When it comes to generating heated discussions, nothing beats a good ranking.
Whether we’re putting together a pre-season list of playoff teams or rating the best players in the game, there’s never any shortage of talking – meaning yelling – points when we at The Hockey News handicap any part of the hockey world.
Our most recent issue of THN, which hits newsstands Feb. 23, is devoted entirely to goalies and features a top-30 ranking of them. In the course of establishing the list, I talked to a pro scout who gave me the skinny on a few different masked men.
What struck me in our conversation was the almost mystical relationship a goalie can have with the rest of their team. In the case of Miikka Kiprusoff, we talked about how he personally doesn’t have great numbers (his .907 save percentage ranked 28th in the league, his 2.80 goals-against average 27th), yet the Flames players have an unwavering belief in him.
“I think with Kipper, the players have a confidence in him and he has a confidence in the players,” the scout said. “It’s almost like a mutual admiration society, because they trust in him and he trusts in them. So maybe he lets in a squeaker here and there, but they’re confident if the chips are down that he’s going to be there. He’s a special case because he’s so good, he might be having an off year, but his off year might be better than most guys’ good years.”
Indeed it’s hard to get too down on a guy who, with a league-leading 33 wins, could establish a new single-season mark for victories by eclipsing the 48 Martin Brodeur had in 2006-07 with the New Jersey Devils.
According to the scout, the trust between Kiprusoff and his teammates helps Calgary become a squad that’s more than the sum of its parts.
“I’m not sure why Calgary has so much success,” he said. “They’re doing something right. They probably have one bus for their players and one bus for their smoke and mirrors. They’re so good.”
Dallas is another team that benefits from a special bond between stopper and skaters. In a season where the Stars could probably have invested in some kind of mud-slinging apparatus early on, the boys never once turned on Marty Turco. He rewarded them by improving his play and the Stars are now well on their way to salvaging their season.
“I think probably the turnaround of that team really isn’t about Sean (Avery),” the scout said. “I think the turnaround of that team is probably about Marty. I can’t see that Sean was that bad an influence there that they would have lost all of those games. I think that’s probably a stretch, but Marty really seems to have found his game.
“The players never went sour on Marty. They know Marty was there all of those years when they weren’t as good when he was winning them games. Now the team has to find a way to win those games for Marty. And it’s probably evened out there. Now, the team is back on track and they’re playing really well.”
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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