I’m pretty certain there is a contingent of Chicago Blackhawks fans quietly not happy that Jean-Sebastien Giguere was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs over the weekend. Forget facts such as he is signed for next year which means the Hawks would have no interest.
Some version of those thoughts is going through the minds of people from Jeremy Roenick to the diehard of all fans. If the Hawks don’t improve their goaltending, they won’t win it all.
I don’t buy it. It’s too easy to blame everything, or at least most things, on Cristobal Huet. I’ve said it and written it before and I will say it here again: How often has a team, in the history of the game, traded for a goaltender when it already is at the top of the league in defense? How much less can they give up?
And who is to say they will give up less?
When did Marty Turco become Patrick Roy? Maybe I’m exaggerating, but if you don’t think he’s Roy than he’s not good enough to give up the one or two valuable assets you have to trade. The point is, you better be sure your new goaltender is better than what you have or it's a wasted trade. I’m all for a Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker trade for Martin Brodeur, but wishes don’t come true very often.
Let’s talk about Turco, just as an example. In a lot of ways, because he handles the puck so well, he would fit in well with the Hawks' puck possession game. I’ll ask the same question people ask of Huet: What has he done in the postseason?
Until two seasons ago, he was a major flop in the playoffs, and this was for several very good Dallas teams. In 2003, the Stars were the No. 1 seed and had trouble with the eighth seed before losing in the second round to the seventh seed. OK, they won a round. In the next three playoff years, they didn’t.
Finally, in 2008, they won two rounds before losing to Detroit in the conference finals. To describe Turco's career in the postseason as a moderate success is being overly kind. More importantly, many saw a different goaltender in the playoffs than in the regular season. Maybe the pressure got to him. Maybe not.
Turco has done more than Huet, for sure, but not enough to warrant the big trade of the season. I like Turco. He used to kill the Hawks when they were a dump and chase team but he is not needed.
And don’t forget, Turco might be available because his team isn’t having a good season. It may not be all his fault, but if he was having a Vezina type season, he wouldn’t be on the market. And that goes for just about any goaltender who is available.
Like you, in October, I was nervous. Huet was off to a bad start and his backup couldn’t be picked out of a police lineup of one. The style of the team hadn’t quite been established yet either. But then things came together, including Huet’s game. It has been my contention that he, as well as Antti Niemi, needed to get used to the Hawks' puck possession game and the idea of going 10-15 minutes without seeing a shot.
It’s harder than you think. Along with Huet’s game coming around, we also got to see the nearly unflappable Niemi rise to the top of the goalie rankings. He is still the only netminder with a goals-against average under 2 (1.99). Now coach Joel Quenneville, at least on paper, has a viable option if Huet falters.
It's part of the reason I’ve come around to the idea of not trading for a goalie.
Most importantly, goaltending is not where they need help. People just assume they will be healthy the rest of the season and even if they are, a defenseman is the route they should go.
What if one of the top four do go down tomorrow, or in the Olympics, or the day before the playoffs start? I have nothing against Jordan Hendry or Brent Sopel or Barker, but to ask them to win a Cup as a top four guy is asking a lot. They need the depth along the blue line.
Of all the players traded over the weekend, including Dion Phaneuf, the one that should have caught your attention wasn’t Giguere but Ian White, who went from Toronto to Calgary. White is the type of guy the Hawks would want if a Scott Niedermayer isn’t available. I’m not saying he was the guy but it’s the sort of defenseman on the last year of his deal that the Hawks should be looking at. A depth guy. Maybe it won’t cost you a big name off the roster but it will help nonetheless. The Carolina Hurricane have several of those types of players and would make a good trade partner now that Toronto has pulled the trigger.
Trading for a goaltender seems to be a bit of a psychological ploy. You want to feel like the Hawks realize they have a tenuous situation in goal and trading for a new model would make you feel that much better. But the reality is so much different.
Everyone keeps asking the question, “how would the Hawks chemistry change if a trade happens?” But they don’t ask it when it comes to the goaltending. For almost three quarters of a season, this team has rallied around their goalies. They have gone to bat for Huet when no one else would. Now the team is going to turn around and replace him? And when I say replace him, I don’t mean on the roster. Make no mistake, almost assuredly, a trade for a goaltender means Niemi is going back to the other team, not Huet.
So now, you have a disgruntled back-up goalie (and he will be disgruntled) and a new one with the pressure of the world on him, in the most important position in sports. It doesn’t happen as easy as it sounds.