Friday Funbag: How many NHL teams actually have a "starting" goalie?
Plus, how would I look at international NHL expansion?
Last night was the first night of Hanukkah.
Instead of watching hockey games live I did the responsible thing and focused on the family, hung out with the kids, and ordered a pizza — not a traditional holiday meal, but hey, no dishes.
After the kids fell asleep, I caught up and went through most of Thursday’s NHL action.
And a pressing thought kept coming back, particularly after watching the Detroit Red Wings 6-5 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks.
How many NHL teams actually have a starting goalie?
In Detroit, for example, Alex Lyon has gone from the third-stringer to the top performer. Ville Husso’s performance against San Jose effectively locked that in for the time being. But it’s also only a temporary thing, and I wouldn’t bet that come playoff time — if Detroit is in — that Lyon is a lock to start Game 1.
In an age of platoons and timeshares, I think that playoff distinction is the most important thing to determine whether a team actually has a “starter.”
The two best teams in the league, the Vegas Golden Knights and Boston Bruins, use a timeshare system. While Adin Hill won the Stanley Cup last season, would it really be stunning if Logan Thompson played playoff games in 2024?
In Calgary, if they are to turn it around and make the playoffs, is Jacob Markstrom really the answer when Dustin Wolf will be waiting and ready?
So I played the game went myself and went through NHL depth charts and stats, and in my view there are only 13 “starting” goalies in the NHL in the traditional sense.
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No. 1 performers, playing well this season, who I’m confident will hold the net for Game 1 of the hypothetical playoffs no matter what.
That list includes: Connor Ingram (Arizona), Alexander Georgiev (Colorado), Jake Oettinger (Dallas), Sergei Bobrovsky (Florida), Cam Talbot (Los Angeles), Juuse Saros (Nashville), Ilya Sorokin (NY Islanders), Igor Shesterkin (NY Rangers), Carter Hart (Philadelphia), Tristan Jarry (Pittsburgh), Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa), Thatcher Demko (Vancouver), and Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg).
Moral of the story, goaltending controversy isn’t the exception, it’s the norm.
Anyways, let’s get to some of your questions.
Alexander Posani Good morning Sean, One thing that’s been on my mind for a few years is the future of expansion. The potential of NHL teams in Europe is something that’s been discussed for almost 50 years now. It would be a logistical nightmare, and I’m wondering how it would work? You’d need at least 4 teams over there just for travel purposes. Would their minor league affiliates be over here in North America, or would they use local teams? And most importantly, how would North American style hockey translate to a European fan base? I’ve watched a fair amount of NLA, DEL, SHL, and Liiga games, and while hockey is always hockey, the European game has its differences. Logistically, it sounds like a nightmare, and I would assume that’s why it hasn’t been done. How would you do it?
It would be a logistical nightmare.
Personally, I think the only North American sport that could actually expand internationally to Europe is the NFL.
And even for the NFL, which only plays 17 regular season games, there would be logistical time issues and questions that come up. The concept of playoff scheduling and re-seeding, and potentially mixing in a trans-Atlantic flight, ooff…
I don’t think the NHL should expand to Europe, it would be a mistake. But I do believe the league should better embrace its role in global competition.
The NHL Global Series is a good start, but it’s effectively playing a North American game in Europe.
I would like to see a rotation developed where four NHL teams a year to go to Europe for a preseason showcase that features the champions of the SHL, Liiga, DEL, and NLA.
Get a nice sponsor for it, get a TV network on board, and make it worthwhile. In return, you work out additional deals to get European teams to come to North America for a handful of games.
This is admittedly a pipe dream.
In the meantime, I would advise watching the Spengler Cup later this month. That’s a fun tournament and is always a good mix of International and North American flavor.
Max What are your thoughts on Miro this year?
With elite players we have these sliding scales.
Miro Heiskanen has been the Stars best defender, but he hasn’t played as well I would have like.
He’s great, but not great enough. It’s not really fair, but that’s the reality for No. 1 defenders that want to win Norris Trophies.
Part of this is on the setup, Heiskanen doesn’t have an ideal partner in Dallas so he’s asked to do more than Quinn Hughes or Cale Makar are asked to do their in respective situations.
But part of this still falls on Heiskanen. For a player who expects and delivers greatness, he’s also responsible for his own play on the ice.
Drew C. Is a breakup between Nills Lundkvist inevitable? Was this a scouting failure or did Nills not love up to his potential?
I wrote extensively about Lundkvist earlier this week, so I’ll refer people back to that piece.
But for a bit more, I will say this.
I don’t think it was a scouting failure, in fact I love the ideology behind the move. Dallas gambled and went for it on something, hopefully that doesn’t stop them from taking big swings in the future.
I don’t think the breakup is inevitable, but it will be difficult to mend fences and repair the wounds.