Brian Elliott’s numbers in St. Louis are downright nutty: .941 SV%, 1.72GAA, 5 wins in 7 games for a team that only has 6 wins overall. All for $600,000 on a one year deal. In the same week that Nashville gave Pekka Rinne $7M a year over 7 years, and with Philly already tugging their collar because of that ludicrous 9 year Bryzgalov deal, Elliott is yet another cautionary tale about managing goaltending expectations and looking for value.
This is no 20/20 hindsight: Elliott had to go from Ottawa, and there was no way Colorado was going to qualify him after his disastrous stint there. (Aside: that they traded Anderson for Elliott and then let Elliott walk is still baffling. They couldn’t have received even a draft pick for Andy?) I’m not suggesting that Elliott shouldn’t have been cut loose. More likely the lesson here is that the most fickle position in hockey demands a lot of selection and flexibility – the fact that we could cut him loose is precisely the argument for keeping these types of players around. You can go with a bona fide #1, but even the best in the game, your Luongos, Thomases, and Brodeurs, go through their rough patches. Elliott’s play in the 2009-2010 season helped to get a mediocre team into the playoffs. The fact that they had their money tied up in Leclaire meant we had fewer options when Elliott faltered.
All of which to say: give me four guys making league minimum over the high priced option who you live or die by any day.
Now, Anderson hasn’t been great this year either. After playing superbly down the stretch last year, the team decided, even after Emery, Gerber, and Leclaire, that it made the most sense to sign a goalie to rely on night in and night out. Anderson will have his better games in Ottawa, and with a cap hit of just over $3M he doesn’t have the worst deal in the league. But he’s making starting goaltending money for the next four seasons. Show me a goaltender making that kind of money who you think is consistently worth their salary. It makes much more sense to me to allow oneself access to those rare opportunities (Vokoun gets frozen out, signs a one year deal), to increase your chances at a hot hand by simply keeping a larger stable, and to work on perfecting your defensive system.
The goalie market is flooded with veterans and cast-offs alike looking to prove themselves. Take a look at how many UFA goaltenders are pending for 2012, and how many might be had for low-risk, one year, cheap deals – if, that is, the team hasn’t tied itself up with a ‘legit’ starting goaltender.
Elliott is a perfect example of a player who is working his way back to respectability with neither money nor stability in return. He’ll come back to earth eventually. And if he doesn’t for long enough, I’m sure some team will give him a ludicrous deal to provide ‘stability’ to the most unstable position on a hockey team.
It doesn’t really surprise me that Elliott is playing well right now in St. Louis. He’s always been a streaky goalie (see: 11-game winning streak in 2009-10), but it wasn’t his highs that were the problem; it was his disastrous lows, which the Blues will witness soon enough. Of course, the same can likely be said of any goalie.
Still, when push comes to shove and you’re in the playoffs in a must-win game, you want a Thomas or a Brodeur behind you, not a guy making little more than league minimum and looking to prove himself. At least that’s what I’d prefer.
That doesn’t explain the contract that Ottawa gave Craig Anderson, though, which still kind of baffles me. But I guess we’ll see what comes of it.
Elliott has shown multiple times that he can play great for a period of time when nobody expects him to, but then falls off signigicantly when he becomes the true #1. How many times did this happen in Ottawa? At least 3.
What happened in Ottawa was more related to the circumstances than to Elliott. After picking him very late he developed better than expected and was in the middle of what should have been his first full year carrying the ball in Bingo, and was called up because of Gerber’s shittiness. Looking back it would have been much better, for both Elliott and the team, to let Gerber continue to embarrass himself that year.
If Elliott had been given more time in the AHL, and then a year or two as a backup in the NHL (like they’re doing with Lehner now), then his development curve would have made a lot more sense for a 9th round pick. He was put into situations he should not have been in, and was playing behind some pathetic defensive play at times.