The term ‘odd man out’ could be used to describe a three headed goalie tandem, but not in the case of the goaltending carousel in Philadelphia.
The Flyers, with Ray Emery ready to return, boast three goaltenders with NHL experience with no defined starter and backup role . These next week games should make the next week in Philly quite interesting. But for now, we have an odd man in.
Who stays, who goes? Who starts and who sits?
The team brought Emery in during the off-season to be the number one goaltender. In his first NHL game in over a year, he shut out the Carolina Hurricanes, putting faith in the controversial starter. At a reasonable 1.5 million cap hit, GM Paul Holmgren played a high risk, high reward gamble with his available space.
That gamble seemed to pay off, until Emery’s 14th start, where he suddenly fell into a massive slump. The slump would later reveal itself as a torn muscle in his abdomen region, an injury which actually occurred three weeks prior to its announcement.
The injury really set the Flyers back, as they fell into a huge hole and if not for the horrible season of the Carolina Hurricanes, most likely could have stood dead last in the Conference.
The Flyers called upon Brian Boucher to take over the starting role while Emery nursed himself back to health. Boucher’s play gave the Flyers an opportunity to gain victories but the offense failed to click under coach Peter Laviolette’s new system.
The journeyman netminder found himself back in the Flyers organization for the third time in his career, thinking he would retire wearing the same jersey that drafted him. Little did the recently turned 33-year-old know he would go from starter to third stringer in a matter of weeks. Recent rumblings point to him losing his job altogether.
The team has a lot of ground to make up in the standings and plenty of time to do so. The Flyers put their confidence in re-entry waiver pickup Michael Leighton, starting him in back-to-back games. The 28-year-old returned the favor with wins in both games and more importantly beating the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
In nine games started, the younger Leighton managed six wins, a 2.31 GAA and a .926 SV%. Compare those numbers to Boucher, who holds a modest four wins in 17 games, a 2.84 GAA and .896 SV%. Clearly Leighton looks like the guy with a job. On top of that his cap hit is nearly a third of the elder Boucher.
Clearly the sentimental pick would be the Rhode Island native, but just like twice before it appears his time in Philadelphia is coming to an end. This weekend should prove if Emery can handle the starter role again as he is slated to start against Tampa Bay.
If he can win games, he stays if not perhaps the decision to waive Boucher becomes that much harder.
NHLHS Senior Writer