Summer’s Over, Everyone Back to the Tenders’ Lounge!

The 2008-2009 season is about to get going, well, at least the training camps for the new season are about to get underway.  Just as the players need to work off those summertime beers, Tenders Lounge needs to warm up after a couple months on the beach.  In the spirit of “what I did this summer” essays from the first day back at school, here’s an update on what goalies did this summer (post July 1st signing frenzy).

Pascal Leclaire, a restricted free agent, re-signed with Columbus for $11.4M for three seasons, or based on his performance last year, $422,222 per shutout (Leclaire had NINE of them in ’07-08).  Leclaire had a great performance in net for Canada at the World Championships, leading them to a silver medal and probably forcing the Blue Jackets’ management to open their wallets a little more than they planned.  You could make a pretty good argument that Leclaire would have been worth the compensatory draft picks if another team had signed him to a qualifying offer.  There was no way the Jackets, who are yet to play their first post-season game, could have let Leclaire get away… pretty good positioning for Leclaire (and his agent).

Ryan Miller (not exactly dressed for summer in this photo), who was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, signed a $31.25M extension that will keep him from shuffling out of Buffalo at least until summer of 2014.  Sabres fans had grown weary, VERY weary, of seeing the likes of Chris Drury and Brian Campbell shipped out of town rather than re-signed to long-term contracts so news of Miller’s contract extension was a ray of light for fans who have suffered too much and for too long.  Does this mean the Sabres are on their way back to challenging for the Eastern Conference?  No, but if they had let Miller get away a playoff run was going to be a lot further in the future, or even in a different city.  After watching the NFL Bills sign an $78M deal to play eight games in Toronto over the next five years I can’t help but wonder if the Sabres ownership didn’t place a call to Jim Balsillie to pitch the idea of playing a few Sabres “home” games in Hamilton.  The Miller signing at least shows some much needed commitment to the city and the fans and should (temporarily at least) squash any rumors of the Sabres moving to Kansas City.

Atlanta re-signed restricted free agent Kari Lehtonen to a one-year deal for $3M, close to a 50% raise for the Thrashers number one goalie.  Why didn’t the Thrashers lock Lehtonen down for longer?  Two words:  pulled groin.  Lehtonen has shown the potential to be one of the best goalies in the NHL and a player the Thrashers can build a team around but he’s also been sidelined for too many games with a pulled groin muscle.  For Lehtonen’s sake (and therefore the Thrashers’ sake as well) here’s wishing a healthy season (and even bigger contract next summer) to this fabulous Finn.

Tampa Bay gave Mike Smith a two-year contract extension worth $4.4M after picking him up in a deadline deal from Dallas last spring.  More importantly for Smith the Lightning publicly (and financially) made a commitment to Smith as their number one goalie just a few weeks after signing Olaf Kolzig.  With Marc Denis off to Montreal to try to resurrect his career the Lightning have cast their lot with Smith.  Smith had good reason to be a little nervous after seeing Godzilla come to town but the new owners said Smith is the guy.  They’ll probably even spring for some new gear that matches the Lightning colors.

The Bolts also signed two-time Stanley Cup champion Mike Vernon to be a special advisor to the new ownership team in Tampa.  There are two vivid memories of Vernon that stand out in my mind:

1. parachuting into Portland to lead the Winter Hawks to a Memorial Cup championship over my hometown Oshawa Generals in 1983 (used to be that teams playing in the Memorial Cup could pick up additional players for the tournament; the Winter Hawks picked up a star goalie from the Calgary Wranglers and the Gens admirably went with the players who got them there.  And then lost.)

2. the most beautiful glove save EVER when Vernon robbed Stan Smyl in the first round of the ’89 playoffs.

Except for Nikolai Khabibulin, goalies seem to have fallen under a curse in Tampa.  Hopefully Vernon can lift the curse for both him and Smith.

The New York Islanders hired former Quebec Nordique Scott Gordon as their new head coach, replacing Ted Nolan.  The Isles now have a former NHL goalie (kind of) behind the bench and a former goalie behind the GM desk.  Gordon’s NHL playing experience was limited to a total of 23games for the Nordiques between 1989 and 1991 before he made the move to coaching and eventually became Coach of the Year last season in Providence.  How did he end up on Long Island?  Well, when he wasn’t getting a cup of coffee in Quebec he was also playing in the AHL where he shared the crease with a young Garth Snow.

So with that it’s time to get the gear out of the garage, do some deep knee bends, play a few pickup games and get ready for a new season in the crease.  And the first full season of hanging out in the Tenders Lounge!

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Flyers Have Great Goalie History but Only One Cup Winner

Pete Peeters came within a game (and a missed offside call) of doing it in 1980. Five years later Pelle Lindbergh won one game in the finals but ultimately lost to the Oilers. Ron Hextall almost did it in 1987 after being down three games to one against the Oilers and then fell short against the Red Wings ten years later. And this year Martin Biron has led an unexpected run by the Flyers to the Conference Final. But in the 40 years of franchise history, Bernie Parent remains the only Flyers goalie to win the Stanley Cup.

