Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A brief NHL history of newly-acquired goalies being awful (and it turning out OK)

One of the big stories of the offseason was the goaltending carousel, with nearly half the league’s teams adding at least one new goaltender and several adding two. We saw big names on the move, guys you’d never heard of, and plenty of in-betweens. Four legitimate contenders brought in a new starter, including the defending champions. It was chaos.

At the time, we tried to sort through the potential impact, but that was just guesswork. But now we’re one whole week into the season, and it goes without saying that we already know which of these moves have worked and which haven’t.

OK, maybe not. It’s possible that first impressions aren’t everything, especially when we’re talking about just a few games of the most unpredictable position in sports.

Still, some of the early returns haven’t been great. Jack Campbell has had two rought starts for the Oilers, and lasted just ten minutes in his first Battle of Alberta action on Saturday. Vitek Vanecek gave up five goals on just 22 shots in his debut for the Devils. Matt Murray had a shaky first start in Toronto and is already on the LTIR, Cam Talbot didn’t even make it to opening night for the Senators, and we’ve also seen tough first weeks from Martin Jones in Seattle and Petr Mrazek in Chicago.

Should that worry teams like Edmonton or New Jersey? Not necessarily, at least if history is any indication, because there have been plenty of goaltending switches that got off to a rocky start but then turned out great.

Today, we’re going to look back at some of that history, and we’re going to do it using one of my favorite sportswriting tropes: The one where I give you some stats, badger you into admitting that they’re bad, and then pull a switcheroo by revealing that I was referring to a good player all along. Will you be able to see the ruse coming? Yes, obviously, because this sort of thing has never fooled anyone. The point is I get to act like you were wrong about something, and that’s fun for me.

Let’s remember a half-dozen times that a team acquired a new goaltender, and then watched in horror as that guy turned out to be terrible… for a little while.

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