If the NHL lockout gets settled in January, there will be a lot of games played in a short span of time, forcing the backup goaltender position to be crucial.
A reliable backup goalie in a shortened season can make the difference in making the playoffs.
With that in mind, let’s look at who we think are the five worst backup goaltenders in the league.
Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders
There is no doubt that if there is a shortened season, the New York Islanders might have a chance to make some noise with all of their young talent.
What could impede that is their goaltending situation. If there is hockey this season, Evegni Nabokov will more than likely be the starter while often-injured Rick DiPietro will be the backup, which could be a problem.
While DiPietro is clearly a talented goaltender, his injury history and inconsistency on the ice remains a major concern. It seems like every season we are talking about a DiPietro injury and then when he returns to the ice, we are talking about his inconsistent play because of the amount of time he spent off the ice.
This is not the kind of combination you want in a goaltender.
Michael Leighton, Philadelphia Flyers
When it comes to the Philadelphia Flyers, goaltending always seems to be a question mark.
Last season, it was Ilya’s Bryzgalov erratic play that was an issue. The season before that, it was that the team did not really have a No. 1 goaltender they could rely on.
If hockey is played in 2013, the team’s backup, Michael Leighton, might be the goaltending issue this season. While Leighton played well in 2009-10, he has not been the same since and has spent a lot of time down in the AHL with the Adirondack Phantoms.
Should Bryzgalov falter early on, will Leighton be ready to handle an NHL load again? That is not a question you want to ask yourself if you are going into a shortened season.
Jeff Deslauriers, Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks are lucky to have a No. 1 goaltender that likes to play and can start a lot hockey games in Jonas Hiller.
Last season, Hiller started 73 games for the Ducks and for a non-playoff team, had a decent season. If Hiller either got hurt or needed some time off, the Ducks could be in some trouble.
While Jeff Deslauriers is a talented goaltender and played well in four games with the Ducks last season, it is not yet known whether or not he could capably fill in over a longer stretch. With the Edmonton Oilers in 2009-10, Deslauriers started 48 games and went 16-28-0-4 with a 3.26 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage on a very bad Oilers’ hockey club.
Considering that the Ducks’ offence is was questionable going into this season, would Deslauriers be able to keep the goals against to a minimum?
Jonas Gustavsson, Detroit Red Wings
When it comes to the starting goaltending position, the Detroit Red Wings are set with Jimmy Howard.
In his last three seasons, Howard has started 63, 63, and 57 games, respectively. He can play a lot of games and for the most part, his health has been consistent.
With that said, however, Howard did miss some time last season and had to make do with Joey MacDonald in goal. MacDonald did his part and played well but one has to wonder if the team’s new backup, Jonas Gustavsson, can do the same?
In his three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 28-year old Swedish netminder struggled with consistency, allowing bad goals and not looking very comfortable between the pipes. Yes, he did play behind a very disorganized Leafs’ defence but when it came time for him to make the big save, Gustavsson often failed to do so.
Without the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and now Brad Suart, how good will the Wings’ defence be? If Gustavsson is forced to start consecutive games, how reliable will he be?
Brian Boucher, Carolina Hurricanes
While Brian Boucher has a lot of experience in the NHL and is a great guy off the ice, one might doubt his abilities should the league re-open for a shortened season.
We found out in late June that Boucher would miss four-to-six months due to a unspecified shoulder injury. Should a season start in mid-January, he could very well be ready to go when the puck drops.
While that would be great for Boucher, it might not be for the Hurricanes. Boucher struggled to a 1-7 record last season while posting a 3.41 goals-against average and a .881 save percentage.
Sure, starting goaltender Cam Ward likes to play a lot of games and has started 68, 47, 74, and 68 games in the last four seasons, respectively. With that said, there is no doubt that he will need some rest in a shortened season.
Can Boucher fill-in for Ward when the team needs him the most? Can Boucher get the team points when every game in a shortened season is critical?