Parent still lives in the Philadelphia area and has embraced his role at the Godfather of Flyers goalies. He proudly watches each successive generation of goalies try to duplicate his success and likes what he sees this year. “Biron is playing well… he is seeing the puck in slow motion”. What Parent likes most about Biron is his ability to bounce back. “Just because he has a bad game or a bad stretch, he doesn’t question himself as a goalie”.

Parent certainly know of what he speaks. After returning from the WHA Philadelphia Blazers back to the NHL’s Flyers he led the Broad Street Bullies to back-to-back Cups in 1974 and ’75. Parent was such a dominant force for the Flyers that he also won the Vezina and the Conn Smythe trophies both those years as well (Mario Lemieux is the only other player to win the Conn Smythe back-to-back). I was only five years old when the Flyers won their first Cup so I don’t remember seeing Parent play but my dad has told me a number of times that Parent meant more to the Flyers than Ken Dryden ever meant to the Canadiens’ run of four Cups.

Will Biron reach the pinnacle that eluded so many other great Flyer goalies? He seems to have the demeanor for it. Click here to read a good article in Philly.com about the history of Philadelphia goalies. There are some interesting comments from Hextall about the amount of credit he received for the Flyers run in ’87 as well as some observations from current San Jose Shark Brian Boucher that prove the Flyers goalies are all part of the same brotherhood.

Any Penneys Lying Around?

Remember John Druce? During the 1990 Stanley Cup playoffs he scored 14 goals in 16 games as the Capitals made it all the way to the conference finals (where they were swept by the B’s). Druce came off the bench, where he spent most of the regular season as a fourth liner collecting eight goals, to become the biggest steal in playoff pool history. I don’t know how or why my buddy Spud picked him in our pool but he sure let us know how smart he was when Druce delivered him the winner’s pot in our pool.

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Who will be this year’s John Druce and will he be a goalie? In the ’83-’84 regular season Steve Penney played in (and lost) four games for the Canadiens. Rick Wamsley and Richard Sevigny split the crease that season and the Habs struggled to the last seed in the Wales Conference. Penney took over in the first round against the first place Bruins and led the Candiens to a three game sweep. Penney went on to win nine games in the ’84 playoffs as the Habs lost in the conference final to the defending Cup champion Islanders. My memory of those playoffs was the organist at the Forum playing “Pennies from Heaven” as their new hero led the march against their longtime rivals from Boston and their new provincial rival, les Nordiques. Continue reading

Is There Still a Space in the Rafters for Number 33?

Did Patrick Roy tarnish his image in last week’s fiasco in Chicoutimi or simply entrench it? Patrick’s career in the NHL never saw him shy away from theatrics or a good fight. The former exemplified by his Statue of Liberty save against Detroit that ended up as a goal after the puck rolled down his arm and into the net, and the latter demonstrated by his toe-to-toe slugfests with Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood.

Not many Junior A backups end up making it to the NHL so let’s set aside for the moment what this means for Patrick’s son Jonathan.  .

If it hadn’t been Patrick as the coach and Patrick’s kid as the goalie, this incident would not have made the news outside Quebec. So the real story is what does this do to Patrick’s legacy? Continue reading

How Ken Dryden Inspired Tenders Lounge

The events that triggered the idea about a site specifically for goalies was the retirement of Ken Dryden’s jersey in Montreal last year. I watched the Leafs every Saturday night growing up in the late 70’s so Mike Palmateer was my favorite goalie but Ken Dryden was my hero.

As I watched the jersey ceremony last year in Montreal I was reminded of everything about him that inspired me to be a better goalie, a better student and more conscious of the world outside of hockey. And it struck me that not only were millions of people watching this ceremony and recalling their favorite memory of watching Dryden play, but there had to be a handful of goalies my age who had not only tried to rest their chin on the butt end of their stick á la Dryden but had also been inspired by him to further the social and academic interests in their life.

There was a community of goalies out there, young and old, active and retired, boys and girls who shared a passion for everything goaltender-related. Ideas about this community stewed in my head for about a year before Tenders Lounge was born. Even though Dryden’s ceremony is well past its news expiration date I still feel compelled to share what went through my mind watching my TV that night. I hope some of these feelings strike a chord with you. Continue reading

Welcome to Tenders Lounge… where goalies can hang out

Welcome to Tenders Lounge! The inspiration for Tenders Lounge came from a number of different people and ideas, including watching Ken Dryden’s jersey retirement ceremony last year. When I was a kid my dad got me and a friend into the Hot Stove Lounge in the old Maple Leaf Gardens one afternoon. I got to meet Mike Palmateer, and I remember watching him chat ‘off the record’ with the Leafs beat writers and the guys from Hockey Night in Canada. I was enthralled. Not only did I meet my favorite goalie at the time but I got behind the scenes of NHLers interacting with management and the press.

That memory has never left me and now as you read Tenders Lounge I guess you can think of it as the Hot Stove for Goalies. It’s a place for goalie interviews, profiles and stories. More precisely, it’s my attempt at extending the memory of that afternoon 30 years ago and letting the goalie community do the same.