The Ottawa Senators have had an up and down year so far. Especially when it comes to their goalies. Some names like Joey Daccord have done nothing but impress. While others, such as Matt Murray haven’t been everything that the team was hoping for. Regardless, the Senators goalie prospects have come into the light lately thanks to an unfortunate string of injuries. Murray and Marcus Hogberg both went down, which led to Daccord seizing an opportunity to only get hurt as well. Next, it was Filip Gustavsson who earned his first NHL win on Monday.
The Senators goalie prospects have been a topic of discussion for a while now, largely thanks to the fact that they haven’t had a stud prospect in the net for a long time. However, their approach to goaltending is already starting to pay off and here is why more teams should think the same way.
Senators Goalie Prospects Look Bright
Basically, it has felt like Ottawa’s plan surrounding their prospects in net has been to acquire as many as they like. They acquired Gustavsson via trade, drafted Daccord and Hogberg, and traded for Murray. However, you can really never have too many options in net, which is why their goaltending pipeline looks even stronger with 20-year-old Kevin Mandolese too. Mandolese hasn’t gotten to play much this season, mainly being on the taxi squad. Regardless, he is another intriguing young option.
There are a couple of benefits and setbacks to having so many young goalies. Sometimes, you need to choose who to play or to lose. Ottawa has seen their fair share of goalies go and find success elsewhere. Ben Bishop, Robin Lehner, and Chris Driedger are three names that come to mind. Not all of that is Ottawa’s fault at all, but it still can look like a tough decision seeing Driedger steal the starting job for the Florida Panthers knowing he was in your system just a few years ago.
But that is the exact reason teams should keep drafting goalies even when they think they have enough. Who knows when you will stumble on to the next Driedger type of goalie.
Keep the Pipeline Full
Basically, the idea for most teams should be to keep the pipeline of goaltending full, even when you think you have some good options. The biggest reason for this is mainly that goaltending is voodoo. While development, athleticism and health are clearly huge factors, sometimes random goalies will get hot or become something no one expected them to be. Whether they are one-hit wonders or become one of the best in the world for an extended period of time, either scenario is useful to have, especially when it only costs a depth pick.
Spending a pick somewhere in the fifth, sixth, or seventh-round either every year or every other year seems like it could be an incredibly smart gamble for a team. These picks rarely turn out to be full-time NHL players anyways, but a goalie who is even average at their position is much more critical than a skater at theirs.
As well, goalies usually play their full time in College or spend extra years overseas if there is no obvious path in the NHL or AHL, so you can try to spread out the development and usage as much as possible too.
Where It Can Help
So why bother doing this? Well, there are a few reasons why taking a bunch of shots on guys you like isn’t the worst option in the world. The first is for the exact reason that Ottawa is in now. The Sens have seen three of their goalies go down and had to claim Anton Forsberg off waivers before they even realized Daccord was out. Luckily for Ottawa, this season doesn’t mean too much. But what if this happens to a team with Stanley Cup hopes?
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche are two teams that have been dealing with some goalie injuries all season. Colorado was fortunate enough to trade for one to help start. However, Toronto doesn’t have the same luxury due to the quarantine protocols. Nothing guarantees these prospects will be ready. And no team should bank on them carrying them all the way, but even just providing a week or two of support would be huge. Giving yourself the best shot at that is key.
For developing teams, such as Ottawa, it gives them options going forward. With no true number one Senators goalie prospect, they have a couple of names to keep an eye on. If one doesn’t work out, you can look to someone else and see if they’re ready. Using this time to see what you have for the future.
Goalies Don’t Always Pan Out
One counter-argument could be well what if the team already has a number one prospect? Spencer Knight and Yaroslav Askarov are two names that come to mind that were picked very high in recent drafts and considered number ones. The answer though, is that these don’t always pan out. No prospect is guaranteed success. High-end prospects at all positions fan out. Some due to bad surroundings, work ethic, or just a lack of skill. However, at goalie that feels like it’s, even more, the case.
Once again, goaltending is one of the most demanding and unpredictable positions in all sports. It’s not always on the prospect if things don’t work out. But it is important for teams to keep this in mind when planning for the future. Just take a look at Carter Hart this season. For years, he has been pinned as the next great Canadian goaltender. And while he still very well may become that, it has been a rough stretch for him so far. Just assuming one player is your answer to everything in net is asking to get burnt long-term, and it’s why even when you have an elite-level prospect, taking a swing at one or two depth guys every couple of years can’t hurt.
What if Too Many Pan Out?
Here is the best scenario of them all, really. Maybe a team has some excellent development skills, or maybe they just got lucky. But what happens if you have more than two good goalies at a time? Well, there seems to ALWAYS be a team needing someone else. As mentioned earlier, this is one of the most taxing positions out there. Injuries are frequent and seem to happen at the worst time.
If you have to select between one of your three or more candidates because they are all good, that is a very good issue to have. You can take that to obtain more assets to either help you win now, or build more depth down the road.
There are a few downfalls like there are in any strategy. The biggest likely being that sometimes you have to make room for guys at lower levels. Take the Senators goalie prospects for example. All of Daccord, Gustavsson, and Hogberg have had to spend some time all the way down in the ECHL over the past few seasons due to the crowded crease. Some of that was internally made, like having more veterans in the AHL. However, some of that was just needed too for the best development of everyone. While it certainly wasn’t the most ideal situation, all of the goalies have seemingly turned out fine from it too.
The other thing is sometimes the picks just won’t work out, or you get a situation where they turn out better elsewhere. And while neither of these options is ideal, it’s also important to remember that drafting is never a sure thing either. So, there are going to be times when you swing and miss, but it’s the process that matters.
No one is saying to spend multiple high assets on goaltending each year. However, if Ottawa has shown anything so far it’s that you can’t have too many options. Constantly giving yourself another option to use in the minors, NHL, or even as trade bait is never a bad thing. Goaltending is the one thing just about no team can go without in this league, giving yourself multiple options at that should be the way to go.