,and accept wishfull thinking , as well as part of that package .

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