Still, while Wilson does a fine job explaining why Tomas Vokoun is obviously undeserving of the condemnation Feaster so eagerly assigns him, there were a couple of points Feaster made that I still wanted to address, starting with this one:
While we had goaltending problems in Tampa at the time, we were not interested in Vokoun. Our pro scouts were not sold on Vokoun’s ability to win a championship and thrive under big-game pressure and his contract was too rich for us, both in real dollars and available cap space.
I’ll cede the point on real dollars and cap space, but ‘big-game pressure?’ Come on, now. The time Feaster’s talking about is the summer of 2007, and the Lightning had been rolling with a goaltending tandem of Johan Holmqvist (27-15-3, .893 SV%) and Marc Denis (17-18-2, .883 SV%). Rather than add Vokoun, Feaster elected to keep that tandem, and at the end of the year Denis had a single win to his name, Holmqvist had been outplayed by prospect (and current Omsk Avangard goaltender) Karri Ramo, and by the time Feaster decided to address his goaltending issue, bringing in Dallas backup Mike Smith, who has “yet to carry his team to the postseason,” (more on that quote in a minute) was hopelessly out of the playoffs. Coach John Tortorella was fired, and the Lightning completed their rapid descent from Stanley Cup champions to cellar dwellers.
Just to drive this point home, assuming that a) Vokoun had played the 69 games he played in Florida in Tampa Bay and maintained his .919 SV% and that b) the other Lightning goaltenders had maintained their .890 SV% pace over the other 13 games, the Lightning would have given up 197 goals against rather than 252. That 55 goal shift is the difference between the first overall pick and a playoff berth.
The second quote that rubbed me the wrong way:
Vokoun was traded to the Panthers on June 22, 2007 and has been the top netminder there for the past three seasons, including the current campaign. He has yet to carry his team to the postseason and last year, when new coach Pete DeBoer really needed him to elevate his play, he faltered, stumbling badly enough that DeBoer handed the starting reins to backup Craig Anderson down the stretch.
Let’s rewrite that paragraph for some other goaltenders. Let’s start with noted failure Roberto Luongo:
Luongo was traded to the Panthers on June 24, 2000 and was the top netminder there for five seasons. He never was able to carry his team to the postseason and in 2004, when new coach John Torchetti really needed him to elevate his play, he faltered, stumbling badly enough to put up his worst month of the season down the stretch.
Or perhaps we could look at Stanley Cup champion goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, from the perspective of a Chicago Blackhawks fan at the start of last season:
Khabibulin was signed by the Blackhawks on August 5, 2005 and has been the top netminder there for the past four seasons, including the current campaign. He has yet to carry his team to the postseason and last year, when coach Denis Savard really needed him to elevate his play, he faltered, stumbling badly enough that Savard platooned Khabibulin with backup Patrick Lalime down the stretch.
While we’re at it, we could do the exact same thing with the man Feaster brought in to fix the Lightning’s goaltending woes, Mike Smith:
Smith was traded to the Lightning on February 26, 2008 and has been the top netminder there for the past three seasons, including the current campaign. He has yet to carry his team to the postseason and last year, when new coach Rick Tocchet really needed him to elevate his play, he faltered, stumbling badly in January with a 3.13 GAA and .896 SV% that it helped eliminate whatever hope the Lightning had at a playoff spot.
See how easy that is? It’s like a from letter for any goaltender on a bad team – they miss the playoffs, they have a bad month, and it’s a clear sign that they’re not ‘big-game’ goaltenders, whatever every other bit of empirical evidence (see Wilson’s article) suggests.
Feaster’s a bright hockey guy in a lot of ways, but he obviously doesn’t have a clue about goaltenders. Some might think me harsh to criticize a Stanley Cup-winning G.M. like that, but honestly: when a G.M. of the defending Stanley Cup champions runs out John Grahame, Marc Denis and Johan Holmqvist as his starters for three successive seasons and then applauds himself for not acquiring Tomas Vokoun, is there another possibility?