Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Veteran Goaltending For Cheap

There was an interesting topic brought up last night on a Canadian hockey highlight show. The Score's team of Steve Kouleas and Steve Ludzik were running down the highlights of the Pittsburgh Penguins-Montreal Canadiens game last night, and were commenting on the two young goaltenders that Pittsburgh is set to start the season with: Marc-Andre Fleury and Dany Sabourin. As Mr. Kouleas suggested, what would prevent the Penguins from going out and offering free agent goaltender Curtis Joseph $500,000 this season to mentor Marc-Andre Fleury while providing more-than-adequate backup goaltending? This is a question I gave some thought to last night, and it occurs to me that this might not be such a bad idea.

First and foremost, it occurs to me that Curtis Joseph wants to be close to his family. He has publicly stated to that his kids and family are more of a priority now than ever before. His kids were home-schooled in Phoenix, but that's no longer an option. He and his wife decided that a stable school environment would be more productive for their children.

"'They need to be around their friends. They need to be stimulated socially and at school,' Joseph said.

"Joseph's three boys, ages 13, 11 and 6, are all involved in minor hockey in the area and his daughter is heading into 11th grade. Still, if people expected Joseph to feel sorry for himself or feel he is somehow owed something, they'll be disappointed.

"If a fit with an NHL club happens this season, 'That's great, that's a bonus,' he added. 'But my life has to go on. That's the way it's going to be.'"

This is somewhat similar to the situation that Joseph's friend and former teammate Gary Roberts went through at last season's deadline. Roberts had said that he would only play for the Maple Leafs or Senators in order to be closer to his family. However, when Pittsburgh came up, Roberts decided it would work. Pittsburgh is, after all, only six hours from Toronto. Having a familiar face in Gary Roberts there may only sweeten the deal for Curtis Joseph.

Besides having a friend or two in Pittsburgh already, Joseph wouldn't have to be the starter in Pittsburgh. Having Dany Sabourin around as an alternate backup would allow Joseph to take time off for family-related matters as well. Marc-Andre Fleury could still carry the workload while learning the trade from an established NHL goalie like Joseph. This would be a win-win situation as the young Sabourin could also gain tips from one of the premiere goaltenders of the 1990s. All the while, Joseph would be a reliable backup for the young Penguins team if Fleury should falter this season. That point alone should have the Penguins writing up a contract.

Of course, it's all up to Cujo. If he felt that Pittsburgh wasn't a good fit, that's entirely his decision. I understand that Dany Sabourin may not like getting pushed to number three on the depth chart, but signing Curtis Joseph will only help his career, not hurt it. It's not like Joseph will play for another three years or more. He's 40 years-old this season, and there aren't many 40 year-old goaltenders left. Having Sabourin play in the AHL to gain some real minutes after sitting the entire season behind Roberto Luongo last year will certainly help Sabourin in the long run.

If I were GM Ray Shero, I'd be calling Curtis Joseph's agent right now. There is no harm in bringing in the guy for a look, especially at this point in his career. He has enough money to live comfortably, and the Penguins need a veteran goaltending presence to help their young goaltenders get better, and their young team remain confident. Curtis Joseph in Pittsburgh seems like a perfect fit.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Eighty-Two said...

Bringing CUJO in would be a brilliant idea, but I think Thibault was supposed to serve the same function before being sent to Buffalo. Thibault and Fleury were both French-Canadian goalies, but Joseph really wouldn't have that bond between he and MAF.

Elly said...

You know, I never thought about Cujo during my ranting and whining about not having solid backups for Flower. Hmm...aside from the fact that he's getting up there and that his last season wasn't, er, all that spectacular, his track record from the past at least should get him a look or two, and a bit more mentoring to settle Fleury down wouldn't be amiss. Fleury's going to be a fantastic goalie, and I'd love for him to be able to learn from just about anyone who has the merit to teach him that. I think the main question is just that, though: does Cujo have enough left in him to keep up with Pens as a backup? Maybe even as an alternate backup with Sabourin?

Teebz said...

82 - I don't think there has to be a bond other than Cujo passing on his knowledge of players and situations. Thibault really isn't the best guy as a mentor for MAF, so why not get the best guy possible?

Elly - no, I don't think Cujo would be a great 1A starter, but having him in a shared backup role with Sabourin would be perfect for his situation and the Penguins' situation. Fleury is a great goalie already, but gaining more experience in between the pipes can only help the team, not hurt it. I still see Fleury playing 60 or so games. Cujo and Sabourin can split the remaining 20.

Anonymous said...

Somebody needs to push MAF- Sabourin is not a good back up for the 22 yr old goalie. CuJo would be a good leader for the young goalies- MAF needs to step up in net if this team wants to play hockey into the summer.