Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Phoenix Coyotes' Crease Set for the Long Haul


When it comes to the Phoenix Coyotes, one of the bigger question marks over the years has been goaltending.

After Nikolai Khabibulin left, Sean Burke took over and later Brian Boucher. And despite the fact Brian Boucher set the record for longest shutout streak in a Coyotes uniform, the Coyotes were still looking for stability.

Following a troublesome time in the Motor City, along came Curtis Joseph who had a few solid years in Phoenix but even the man they call CuJo wasn't the answer, as his age seemed to be catching up with him.

At the beginning of this year, Mikael Tellqvist was the starting goalie with Alex Auld and David Aebischer behind him on the depth chart. Tellqvist was (and still is) a good goalie but he isn't a starting goaltender in the NHL on a night to night basis, which still left a void between the pipes for the Coyotes.

Don Maloney needed to find someone who could be the bonafide number one goalie that the Coyotes have been looking for. They had been looking at Anaheim's backup Ilya Bryzgalov for awhile at this point but Brian Burke was asking for more than Don Maloney was willing to give.

However, Burke had promised Bryzgalov he would get him to a place where he would be the number one guy. Due to a J.S. Giguere's ownership of the crease in Anaheim, Bryzgalov was put on waivers with Burke knowing that someone would take him.

Don Maloney pounced and the Coyotes had the man they were looking for.

Bryzgalov met the Coyotes in LA and played in a game vs the Kings. Not only did he win, but it was a shutout, signaling that the Coyotes had finally found their man.

With Bryzgalov starting and Tellqvist backing him up, the Coyotes made a surprising run towards the playoffs but ultimately fell short.

So with last year in the books, what does the future hold for the 'Yotes new number one netminders?

Bryzgalov is a young goalie at only 28 years old but the Coyotes have always been sure to look to the future and there are three goaltenders that have shown promise and really caught the eye of this team.

The first goalie is Josh Tordjman. Last year's starter in San Antonio (the Coyotes farm team), Josh posted a 2.65 goals against average and a .910 save percentage, along with 22 wins. His stellar play over the last few seasons in the Coyotes farm system has him penciled in as the Rampage's starting goalie for next season.

However a trade at the deadline this past February brought in a Maloney draft pick from his New York days: Al Montoya was acquired by the Coyotes and somewhat of a goaltending controversy was created in the AHL.

Despite Montoya's sub-par year last season, he is a solid goaltender who, with a little help, could get back to his high potential and really become a great prospect again.
His 2006-2007 season was where he really turned things on with a 2.30 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Look for him to seriously battle with Josh Tordjman for the top spot in San Antonio this coming year.

The 3rd goalie that I am talking about is probably someone not many people know, considering he played in Europe in each of his previous professional seasons.

Joel Gistedt has spent the last 2 years in Frolunda, Sweden where he has turned into a goaltender with realistic NHL dreams, and he really impressed me when I saw him at the Coyotes prospect development camp here in Phoenix.

Any Ranger fan who watches him would say he looks exactly like another Swedish goaltender on Broadway who received consideration for the Vezina trophy this past season.

He has unbelievable leg speed and really could turn into a surprise for Phoenix. He was one of the best goaltending prospects at the 2007 draft and really could be something interesting to watch for the Coyotes.

However, with Tordjman and Montoya in front of him now however, look for him to start in the ECHL with the Arizona Sun Dogs who will be looking to repeat as league champions.
For the first time in a long time, the Coyotes goaltending situation isn't a question mark in the present or for the future—it is actually their most underrated position when it comes to the future.

But for now, Bryzgalov could make it something really special, don't you think?

Image found here via Google Image search.

1 comment:

MJ Kasprzak said...

You guys got the steal of the regular season by claiming Ilya on waivers. He is already in the top half among NHL goalies, and will only get better.