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Sunday, 01.08.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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January 8, 2006

How important is goaltending? I'm reminded of one my favorite hockey one-liners that says "goaltending is 80% of your game... unless you don't have it... then it's 100%". Great goaltenders win championships and bring organizations long-term success and stability. Winning championships and winning large numbers of games and large games over a long period of time is what the whole business is about.

In the last decade or so -- teams with elite goaltending have won Stanley Cups. Colorado had Patrick Roy, Dallas found Ed Belfour, and New Jersey has Martin Brodeur. But until those goaltenders won a cup -- they hadn't won a cup -- if that makes sense. Montreal's transgression is Colorado's pot of gold; the aggression lands Ed Belfour, and New Jersey knows exactly what it has and signs Marty Brodeur and doesn't let him leave.

Oh there have been the occasional fun little runs orchestrated by the positions' "one-hit wonders", and most teams struggle to find a great one, or even a good one and hence are never or rarely in the mix. Organizations then must first find one, draft or sign him, help him develop, and then keep him around.

General Manager Doug Armstrong knew that signing Marty Turco to a 4-year multi-million dollar extension needed to be done, and done sooner rather than later. Knowing there would be many suitors for his prodigious puck-stopper, the GM has now put his money and the team's future in the hands of the 30 year-old Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native.

It is the second time Armstrong has had to sign Turco. You may remember that the 2003 training camp opened without Marty Turco. It was the year of J.S. Giguere and his over-inflated gear capturing the Conn Smythe Trophy -- and following that Stanley Cup loss to Martin Brodeur, Giguere too was trying to renegotiate. Giguere got his money first, setting the bar for Turco, who followed shortly thereafter.

The Ducks beat Turco and the that spring, but since then, Dallas has received the value. Turco is 25 games over .500 (57-32-15), his GAA is just over 2.00, and he has a dozen shutouts. Giguere meanwhile is 10 games under .500 (28-38-12), with half as many wins, and 1/4 the shutouts (he has 3), and a GAA about half-a-goal-a-game higher.

Guys like Giguere are important comparisons because Patrick Roy is gone, Ed Belfour is near the end, Martin Brodeur is aging, and Dominik Hasek is unpredictable and may or may not be in the league next season. The next wave then is important because from that group (guys like Giguere, Tomas Vokoun, Manny Fernandez, Roberto Luongo, Rick Dipietro) that a superstar (or two) will emerge, and that conditions will be conducive for one or more of them to win a Stanley Cup (or 2 or 3).

I've known Marty since just after he was drafted in 1994. I remember training camp in 1999 when he so wanted to stay with "the big club" but went to Kalmazoo instead. I remember he kept his mouth shut and backed up Belfour but was boiling under the surface -- anxious to get his turn. It came -- he nailed it. Well -- almost all of it.

He's an elite talent and his regular season numbers more than bear witness. He is the son every parent dreams about -- the friend everyone craves -- the employee and teammate organizations rarely get. He's won at every level he's ever competed, and has the trophy case to prove it -- and he'll win games and set pretty much every franchise goaltending record when this contract expires.

But is he one of those guys? Is he the next one?

Well my boy -- there's nothing stopping you.

 

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