Goalie Week here at SenShot continues and after ranking the goalies in the West, I turn closer to home and start with the Eastern Conference. Today I look at the Southeast Division.
Carolina Hurricanes (Cam Ward, Brian Boucher, Justin Peters)
Cam Ward won a Stanley Cup as a rookie, but has only led the Canes to the playoffs once in the six seasons since then.However, aside from a dreadful 2009-10 season, he is a lock for 65 starts and 30+ wins. Now 28 years old, he should just be entering his prime. The backup role will be hotly contested in training camp between Boucher and Peters, but with Peters on a two way contract he will likely have to wait another year. However, Boucher won only once in 8 starts last season and missed 36 games due to injury.
Florida Panthers (Jose Theodore, Scott Clemmensen)
Despite rumors of a return of Roberto Luongo to the sunshine state, the Panthers got enough from Theodore and Clemmensen last year to win the division. However, they did that on the back of 18 OT/SO losses, more than any other team. Theodore got the bulk of the work, but had only 22 wins. Clemmensen won 14 of his 22 starts, and could win the starting job in camp. The most interesting thing is prospect Jacob Markstrom, who could push the pair and make it difficult for Florida to send him down. Should be an interesting battle at Panthers training camp.
Tampa Bay Lightning (Anders Lindback, Mathieu Garon)
With Dwayne Roloson showing his age last season, the Lightning had a huge role to fill if they wanted to be in the playoff mix this year. Their solution was to acquire Lindback from the Predators. The huge Swede will finally get a chance to be a starter, after playing in only 38 games over the past two seasons as Pekka Rinne’s understudy. He has to prove he can handle the everyday workload, but his talent is unquestionable. Garon took over the starting role after Roloson stumbled, but his numbers were less than stellar, and he is probably more suited to the backup role at this point in his career.
Washington Capitals (Michal Neuvirth, Braden Holtby)
After injury derailed the Thomas Vokoun era, the Caps will go with a young duo that has less than 150 combined NHL games. The starting role will be up for grabs, with Holtby perhaps having the inside track with his playoff performance last season. With a new coach and new system, the pressure will be on the pair of puppies in the net. They have both shown they are capable, but are unproven over the long haul.
Winnipeg Jets (Ondrej Pavelic, Al Montoya)
With Pavelic now signed long term, the hunt was on for a suitable backup. The Jets answer was Al Montoya, a former 5th overall pick who has yet to make his mark in the league. Montoya played a career high 31 games last season but his performance left something to be desired. Pavelic is good, but I don’t think he is a 60-65 game starter that can be at his best with that workload, so the Jets are going to need Montoya to be consistent in his 20-25 starts. This becomes even more important when you factor in the (still) much more extensive travel requirements for the Jets.
So there you have it, a quick look at the Southeast Division. There was a lot of turnover, and there are a lot of questions marks and inexperience dotting the division. So who is the best? Here is my ranking:
5. Winnipeg Jets – I don’t know that Pavelic can be consistent with the workload he will be subjected to.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning – Until Lindback proves he is an everyday goalie, there will be some nervousness in T-Bay.
3. Florida Panthers – They got away with it last year, but the duo doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Add Luongo however and….
2. Washington Capitals – Very young unproven pair, but both have shown stretches of being able to get the job done.
1. Carolina Hurricanes – Ward is the most experienced and is consistent, and has proven he can handle a workload. The battle for the backup spot should provide some solid play when Ward needs a break.
So there you have it. Out of all six divisions, I would consider the Southeast the weakest group from top to bottom. There have been a lot of changes in the division, and a lot of questions to be answered.
Tomorrow I will look at the Atlantic Division, which contains some characters as well as some of the top netminders in the league.