Sunday, 29 December 2013

Controversy? Solved!

So there is apparently a goaltending controversy in Winnipeg. It's not as bad as it is in Toronto where it appears both Reimer and Bernier are avoiding saying the wrong thing regarding one another, but there's something brewing in Winnipeg fans and in the media about a perceived goaltending controversy. With Ondrej Pavelec getting the hook against Minnesota only to watch Montoya come in and backstop the Jets to victory and then the follow-up win by Montoya tonight against Colorado, some think there's a goaltending controversy in Jets-land. I want you to know that I'm here to help you through this problem.

The Jets have a pile of money committed to Ondrej Pavelec over the next three seasons past this one, so let's put this idea of sitting Pavelec permanently to rest right away. The Jets aren't going to sit a guy who is making $3.9 million per season when they committed the time and money to him that they feel he deserves. Montoya is making just over $600,000 for this season, and isn't signed beyond July 1. Pavelec will still be "the guy" as this team moves forward, so we can kill off that idea right here and now.

The comparison between Toronto's goaltending issues and Winnipeg's goaltending issues, however, should be looked at deeper on Winnipeg's side. Let's be honest that Toronto has had some success playing the hot goaltender as the season has rolled on. But this isn't a localized problem to Toronto or Winnipeg. It's a fairly clear problem that plagues even the best teams. If you want to climb the standings, you can't sit in neutral with this win-one-lose-one record. No, you've got to string together some wins, and you need good goaltending to do that.

Play your hot goalie.

I know: revolutionary, right? The Los Angeles Kings played Martin Jones to an amazing 8-0-0 start while sitting one of the NHL's statistical-best in Ben Scrivens, yet no one talked about goaltending controversies in La-La-Land. There's a kid named Frederik Andersen who has started over both Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller in Anaheim this season, yet there's no goaltending controversy there. The New York Rangers have played Cam Talbot a lot more than Henrik Lundqvist may have liked, but there's no doubt who the number-one guy is in the Big Apple. See a trend here?

All of those back-ups got hot, and all of them were played until they lost. The results should be no surprise that the Ducks are atop the NHL standings, the Los Angeles Kings climbed back into a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division, and the Rangers have gone from cellar-dwellers in the Metropolitan Division to being tied for third-place. I'll grant some leeway in that the back-up goaltenders weren't 100% responsible for the turn-around by these teams, but their ascension up the NHL standings board started with some solid goaltending.

So let's put this perceived controversy to bed in Winnipeg. Play Montoya while he's hot. There's no harm in gaining points and climbing up the standings in the Central Division where points are earned at a premium. If he falters and has a bad game, go back to Pavelec and let the guy run with it just as you did with Montoya. If the Jets want to even get close to the playoffs, points are far more important than building a controversy out of nothing. Again, play your hot goaltender and win while you can. Especially if you're the Winnipeg Jets.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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