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Dear Backhand Shelf
I’ve had a couple of rough starts this season, and despite an even-strength save percentage of .927, the local media in my town and my fans are starting to invent this idea that there’s a goalie controversy. Sure, my backup goalie is a young and capable net-minder out of Boston College, but one of the biggest concerns about my play in particular is my postseason ability. In my backup’s only start last postseason, he looked remarkably average and pretty shaky. I thought I played well-enough on my own last year, and, short of three or four questionable outings, was otherwise playing some of the best hockey of my life. What can I do to improve the perception people have of me? My contract runs through 2022.
Signed, Winless in Vancouver
Thanks for writing WIV. It seems you need to forget about the performance of your backup. If you’re signed to a long-term deal, especially for a good amount of coin, your team has invested too much in you to have you ride the pine. My guess is if you’ve had a couple of bad starts despite a .927 EV SV% is that your team has come up pretty weak on specialty teams. Your PK numbers will regress to the mean and that may balance out your save percentage. You’ll start stringing some quality starts, and hopefully your team can win a few games and get the locals off your back, because clearly, they aren’t helping the situation.
Every goalie is susceptible to some bad starts every now and then. It becomes a perception problem if there are a couple in a row, since it gives the media a lot of time to discuss your performance. Good luck, and thanks for the note.
Dear Backhand Shelf
I was the big piece in a well-publicized trade this offseason and am now centering a line with a former scoring champion and Olympic gold medallist. He’s doing just fine, but I’m getting a little anxious. Despite having three consecutive 30-goal seasons, I have zero goals in my first four games. We also have yet to win a game with my new team and I’m getting a little anxious. Now, I have taken 17 shots at net, and, with a career 10.8% shooting rate, I’m pretty sure that the goals were come, but I was expecting big beginnings with my new team. When do you think things will turn around for me?
Signed, BJs Anonymous
Good question BJA. To me there seems to be an issue here with two scorers being put together on the same line. If you’re being put with a former goal-scoring champion, and you’re a routine 30-goal man, you probably both shoot the puck a lot. While you’re right about the shooting percentage, I think I might suggest to your coach that you and the other star player are better off being separated.
Really, if you two are both big goal-scorers, you probably both have the ability to get it done on your own, and splitting the two of you up would give opposing coaches and defenders headaches with how to match you up. Plus, if you two are both “high volume” shooters, it gives each of you more potential shots on net since the other guy wouldn’t be there to take some away. Make sense? It’s pretty rare to have line combinations that feature two guys who each get 300 shots. It’s only happened twice since the lockout, and it was the same pair of guys: Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk with Atlanta in 2006 and 2007. They didn’t win many games because those Thrasher teams lacked serious secondary threats. I wouldn’t advise your new teams to repeat that way of thinking.
Thanks for writing into the Backhand Shelf, and good luck with the season.
Until only a few years ago my team was one of the best offenses in the league and I was centering the first line. Since then, my captain has kept getting injured and the team keeps bringing in pieces that never pan out. I was the only player who cracked 20 goals on our team last year, and we finished with the second worst offense in the entire league. A big guy who fights and wins a few faceoffs and some Russian guy that we just sent to the AHL were our major offseason acquisitions. At the deadline last year, we picked up a goalie who has seemingly forgotten how to make a save. Now, I’m 28 and should be in my prime, but my team’s years are well in the past. What can I do to make this better?
[Illegible signature—It appears to have been written in crayon]
Ouch, this is a toughie. It sounds like your team’s General Manager has some issues keeping a core group together, but that doesn’t mean he can’t start from scratch with a couple of high picks in back-to-back years. Sometimes teams with poor offenses but for one dynamic player manage to make it to the postseason if they have good defense or goaltending, but I sense that may not be an option in your situation.
Realistically, it sounds like you’re insinuating asking for a trade, but those tend to not work out for high-priced centremen in recent years. Brad Richards had a completely forgettable few years in Dallas after being moved with a big contract from Tampa and Olli Jokinen’s career just completely shot down when he started bouncing around teams. It’s weird, but trading for good players in their primes is generally something that teams should avoid doing but the rumours swirl anyway. Good teams are shaped through the draft or savvy moves to collect young talent, so you’d be putting your new team in a hole if you were to move. Play out your contract and see if you may want to return. There may be some new talent by then that can shelter you a little so you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting for your team night in and night out, and as a complimentary piece, you may have a chance to return to the playoffs.
Thanks for writing.