Dominik Hasek may not be Ilya Bryzgalov-level crazy, but that he wants to play in the NHL again makes me think he’s not all that many rungs behind.
Kevin Allen’s USA Today piece titled “Experts think Dominik Hasek could make it as a back-up,” opens with this paragraph:
As Dominik Hasek contemplates a return to the NHL at 47, the prevailing sentiment around the league is that if any goalie could cheat the aging process, he could.
And I agree with that, and appreciate that Allen got quotes from people who sort of did imply that (Johan Hedberg, and what sounds like a reluctant Darren Pang), it’s worth noting that the problem is that no goalie, or human for that matter, can cheat the aging process.
There is no chance Dominik Hasek returns to the NHL. None.
Here’s Pang’s insight:
When Hasek last played in the NHL in 2008, Pang recalls that the goalie “played small, looked small.”
“He was not an imposing figure,” Pang said. “His hockey brain, on the other hand, is miles ahead of the good goalie, and that’s why he may be able to back up. The older you get, the worse the eyes get. The puck is exploding off the stick faster than ever, so it’s harder to pick up the puck coming off the stick. That delayed reaction is the difference between a great save and a goal against.”
Not exactly a glowing review for Hasek’s hopes.
Pang is right, that Hasek is a smart hockey goalie, but that’s not worth more than his first point that four years ago, he “played small, looked small.”
Think of the last few times you saw Marty Turco play in the NHL: played small, looked small. Corners available everywhere, take your pick. It may be a shame, but there’s a reason we’re basically down to Martin Brodeur and Tim Thomas when it comes to successful reactionary goaltenders in the NHL. Shots come too hard these days, and there’s too many surprises (more redirects, in particular) to think you’re going to be able to roll around and kick out pucks when you see them, as opposed to being positionally sound and only making reactionary moves when things get desperate (think Pekka Rinne).
His numbers last year in the KHL were fairly “meh” - he had a 2.48 GAA and .915 save percentage. That rarely translates into raging success in the NHL for goaltenders in their prime, let alone those who can still see their prime in the rear-view mirror, let alone for those who require a telescope and VHS tapes.
The silliest thing about the idea, about even having this conversation at all, is the notion that a team would let an average-to-poor Hasek take up the back-up spot on a team while some unproven prospect in their system (in anyone’s system, really), whose abilities are likely equal-to-better than the 47 year old’s, has to hack it out in the minors and not gain NHL experience. If you’re gonna have a guy play who goal who’s going to post a save percentage under League average, you might as well give the minutes to a guy going in the right direction.
I realize it was probably “just a thought,” that Hasek would like to play in the NHL next season. Hell, I’m sure every retired NHLer out there would.
But it’s just not going to happen. At this point, Hasek couldn’t hack it.