Is The Future Now For Griffin's Netminder?|
Lack of options on the market leaves door open for prospects...
By Jason Kasiorek
Joey MacDonald was expected to challenge for the backup job in Detroit last season before back woes kept him off the ice for most of training camp. A flare-up just before the postseason left his status and his future in question. With rookie phenom Jimmy Howard in need of more seasoning, and Euro-veteran Stefan Liv an unknown quantity, the organization made other plans. The Wings jettisoned starter Manny Legace after a first round loss with the intention of acquiring a new goalie to team with the recently re-signed backup Chris Osgood.
As the Free Agent market has played out though, the Red Wings may be re-evaluating those plans. As names like Raycroft, Gerber, and Roloson were signed or traded; Detroit soon found itself on the outside looking in. As the dust settled from the UFA signing frenzy, the netminder's left fell into three categories, the old (Belfour, Hasek), the injured (Giguere), and the expensive (Nabokov). This could open the door for MacDonald or one of his competitors to force their way into the limelight.
The Red Wings brass is keeping a keen eye on the three at the Wings development camp this week in Detroit. Wings GM Ken Holland has indicated that regardless of what other goaltenders the team takes to Traverse City, the prospects should go to training camp trying to win a job in Detroit. MacDonald would have to be the favorite of the three if he can stay healthy. "Come September, I want to be 100%," MacDonald said. "I just have to come back, battle, and play like I have been."
Jimmy Howard, the AHL's top rookie goalie is still viewed by most in the organization as a future star, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of the last AHL all rookie netminder, Cam Ward. He remains philosophical about his chances however, "Those decisions that management make are out of our hands," he said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. "The only thing we can do that's in our control is to just continue to work hard and give ourselves a shot."
Liv, in his first North American season, has a pretty impressive pedigree with an Olympic gold medal, and could make a similar impression to last year's sensation Henrik Lundqvist. Not to be left out in the cold is dark horse Drew MacIntyre, arguably the best goalie in the ECHL last season. MacIntyre is not in Detroit this week, but his play in camp could force some other tough decisions in the pecking order.
The Griffin's crease could be crowded this season with MacDonald, Howard, Liv and even MacIntyre sharing the duties. "It's never ideal, but it's up to the guys to challenge each other and work it out," Griffins GM Bob McNamara told the Detroit Free Press. "At the same time, the better guys typically rise to the top. "You've got three guys that are really high-end for the American league and in some sense ready to jump to the NHL in short order."