Sunday afternoon, as the Thrashers were in the process of dropping that giant steamer on the ice surface of Philips Arena, I had the pleasure of sitting on the end of the arena that Carolina defended twice. Normally I would call that the Thrashers’ “attack twice” side…but…sigh
Regardless, the position I took up allowed me to view the proceedings from behind the net Manny Legace was protecting for 2/3 of his 27-save shutout performance. As such, I couldn’t help but sarcastically utter to Smoothie and the Blueland Chronicle boys, “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have a goalie like him in a Thrashers uniform”.
Of course my tongue-in-cheek remark alludes back to last summer when Atlanta did indeed have the veteran Legace… who turn 37-years of age last month…in camp on a professional tryout. However, he was sent on his way in favor of Ondrej Pavelec, the Thrashers next “goalie of the future”, whom it was thought could handle the load while Kari Lehtonen was nursed back to health. Start Pavs for the bulk of the games for a month or so…was the thought…then allow Kari to slide in much the same way he did a year ago when he performed so well in the second half of the season.
Things started off well enough after the brain trust of Waddell-Dudley-Anderson chose this path…Opie got off to a very strong start and Legace signed with Carolina after Cam Ward went down with a nasty cut to the groin area. He cost the Canes all of $500,000.
But round about the same time Manny began suiting up for the Canes, Opie’s performance started to drop off. More and more the team found themselves having to turn to another veteran in goal, Johan Hedberg…which was something I advocated earlier on…and by the time the Olympic break rolled around, it was clear this team’s chances for post-season play rested squarely on the back of the Moose.
In his last five starts, dating back to the 5-2 loss to Carolina on January 21, Opie is 0-4-1 and has allowed 18 goals on 149 shots, (.879 SV%). This has dropped his season record to 12-16-5 with a 3.47 GAA and .901 SV%.
Conversely, in Manny Legace’s last five starts, he is 5-0-0 and has allowed only 8 goals on 136 shots, (.941 SV%). During that stretch of games, he’s beaten such teams as Buffalo…twice by the score of 4-3…Florida and Ottawa 4-1…and of course most recently, your Atlanta Thrashers 4-0.
The season numbers… Legacy is now 9-5-2 with a 2.65 GAA and .909SV%. Pavelec is 12-16-5 with a .3.47 GAA and .901 SV%.
As for waiting for Kari Lehtonen to heal up and come to the rescue, well he did not return in October. Nor did he in November…or December…or January. Finally, Waddudleyson grew tired of waiting for the current “goalie of the future” to finally be the “goalie of the present”, decided to finally cut bait seven and a half years after using a second overall draft pick on him… and he’s now Dallas’ concern.
Obviously hindsight is 20-20…and one can argue for why Waddudlyson opted to cut lose a soon-to-be 37-year old goalie over sending Opie back to Chicago. However, ask yourself this question…right now going into a playoff drive during the last few weeks of the season…stop laughing…would you rather have seen a goalie tandem of Hedberg/Pavelec or Hedberg/Legace? I think the numbers support the latter of the two options.
But directing our attention to a more forward outlook now, I would then pose this question you those of you in the blogosphere…
With the Thrashers’ decision to finally cutting bait with Lehtonen still fresh in their minds… just how long is this organization willing to be patient with Ondrej Pavelec?
As long as it takes?
Sure, Pavs isn’t injury-prone like Kari, but I just can’t see the Thrashers waiting around for several more years waiting for him to come around like they did the last “goalie of the future”.
As you ponder your response, consider this…if given as much time to develop as Kari, that would mean Opie has another three years before the GM…whomever that may be… runs out of patience. You willing to stick around and wait for that?
I’ll answer that question right now…no.
How long should the Thrashers continue to wait for Pavelec to finally become the team's #1 starter?
Total Voters: 134
Now, maybe that’s because I, like so many of you, are still jaded from the past several years of living through the Kari Lehtonen experiment. But as I see it right now, if sometime in the future the Thrashers find themselves completely out of the playoff picture…and if last weekend is any indication of things to come, that could be as early as Sunday…I’d rather see Peter Mannino be called up from the Wolves and be given his first shot an NHL play. Never too soon to get a look at the next “goalie of the future”, ya know.
Like Pavelec, he’s scheduled to be an RFA this summer. So why not get a sneak peek at what his worth could be before deciding how much to pony up for him.
Besides, if 21-3-0 with a 2.14 GAA and .926 SV% doesn’t earn a keeper a good look-see, what does?
Looking even further down the road…when July rolls around, I would like to see Waddudlyson have a look around at some of the goalies swimming around in the UFA pool. There’s a few out there to pick and choose from…not the least of which is Thrasher-killer Antero Niittymaki.
Hey, you know what they say…if ya can’t beat ‘em, pay him to join ya.
Regardless, I’m just not prepared to wait around several more years to wait on Opie to develop…at least not at this level. Let him season a while longer in Chicago, or do what you did with Lehtonen and end the experiment…only much sooner than they did with Kari.
This Thrashers organization simply doesn’t have the time to wait for a “goalie of the future” to develop into the “goalie of today” anymore.