John Vanbiesbrouck, Roman Chechmanek, Jeff Hackett, Robert Esche, Garth Snow, Sean Burke, Marty Biron, Ray Emery, Michael Leighton, Antero Nittymaki. All of these average goalies were not the answer for a Flyers team looking for its first Stanley Cup in over thirty years. Not since the great Ron Hextall have the Flyers had a true number one goalie that was in the upper echelon of the league.
Every year it seems like the same story for the Flyers. They enter training camp with two average goalies, one a little bit better than the other. By January we have a goalie controversy because the number one goalie hasn’t played up to par, while the backup has flourished playing in his place. By February we usually still don’t have any real idea on who the number one goalie is until around playoff time when the number one goalie is revealed. Into the playoffs the Flyers go only to be bounced in the first two rounds, usually because their goalie played pretty average. Sound familiar?
The Flyers once again have goalie problems this season and granted part of it is because Ray Emery is injured. But even when he was healthy there was talk on weather Ray should start, or recent waiver pickup Michael Leighton who was making his second go around with the Orange and Black. Now I want you to think about every elite goalie you can think of and ask yourself this: In January is there ever talk about them losing their job?
The Flyers have neglected to draft a number one goalie year after year. You look at most of the great goalies in the league and they are with the club that drafted them. Sure there are some exceptions (Roberto Luongo, Miikka Kiprusoff) but most of the time a team knows when they have their franchise goalie and are hesitant to let him go. The Flyers have been content with getting average goalies year after year and focusing on offense in the draft.
Perfect example was the 2006 NHL Draft. The Flyers took RW Claude Giroux with the twenty second overall pick in the draft. I loved Giroux and thought he should have been drafted higher than that but what I didn’t like was the Flyers taking him. When the Flyer took Giroux they had Jeff Carter, Steve Downie, Mike Richards, Scottie Upshall, and RJ Umberger all on the team/ in their system and didn’t need another forward. The guy I thought the Flyers should have drafted was taken with the very next pick.
Semyon Varlamov was the best Russian goaltender in the draft and was taken by the Washington Capitals with the twenty third overall pick. He is a huge reason why the Caps went as far as they did last season in the playoffs because with Theodore the team was on the verge of elimination in the first round. Varlamov is currently sporting a 14-5-4 record with a 2.52 GAA and a .909 SV% while also having 2 SO. He’s only 21 by the way.
While I love Giroux the Flyers should have taken Varlamov. Giroux is having a good year for the Flyers (14 goals, 30 assists) but scoring goals isn’t the teams problem right now, its goalie where Brian Boucher looks more like Denis Lemieux....you know........the goalie from Slap Shot.
Last year’s Chris Pronger trade doesn’t help. In the deal the Flyers gave up their first rounder for this year and next and are strapped against the cap because of the contract they gave him. They have to hope that the CBA changes so they can possibly dump his contract free of charge but if they can’t it’s going to be hard signing, or trading for a top of the line goalie.
There may be hope in the future. The Flyers took Joacim Eriksson in the seventh round of the 2008 draft. He is a 19 year old goalie who put up solid numbers last year in the second best league in Sweden. Next season he will look to up his game in the Swedish Elite League and could make an appearance in America around 2012. They may have found another Henrik Lundqvist in Eriksson but the jury is still out on him. The question is can the Flyers put all their eggs in Eriksson's basket? Or do they go out and trade for a Carey Price/Jaroslav Halak?