Everybody needs a goalie and nobody has a goalie to give
Toronto, New Jersey, Edmonton and Carolina could all use an upgrade in goal, but their options are limited. Very limited.
Other than an NFL starting quarterback I am not sure there is a single position anywhere in professional sports that impacts a team more — positively or negatively — than an NHL goalie.
They can completely swing any team in any direction just based on the way they perform. They mask flaws when they play great. They make you think you have flaws that do not exist when they play poorly. They elevate average teams. They sink great teams.
Dominik Hasek used to drag the most ordinary, random collection of grinders and pluggers in Buffalo to the playoffs every year and nearly carried them to a Stanley Cup.
Peak-era Carey Price was probably the single most impactful player in the NHL when he was on top of his game, and his 2014-15 season was one of the most dominant individual performances of the modern era.
Every single year Ilya Sorokin drags a mediocre New York Islanders team to a playoff spot it probably has no business making given how average to below average every other aspect of the team is — and he is doing it again this season.
Goalies win Jack Adams Awards for coaches, and they send others to the unemployment line. But while goalies like Sorokin, Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg), Connor Ingram (Arizona) and Thatcher Demko (Vancouver) helping to elevate teams to playoff contention, there are others that are actively holding back some of the league’s top Stanley Cup contenders. Specifically the situations in New Jersey, Edmonton, Toronto and Carolina.
All four teams were among the best in the NHL a year ago.
All four entered the 2023-24 season with the expectation of being top-tier Stanley Cup contenders.
All four still have excellent underlying numbers, especially during 5-on-5 play, and are mostly controlling the pace of games. Despite all of that they rank 10th (Toronto), 14th (New Jersey), 15th (Carolina) and 23rd (Edmonton) in terms of points percentage. All of them are significantly underachieving based on the expectations, and goaltending is the one common denominator for all of them.
First, let’s just check out some team numbers across the league.