Jean-Sebastien Giguere had just won the Stanley Cup in 2007. In 2003 he was the Conn Smythe winner on the losing side of the Stanley Cup Finals. He was, by far, the best goaltender in franchise history and looked as though he would remain in Anaheim for the remainder of his career. He was on the third year of a four-year contract making $6 million per year. Jonas Hiller, on the other hand, had only played one year in the NHL as of 2008. Clearly, it seemed as though Hiller would be traded as nobody thought he would outperform Giguere in goal.
In Hiller's first year, he played 23 games while Giguere played 58. In his second season, 2008-09, Hiller played well. Giguere, on the other hand, struggled to stay at Hiller's pace. By season's end, they had both played 46 games each and it was clear who the better goaltender was, regardless of who was being paid $6 million. As a result, Hiller started the playoffs but the team was eliminated in the second round.
This scenario sounds very similar to the Thomas-Rask situation. The starting goaltender who had played spectacular the previous year, Thomas in Boston's case and Giguere in Anaheim's case, suddenly found himself as the backup for a few months and into the postseason. The difference occurred the very next season (2009-10 for Anaheim, 2010-11 for Boston).
While Tim Thomas regained his form and Tuuka Rask struggled in Boston the year after Thomas had initially lost his job, it was a very different situation in Anaheim. The 2009-10 season began with Hiller continuing his pace from his breakout season. Giguere had the opportunity to reclaim the starting job as Randy Carlyle was giving them both equal time to compete for it. Unfortunately, Giguere suffered a groin injury early in the season that kept him out of the lineup indefinitely. As a result, Hiller played a number of consecutive games and proved himself to be one of the most reliable players almost every single night, keeping nearly every score close. When Giguere returned, he could not outplay Hiller for the starting position.
Soon after, on January 31, 2010, the Ducks traded away their former Conn Smythe winner and Stanley Cup champion goaltender to Toronto for Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake.
Giguere was once coveted as one of the league's top goaltenders, known for being mentored by Francois Allaire in his junior days and at the professional level. Even though he was making $6 million, when both he and Hiller were allowed to compete, it was evident who the better goaltender was. Some people will try to compare our current goaltending situation as akin to Boston's goaltending situation. Unfortunately, these hopes and comparisons are reliant on Roberto outperforming Cory when he returns. If that does not happen, this easily becomes the aforementioned Hiller-Giguere situation.
What makes this year unique is that Schneider becomes a RFA at the end of this year and might not remain with this team beyond this season. In order to make the correct decision, General Manager Mike Gillis and team management will be pressured to make a decision as soon as possible. Unlike either the Boston or Anaheim situations, one of the goaltenders might be gone if we continue the status quo into the next season and show no urgency to make a decision soon. One of the goaltenders must be moved -- that is a fact that can not be denied. Both goaltenders are National Hockey League starters and one must be chosen over the other; it would be unfair to one of the goaltenders to have to relegate him to backup status, and would result in at least $8 million of our cap space being used on goaltending. For the team's sake and the goaltender's sake, one must be chosen and the other must be moved.
Some will say there is no controversy, and quote the very-much politically correct words of Alain Vigneault, Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo. Like nearly every single player interview in sports, however, the proper things are always said no matter what the situation may be. Cliches are used, supportive comments are always made about teammates, and no real answers are ever given. Additionally, everybody wants to give the impression they are humble and virtuous. An analogy that can be made is when your partner asks you how she looks in her new clothing -- you are almost always going to say the right things and keep the situation controlled, even if you may have another opinion of it. To keep people in check, no matter what the situation may be, the proper things are going to be said. There may be a goaltending controversy, but nobody will ever find out what the players are actually thinking to themselves because they want their outward appearance to be calm and supportive of each other. Those quotes provide no evidence regarding a player's position on the situation; they are merely to quell those who have no business knowing what is happening.
There are high hopes for Cory Schneider. We all want to cheer for him to succeed and perform well. He is a goaltender with such a bright future, and he has proven he can be our best player on any given night. If he plays well, his trade value will increase monumentally. If he performs too well, though, we must ask ourselves whether he actually makes this team better in the goaltending department, especially at a lower price than what our other goaltender is being paid. If this is the case, we will have ourselves a real controversy and a difficult decision to make. It is a decision that has been made before with other goaltending pairs, though.
Cory's RFA status has essentially shortened both the Boston and Anaheim situations from a two-year span to a matter of months. If Luongo can not outplay Schneider when he returns, and it is clear that Cory is our better goaltender at the end of this year, we must realize that it may be more beneficial to keep Schneider and move Roberto. It is entirely on Roberto's shoulders whether he stays or leaves -- all he needs to do is outperform Schneider. That will determine if he stays in Vancouver. If not, he will face the same fate as Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Edited by WeatherWise, 29 November 2011 - 04:14 AM.