Thursday, February 21, 2008

A good problem to have is still a problem

You'll have to forgive us for being very excited about the imminent return of Marc-Andre Fleury. The kid groomed to be the franchise goalie has certainly had a bumpy development, but hey he's a goalie. What has he missed?

Ty Conklin
2.18 GAA (tied for 4th in the league, behind the 2 Detroit goalies and that Brodeur fellow)
.932 save % (1st in the league)

As you can tell, though he's played about half the games of a guy like Brodeur or Luongo, Conkblock's numbers rival or surpass them this year. And it seems more than just lightning in a bottle. Hotstreaks come and stay for a while but Conklin's appeared in 24 games now and has not been totally solid perhaps 2 or 3 times. This wave he's riding doesn't appear to be dying down anytime soon.

  • So what of Fleury, the "golden" boy (but thankfully not in those pads anymore), what becomes of the former #1 overall pick that's probably always been "the guy" at every level of his young career?
  • Or what even of Dany Sabourin? Do the Pens risk him to waivers? Don't be so quick to scoff, Dany Sabs was already claimed once when the Pens waived him.

To the first question, we stress communication. Obviously Fleury knows the team has been winning not only with Conklin, but on many nights because of Conklin. When your getting that kind of performance out of a netminder it's impossible not to use him as the go-to guy.

Will Fleury like this arrangement? Probably not. But he must also realize Conklin is a UFA after this season and probably isn't in the Pens long-term picture. Also, as any Edmonton fan could tell you, Conklin could fall apart at any minute, perhaps his wave will finally crash. Just because Conklin should be the #1 goalie right now doesn't mean the team won't be in a position where they will need MAF.

On the second point, waiving Sabourin is no easy matter. As we pointed out, Conklin is a UFA and with the season he is having his agent must be doing backflips. Goaltending is of the utmost importance and without it you're doomed (see Kings, Los Angeles or the Coyotes pre-Bryzgalov). Sabourin has a contract next season and an affordable one. While he couldn't carry the torch through Fleury's injury, Sabourin's proven to be a decent NHL backup goalie, enough to pickup the slack for the 13-15 games MAF won't start. So Dany Sabs should be kept.

Another point is goalie depth. What seems to be an advantage right now could quickly turn. Imagine Sabs is picked up and Fleury tweaks the ankle injury that's already kept him out almost 3 months. By this point the trade deadline has passed and Dave Brown is sitting #2 on the organ-eye-zational depth chart. You could even imagine if the Conkblock magic ran out? Worst case scenario, to be sure, but hey it's out there.

No one--and we do mean no one--likes the arrangement of carrying 3 goalies on the roster. The Sweater Ted hasn't quite figured out how to handle this tricky situation, but then again it's not like we're cashing consulting checks from the Pens (but we're open to it!) so this decision is up to them.

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