I received a private message from a follower a few weeks ago that I found very intriguing.
Is it me or a lot of teams don’t have a strong second goalie?
This was my reply.
Definitely an issue for a lot of clubs.
Strong or unproven, hopefully it’s unproven, I typed in return.
“Yeah I hope so for them,” they replied.
“I think a lot of organizations are looking to add depth in that position,” I typed back in return.
The only thing they said after that was “to be continued.”
One longtime major junior team’s executive told me that the organizations look at selecting a netminder each and every Draft.
That’s a no brainer right, but when push comes to shove are junior hockey organizations doing it right things when it comes to growing and developing the position?
Are they patient enough with young goaltenders?
Do they give them enough time?
Do they rush them?
Do they play them enough early on in their careers?
Do they put too much pressure on their young goaltenders to win?
When is it time to throw them into the fire?
The questions are endless with regards to the highly competitive world of goaltending.
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do know that over the years since I’ve started scouting and covering the QMJHL, that very few sixteen netminders are ready to be “the guy” for their team.
In my opinion there’s a big difference between not ready and unproven.
There comes a time where organizations can’t hide their backups, can’t insulate them any longer due to a number of reasons. Nevertheless, for some young netminders there’s no time like the present to earn your place within the league.
But at what cost?
I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a goalie parent and certainly don’t and have never known or understand what goalies go through being the last line of defence.
We all know it takes a special breed and character to be a goaltender, but honestly when’s a good time for young goalie’s to play or face the onslaught and challenges of the next level.
This year more than ever before major junior teams will potentially look at giving their “young goaltending prospects” or “unproven backups” or whatever you choose to call them an even smaller percentage of games due to the reduction of games in the schedule.
Oh well the season is only eight games shorter.
Well that’s potentially three to four more games of experience they could be logging rather than holding a clipboard at the end of the bench.
I’m not criticizing the shorten season, I’m just trying to answer the followers question and concern.
Is goaltending across junior hockey a cause for concern?
Are organizations doing everything in their power to develop and help all netminders progression?
Obviously I think we could answer yes to both of those questions almost simultaneously.
So what are we missing?
Is it “not ready”, “unproven” “too young” “needs more time” or just not good enough?
It’s seems that the hockey world use all these labels or categories for goaltenders.
I’m as guilty as the next person, but I think we all have to come to realization that each case, kid, prospect, three year veteran or starter is different.
Obviously we can’t rush kids.
Obviously these kids have to play, but the goaltending position is so complex that the worse thing organizations could ever do in my opinion is set netminders up for failure. It all boils down to communication, transparency and honesty between the team’s goalie coach or consultant, player, parents and the coach.
The “unproven” need to play.
The “not ready” need more time to develop.
The “veteran” needs to be pushed.
The coach and organization need to win.
Unfortunately all those aspects of the game always seem to circle back to goaltending or the last line of defence.
Very seldom do you ever see a true 1A 1B approach taken in junior hockey, due in large part to value placed on netminding and if you do it’s usually only for one season.
Organizations can’t necessarily afford or aren’t given the luxury of carrying two bonafide number one’s because it’s incredible asset to move to either take a run at a championship or start to a rebuild for a future run.
Every organization needs it, while the organizations that have it never want to give it up, that’s goaltending depth and that’s the dilemma that many organizations and players find themselves in.
Unproven or not, many young goaltenders are going to be given an opportunity this season, I guess it’s up to them and the teams coaches to see what category they fit into at the next level and what course of action will be taken.
Every situation is different, every scenario unique.
For now we all wait to see who the next upcoming star between the pipes and when it will be their time to shine.