Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rookie Debuts But Nux Can't Get Off The Schneid

Finally, Canuck fans got to see hotshot 2004 1st round draft pick Cory Schneider play for the big club. Making his NHL debut Saturday night in Calgary, Schneider was solid stopping 28 of 31 shots thrown at him.

You're not in the A anymore--close that five hole, Cory

Sadly, the Canucks in front of him had another poor offensive effort firing just 18 shots at Miikka Kiprusoff (who has struggled this and last season, especially vs. Vancouver) and scoring just once in a 3-1 loss to the Flames.

With the Manitoba Moose, Schneider's .945 save percentage and a 10-1 won-loss record placed him among the top '08/09 AHL goaltenders, his time has come even if it has taken a Roberto Luongo injury to get him his start in the NHL.

But be forewarned, success in the AHL more often than not does not equal success on the NHL stage. Of course, the arrival of Carey Price to the #1 spot in Montreal has focused more attention on how young goalies are doing in the A. The trouble is for every Carey Price who takes a team down there to the Calder Cup championship, there are tens of goalies more like Dany Sabourin.

Ex-Canuck and current Pen Sabourin led the AHL in save pct back in 2005/06. He remains little more than a career NHL backup now three seasons later. The list of top AHL goalies from that season reveals no Johnny Bower gem among the lot:

  • David LeNeveau is 25 years old and is currently backing up Jonas Hiller on the Ducks while their #1 goalie J.S. Giguere attends to some family matters in Montreal.
  • Adam Hauser is 28 and now playing in Germany.
  • Wade Flaherty, 40 and another ex-Manitoba Moose goalie, has spent the last seven seasons in the AHL. His last NHL game was a single appearance in '02/03 with Nashville.
  • Josh Harding, 24, is the youngest among the group and is firmly established as the #2 in Minnesota behind Nicklas Backstrom.
Of course, gone are the Original Six days where Hall of Fame goalies remained buried in the AHL for years before getting their full-time (Bower did sneak in a season or so with the New York Rangers in the midst of his lengthy AHL career) NHL shot like Bower did at the age of 34. To be perfectly blunt, most goalies worth their weight in salt, or any other commodity, spend anywhere from a cup of coffee to a light lunch down in the AHL before being called up for good to the NHL.

Luongo played all of 29 regular season GP in the minors. Martin Brodeur had a paltry 32 GP stint. Patrick Roy played a grand total of 1 AHL regular season game.

Carey Price managed a paltry 12 regular season games to go along with his great AHL playoff run in '06/07. Even Conn Smythe Award winner Cam Ward barely noticed Lowell (52 GP) was the birthplace of Jack Kerouac before he was on the road to the Stanley Cup.

So here's hoping Cory is more a Carey (as in Price) than these two versions of his own namesake.

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