At the start of this season, with Mike Smith off to Calgary and a whole lot of roster turnover in the Arizona Coyotes organization, goalie Louis Domingue thought he saw an opportunity open up. Even though Antti Raanta was brought in to replace Smith as the No. 1, he got injured very early on and Domingue answered with a strong pre-season.
After getting a shutout in his last exhibition start, Domingue was given the opening night start against Anaheim — a game the Coyotes lost 5-4 after blowing a 4-1 lead. Raanta made his Coyotes debut the very next game, but was injured less than a week later, forcing the Coyotes to turn back to Domingue as their de facto starter. The 25-year-old finished October with an 0-7 record, .856 save percentage and was put on waivers by the Coyotes, where he went unclaimed and sent to the AHL.
Following his demotion, Domingue says “this is where the story gets interesting.”
“They wanted to keep me at home while they were trying to deal me somewhere, or trying to find me a spot,” Domingue told Matt Sammon and Brian Engblom on the Lightning Power Play Podcast.
“For a good week and a half, I was left without ice or a gym or any support from the team. I was just home waiting for a call. And they told me to rent my own ice. And I was there – I gave a call to my old friend Shane Doan and he came out with me on the ice in the afternoon with his son.
“I rented the ice at midnight just to shoot pucks and skate around because I was tired of being at home.”
According to Craig Morgan, a Coyotes columnist for AZSports and Coyotes reporter for NHL.com, Domingue did decline an ECHL assignment from the Coyotes. The team had three goalies, Hunter Miska, Adin Hill and Marek Langhamer in the AHL already.
Domingue got so frustrated with his situation that he says he started to think the end of his career could be near. He began looking at other options, including the Olympics.
“If you would have called me a month and a half ago or so, I was going to Europe in my head. We were trying to work an out-clause where I could go to Europe. I called the league trying to go to the Olympics.
“I was looking for answers. I didn’t…I almost quit honestly. I almost quit hockey.”
Then on Nov. 18, Domingue was traded from Arizona to Tampa Bay along with Tye McGinn for Michael Leighton. He played for the Syracuse Crunch that night, stopping 25 of 27 shots in a loss to the Toronto Marlies. After losing his second AHL game, also to the Marlies, Domingue reeled off seven wins in a row, allowing just 15 goals against.
Tampa Bay backup Peter Budaj went down to an injury at the end of December, which led to another NHL call-up for Domingue to serve in a backup role. He got one start, a 5-2 win over Detroit on Jan. 7, and was sent back down to the Crunch for Tampa Bay’s bye week. In the two AHL games he’s played since, he’s earned two shutouts.
Domingue said it was of course exciting and refreshing to move from an NHL team at the bottom of the standings, to one near the top, but that he has no hard feelings towards the Arizona organization.
“I mean, you see the difference right away. It’s an organization that they don’t accept losing,” he told the Lightning Power Play Podcast.
And though Domingue still won’t likely be a big factor for the Lightning this season, he seems to have found comfort in the AHL again with the Crunch, where he’s taking over the top job.
“How many times has a change of scenery had a positive effect on somebody?” Lightning coach Jon Cooper recently told the Tampa Bay Times. “Sometimes you’ve got to find your game. He’s most definitely deserved his chance to get back up here.”
Call it a move that worked out for both sides.