Monday, October 19, 2009

Writing on the Wall?

Goalie controversies brew at the beginning of each NHL season. This season is no exception as fantasy owners are already wondering who will start each night in Washington and Nashville, but will Chicago be next?

Last year, Head Coach Joel Quenneville had two high priced goalies in Huet and Khabibulin. General consensus was that Khabibulin would get some starts to showcase his talent and hopefully help trigger a trade, but he ended up playing himself into the number one role. He was playing so well that he started every important game for the Hawks at the end of the year. But with the Bulin Wall signing in Edmonton during the off season, it looked like Chicago was moving forward with Huet. Controversy over in Chicago right?

Let’s look a little deeper into a goalie controversy and see if the Coach's history plays a role.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville has been coaching at the NHL level for over a decade and has one Presidents trophy and a Jack Adams award to his credit. He has made the playoffs 8 times in the last 9 years and is respected amongst his colleagues. He also is not shy about riding the hot goalie. Let’s look back at his coaching career and his goaltending starting habits.

St. Louis
97-98 Grant Fuhr 54 starts. Jamie McLennan 26, Others 2
98-99 Grant Fuhr 37 starts, Jamie McLennen 30, Others 15
99-00 Roman Turek 66 starts, Brent Johnson 16, Others 0
00-01 Roman Turek 53 starts, Brent Johnson 29 Others 0
01-02 Brent Johnson 58 starts, Fred Brathwaite 24 Others 0
02-03 Brent Johnson 35 starts, Fred Brathwaite 23, Chris Osgood 9, Others 15
03-04 Chris Osgood 65 starts, Others 17 (Quenneville was fired Feb’04)

Four number one goalies in 7 years hmmmm.

05-06 David Aebischer 42 starts, Peter Budaj 29, Others 11
06-07 Peter Budaj 53 starts, Jose Theodore 29, Others 0
07-08 Jose Theodore 52 starts, Peter Budaj 30, Others 0

Three number one goalies in 3 years hmmmm.

08-09 Nikolai Khabibulin 40 starts, Cristobal Huet 40, Other 2

Now Huet is in his 7th NHL season and playing on his 4th NHL team. Not a great track record for stability. Furthermore, the most starts of his career were 51 in 2007-08 when he split time in Montreal and Washington.

Just seems like the situation in Chicago is ripe for a major goaltending switch. If Huet continues his slow start, look for “results now” coach Quenneville to give Niemi a shot to be the Hawks #1.

Quenneville's history, Huet's slow start and Neimi's impressive play provides all the fuel needed for a future goalie controversy in the Windy City. The only question is; how soon is the future?

Fantasy Spin:
Any starting goaltender for the Hawks should be put at a premium simply because Chicago is such a strong team. Grab Niemi and his 1.73 GAA off your waiver wire and play him every chance you get. If a time share develops in Chicago, you’ll look pretty smart. If he steals the spotlight you’ll look like a genius.


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