You know how I love me some Kari Lehtonen. But wait! This year there is not just one other goalie competing for his spot, not just two, but THREE! THREE GOALIES! Honestly I think there might even be four if we consider the baby goalie from last summer's draft. But we'll skip him for right now (no offence, baby goalie whose name I can't recall... Danique? I dunno. It's too early.)
A super-star of Patrick Roy magnitude when not injured or recovering from injury. Kari's not yet made his first camp appearance, but is expected today, as he's still recovering from his off-season laminotomy. I've been there, twice, and frankly I was pretty surprised that he thought he would be ready for camp. While he's likely recovered from the invasion of the procedure, there's a sizeable entry point in the skin that one can not risk opening. What's the number one thing one can do to open an incision like that? Play goal. OK and swing dancing, but I'm not really guessing that's a big hobby of Kari's. Golf also a little questionable, but I've never seen the kid on the links, although it IS great therapy for when your entire team pisses you off. I'm digressing, where was I? Oh yes! This has to be Kari's year. It has to be the year he throws down, ignores how his team plays in front of him (although really, Ex is gone, Kubina's here, Bogo's healthy, let's hope for the best shall we?), and just gets into his zone. A zone not unlike the one he was in once the Thrashers were mathematically eliminated last season. When was that anyway? January? I can't tell you how many games I have DVD'd labeled "THRASH BLOW, KARI SHINES!" It's time he stops depending on the team in front of him, and starts believing in himself, and frankly, says FUCK ALL HATERS! You can do it, Karppa. I believe in you.
Not a franchise goalie, but a possible cornerstone to focus a rebuild around. Ondrej's probably pretty god damned pissed off right about now. He's proven he's an NHL calibre goalie, and yet, here he still is, the third in line of a team with four or five signed goalies. Which means time relegated to the bench, or a lot more time in Chicago. How many more Calders will he need to win to get his due shot in the Show? For his sake, I hope the team will cut him lose if he doesn't land one of the two coveted spots on the Thrashers. Hahaha, I said "coveted spots on the Thrashers." I crack me up!
Had one fantastic year in the NHL, and is one of the best veterans in the game to learn from. If I were running this team, I would kindly suggest Johan hang 'em up, and let us hire him on as a goaltending coach, which if memory serves, the team still doesn't have. In my honest opinion, there is probably no better NHL goalie to learn from. One of the adages of hockey is that the best players are the worst coaches, and I'm not saying JoJo is a "worst player" but he is not in the upper stratosphere. Plus he has his own goalie school in Leksand. Plus he owns a team in Sweden. Plus he doesn't take anything personally and lets it all roll off his back. And PLUS, he was brought in to Atlanta specifically to mentor Kari. Let's just keep traveling down the path fate started laying out, and offer him a high-paying job as goalie coach.
Oh Manny, how you make me laugh. I have a soft spot for this guy, even if I could not give a shit less about any of the teams he played for previously. He's affable, charming, has a thick skin, has won a Cup or two (I think? I'm probably wrong), and has been an All Star multiple times. This is a good guy, and one that is desperately needed in the room. He's the Colby Armstrong of goalies. Or the Marc Savard, to go back in time a little. He would also do well to serve as a goalie coach/mentor, but dollars to donuts, Kari is not going to take to him like he did to Johan. The Scandinavian connection between the other two goalies, despite the tension that was apparent between them last season, is too strong a bond for Kari to break off and immediately turn to a new mentor.
So in summation, if I were the GM, here's what I would do about the goalie situation:
- Buy out Hedberg's contract and offer him a well-paid position as goalie coach;
- Trade Pavelec to a team desperately in need of a cornerstone goalie, in exchange for a Savard-like passer;
- Name Legace the back-up goalie, and split it 70/30 between he and Lehtonen;
- Assign Lehtonen a sports psychologist, perhaps Marty Brodeur has some free time, to help him grow a thicker skin, and learn to ignore everything around him but the puck.
Also, I'd like to take a brief moment to point out just how much the Thrashers lost when they let Marc Savard go: