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Are The Blues Ripe For A Goalie Controversy?

There's nothing fans of a hockey team love more than drama, especially when that drama is goaltender-centered. Welcome to the off-season, people.


Well, that ended well. I'm not talking about the season - I'm talking about the Blues' goaltending situation. Is it any more clear now than it was in February? Nope. Do the Blues have a starter? Sure. They apparently have three of them. While that sounds like a situation any team should be lucky to have, it presents quite the quandary for the Blues. One of the starters has quite a huge contract and is developing a wonky groin. One of them occasionally has problems with consistency, sets his crease aflame with terribleness, and has to be sent to the AHL for a conditioning stint before he comes back better than ever. The third one is a rookie with 15 games of NHL experience.

Fan-freaking-tastic. Personally, by the end of the year, I felt the most comfortable with Brian Elliott in net since he was obviously in some otherworldly zone. That zone basically continued through the playoffs - game four featured three goals against that were just next to impossible to stop, and the overtime goal in game five changed direction, as did the shit goal that ended the season in game six. The games that were lost in the playoffs were a team effort (especially that last one - God, people, clear the damned puck) that are really hard to place 100% on Elliott. The games he won in the regular season and playoffs, well, if the Blues could have scored a few more goals he could have had a margin for error. They didn't, he didn't, and he realized that.

Elliott is a piece of the potential controversy because he pushed Jaroslav Halak out of the role of starter, and Halak never got a chance to get back into the swing of things. Ken Hitchcock's main job is to make sure that the Blues win, and Elliott was giving the Blues the best chance to do so night after night. How do you risk losing valuable points by tossing in a cold goaltender? Halak could have gotten back into form, but it was impossible for him to get the playing time to do so. His groin is also becoming a question mark. If he stays healthy, he's a starter. If his groin acts up, he's Kari Lehtonen with more reliable backups, but that kind of situation throws off a team's routine and rhythm.

Allen's situation is probably the easiest one to figure out: if he needs to, he'll start in the AHL next year no problem. Does that cut into Jordan Binnington's playing time? Yes, but there is a league called the ECHL where goalies can also get playing time and experience. if Allen gets called up to the Blues, Binnington gets called up to the Wolves.

So, to answer the headline's question: no. The only controversy is over "who the starter is," because NHL fans have a strange compulsion to have to have a starter and they need to have a backup. Tandems where it's 1A and 1B freak people out - look at Vancouver and the Cory Schneider/Roberto Luongo situation. Instead of being thankful that there are two more than capable goaltenders on the team - with more in the pipeline! - people have to get irritated that there's not a clear-cut difference between the two NHL goalies.

That's why reports of a Hitchcock/Halak kerfuffle have such potential to get blown out of proportion. Hitchcock called it an "everyday occurrence," and it is. It's someone who hadn't played in a month, who assumed he was the starter, asking for playing time and not being happy with not getting it. The earth kept spinning after the discussion, presumably because stuff like the disagreement happens all of the time and is no big deal. Hitchcock couldn't throw a cold Halak in net in the middle of the playoffs, because Elliott was playing well and giving the team a chance to win. A coach's responsibility is to give the team every opportunity to win a game, and regardless of what you think about Hitchcock's decisions, you can't really argue with him using Elliott.

There will be all sorts of issues to sort out this off-season, and I fully expect the Blues to do what they usually do: stand pat and maybe add a cog or two. There shouldn't be any drama coming from the team, so some of the fans will invent their own to pass the time with. Is it something people should worry about? No. I think that there are bigger net-missing fish to fry.