by John Toperzer
The much-discussed contract extension of Marc-Andre Fleury on Wednesday comes down to whether you believe in him, whether you think you can win a Stanley Cup with him in goal.
Yes, he won a Stanley Cup in 2008-09. Since then, his playoff numbers have been terrible, up until last season. If you’re going to say the Flower won a Cup, you can’t discount his body of work since then. By the same measure, if you’re going to say he’s been an abject failure in the postseason, you also have to acknowledge his above average showing last year.
Fleury isn’t the type of goalie who will stand on his head and win games on his own like a Jaroslav Halak circa 2009-10. He’s not going to be the difference winning games but a good team can win with him in goal.
One aspect of Fleury and his debatable peripheral numbers is the fact that Pittsburgh’s philosophy has never centered around caring about defense and/or its goalie. Former coach Dan Bylsma’s best defense was to keep the puck in the offensive end of the rink, but at some point the opponent spent time inside Pittsburgh’s blue line. Bylsma’s system never successfully accounted for that aspect of the game.
Fleury has made more than his share of embarrassing gaffes, going back to his World Junior days. Click here (note Braydon Coburn wore No. 29. Foreshadowing?).
Do I think the Penguins should’ve extended Fleury. No I don’t. But I think that new head coach Mike Johnston’s system pays better attention to defense and insulates the Pittsburgh goalie better than before. I think that the team can win without Fleury needing to stand on his head.
He is entering the prime goaltending years from his late 20s to early 30s. The team is also talking about his positive veteran presence in the dressing room, which is nice but never stopped Tom Barrasso from having a heck of a career.
I don’t buy that the team should have re-signed him because it couldn’t do any better. How many times does a goalie come out of nowhere and have success? Happens all the time. I would’ve at least waited longer before re-signing Fleury. San Jose has both Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock. Chicago has Corey Crawford, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling. There are backups on other teams, some of whom simply need a break. But rather than getting bogged down in specific situations which will continue to play out over the coming months, it’s sufficient to say that there will continue to be alternative goaltending options available. That’s what scouts are for.
In the final analysis, Fleury proved first-hand to GM Jim Rutherford after the first 11 games of 2014-15 that keeping the goalie for four more seasons was the right thing to do. Whether you or I agree with the move really doesn’t matter anymore. It’s done.
On the other hand, it would be interesting to know whether the new deal gives Fleury a limited non-movement clause …
Kasperi Kapanen is injured (I think). He’s been stuck on three goals and six points in five games for at least one week. His KalPa Kuopio squad in Finland has played 18 games, going 12-4-2, yet Kapanen has suited up for only five.
Click here for a Finnish-to-English translated article from late October discussing the son of Sami Kapanen.
On a note of which all Penguins fans can agree upon, Fleury needs seven minutes and 57 seconds of scoreless hockey in Winnipeg on Thursday to break Tomas Vokoun’s consecutive scoreless stretch among all Pittsburgh goaltenders. Fleury sits at 154:46 and Vokoun holds the all-time mark of 162:42.
Is it just me or does Pittsburgh radio host, Mark Madden, ring hollow whenever he criticizes Evgeni Malkin for scoring just five assists at even strength in 11 games thus far? Malkin enters Thursday with an NHL-leading five power-play goals and 11 points on the man advantage.
It was kind of surprising to hear Pens coach Mike Johnston discuss his team intimidating opponents into not taking penalties because of Pittsburgh’s powerful power play. He’s right, of course. That was never more evident than Tuesday in Minnesota, but for him to actually come out and say it matter-of-factly gives us insight into the 57-year-old rookie head coach. The book on Johnston is still being written.
Links ‘n At
Pens’ Fleury signs 4-year, $23 million extension, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
“These are never easy because we’re talking about big numbers, and we’re talking about a player’s career,” Rutherford said. “I don’t want to suggest it’s easy. But Marc made it very clear that he wants to be a Penguin.
“He laid out his guidelines. I laid out ours. Once we did that, it moved forward fairly quickly.”
I have a hard time getting Rutherford’s midseason signing of Alexander Semin for five years, $35 million out of my head when he was with the Carolina Hurricanes. That deal has to be one of the poorer signings in recent years.
Starkey: Fleury deal perfectly sensible, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
“Historically, there’s evidence they can get better into their 30s and play at a much higher level,” USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen said. “I know fans have a love-hate relationship with Fleury, but I really think he was their best option.”