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Shift Change

Decisions, decisions

According to HF Board chatter, I would say that the Sharks fans and the Flyers fans should swap goalies and see how they feel about that decision next June.  I suspect the Flyers would come out ahead on that deal.  Their team is more goalie-ready than the Sharks are right now.  These players are not tradable now,  they are free agents.  I get that.  Neither team needs to decide what to do beyond whether to keep their goalies.   This is just a mental exercise, to warm me up to the idea that players move around and it isn’t any kind of catastrophe when they do so.

There are a lot of players out there that I know nothing about who may be available for either team. Of course I would like all my favorite players to stay on my favorite teams, but even with that bias there is a sound argument to be made. 

Of the goalie options discussed by Sharks fans, none demand so little money-wise as Leights.  He is due a raise but even doubling last year’s salary would be a huge drop from Nabokov and others in his rank.  Sharks fans seem a little label-happy. They still talk about Turco and Toskala who, even with an anticipated drop in salary, will still probably be near the top of the scale.  For a hopelessly sentimental person, I am more pragmatic than that.   Hiring Leights would free up a huge chunk of change for the Sharks to find some fast and clever players to fill the gaps in both the forward and defensive lines. I think that probably some of the players already on the roster will improve in these areas, certainly the younger ones who have just discovered their potential.  They are due raises too.

But a few additions would be a good plan. Definitely need at least one more aggressive and quick player for defense, and more shooting power up front. To find someone like JVR would be a boon, though he is not available and when he is he will likely demand a top salary.  Still, if the Sharks mgmt would open their minds a little and maybe consider European players they might find someone out there ready to do the job.  Apparently they are Euro-phobic by and large.

If you want to free up some money, free up as much as you possibly can. Leighton has, I believe, been undervalued for some time. While his performance in past years did little to impress anyone, his ability to jump in mid-season and play very well, and then come back and play the way he did with virtually no prep after injury, indicates some considerable talent. Put a solid team in front of him and he would suit.

The Flyers are apparently notorious for not developing or seeking out goaltenders. They tend not to draft them, they tend to hire few and far between and don’t like to pay top dollar. Still, their manager says they are ruling nothing out, and Vokoun’s name has come up. Not sure what he will be asking, but clearly the Flyers are considering spending an uncustomary amount this time around.

Boucher as a Shark

Shapeshifing Flyer: Brian Boucher's been a Shark, a Coyote, a Hawk and twice a Flyer

Considering how far they got with competent but repeatedly injured goalies this last year, imagine what they could do with someone like Nabby. I think Leighton has a lot more to offer than he is given credit for, but because of his injuries and history I think people still consider him sort of unproven.  Whatever, if the Flyers don’t have the sense to keep him…

A team like that would give Nabby the shot he deserves at the SC. I haven’t heard of a better team looking for a goalie, certainly not one that might have the salary cap room to afford him. I don’t know that the Flyers are looking to spend THAT much but they might be a goalie’s best option for a hell of a ride over the next couple of years. If the Sharks can’t get their defense in order, with or without Nabby, they are in trouble anyway.

Now, Nabby has not only said he wants to win the Stanley Cup. Who doesn’t? He has said that he wants to finish the job he started with the Sharks. So he may turn out to be the stubborn and relentlessly loyal character his star sign is known for. He might have no interest at all in moving across the country, he might be willing to take a pay cut, or forego the raise he could get by moving. Nabby might not thrive in Philly, though I suspect the Flyers have a very good goalie support system, considering how much they know about getting along with backups and replacements and replacement backups.  It is my slight understanding that goalies have their own coaches, and then the team also has someone who coaches them, or maybe not.

Probably this would be self-evident to athletes but in case I am misunderstood as saying that these goalies need training, I assume that every player needs training. I know a woman who has been riding horses all her life, rode in the Olympics, is over 50 and she still takes lessons even though she also teaches. Everyone needs coaching. You need someone else’s eyes on you, you need someone to see what you can’t see and remind you of things you forgot, even give you new tricks to try now and again. So I don’t know if Leights would thrive in Nabby’s shoes. On the other hand, they might both thrive with a fresh perspective.

Boucher was criticized for not looking great in goal. For God’s sake, you don’t just pop back from a knee injury, and if you are a goalie, the slightest problem in the knee would be a huge handicap. So no, he didn’t look like he did in 2000 but he did pretty well considering the injuries. With Nabby, the Flyers could alternate Boucher, do very well and give both goalies plenty of rest, something I understand Nabby isn’t used to.

The Flyers also have a lot of expensive players already on the books and under contract, so they probably would not want to pay what Nabby could ask, the sort of figure the Sharks don’t want to pay.  Then again, they came damn close to the Cup and next year they will still have much of their core intact, unlike the Sharks who are talking about losing Nabby, Marleau, Setoguchi, and have already seen Blake retire.

I would be very sad to lose Nabby, less sad if he ended up in Philly, but if the Sharks want to cut their salary burdens, they should CUT, not trim.  Based on the speculations about the obstacles each team faces and the to do list fans have come up with, that little swap would fit the bill, at least the one the fans have come up with.

Leights

Leighton: journeyman or keeper?

One thread was titled “Flyers players want Leighton to stay.”  That sounded utterly adorable, until I read the edited quote in the thread, which was essentially Mike Richards saying his team has confidence in Leighton. Nothing out of the ordinary in that, they have been saying it all along.

That was some lousy editing.  The article it came from quoted several others saying more:

Hartnell’s endorsement was the most adamant: “You look at his numbers and it’s an overwhelming yes,… He does everything a top goalie does to win.”

Pronger’s was a little more specific: “He certainly played like (a No. 1), … We didn’t play our best hockey leading up to his arrival and he kind of stepped right in and got hot for us. We needed that. We weren’t playing very well, struggling in a lot of fronts. With his goaltending prowess over the month of January, we got our act together and rode him on a pretty good hot streak.”

Richards’ longer quote was very enthusiastic: “I’m fully confident in him… He carried us. He got us into the playoffs with the great stretches he had, and in the playoffs he was tremendous for us. I have a ton of respect for him. The situations we put him in, he battled through it. I’m fully confident that he’s going to be there next year, and I’m fully confident playing in front of him. He’ s played like (a No. 1). Seems like he’s earned it.”

Don’t know if the mgmt will listen to them, but this fan is thinking “Poking around in other people’s contract negotiations, intrepid fellows!  I love those guys!”   I can’t imagine any goalie not wanting to play for them.

Losing Nabby would be a big blow for the Sharks, though some fans don’t realize it.  Even those who do know it seem resigned to it.  I hope he doesn’t end up somewhere being paid a lot to be on a losing team that is, at least in part, losing because they spent too much of their budget on one player. He would be overworked, under appreciated, and probably blamed for all the losses. Oh, wait, that may be the situation he is already in, at least from a fan perspective.

Instead of letting their audience think they too are resigned to losing him, the Sharks need to speak up if they feel differently.  I understand that the Sharks organization has an information control system on a par with the Star Chamber, but that doesn’t endear them to me.  Other things endear the team to me, just not that.  I’m not one of their lawyers.

If they are resigned to it, then they need to make something of that loss, a change more drastic than trading a Mercedes for a Beemer.

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