The last post about Fleury and Hossa and contracts set off a firestorm among the KrogBlog Nation. Five comments on one post! Our most ever! Great job forming an ad hoc 21st century community, everybody!
In the fine American tradition of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson's anonymous pamphleteering during the Congressional Congress days, a faceless fan wrote, MAF can't play like a girl all season and then redeem himself in playoffs. Especially not when his offense is beating the other goalie to death. Someone might need to spend a little time in the Ottawa locker room explaining what a real offense looks like. Exhibit A: The Penguins…
Well, hold on. MAF was maybe the best goalie in the league after returning from his injury. In the month of April, he was 9-1-1 with a GAA of 1.44 and a save percentage of .951. Admittedly, he struggled in April with a lousy 1-1 record while falling all the way to a 1.51 GAA and .940 save %.
Conklin's best month was January when he was 7-3 with 1.92 and .942. As great as he was, Fleury was even better when he returned. And it's not just Hal Gill clearing people out of the crease. Which he doesn't even do as often as he sends clearing attempts straight up the middle of the zone. Pucks are hitting Fleury square in the chest because his positioning is so on point and he's reading plays so well. He's standing tall when forwards are crashing the crease and he's also much improved when playing the puck behind the net. He's not Brodeur back in the trapezoid, but it's no longer an adventure, either. And his rebound control is officially excellent. Last year, and even this fall, Fleury had an amazing knack for kicking rebounds into the slot and right onto an opposing forward's tape. And those forwards showed an amazing knack for burying those rebounds. But now, he's eating up pucks entirely if not kicking rebounds out to the boards. I know some people still doubt Fleury because of the past few years. But I watched every game of Crosby's rookie year when the Penguins were still losing games 5-1. And the defense was so bad back then that Fleury single-handedly prevented those games from being 10-1. He's an amazing talent in net and it looks like the fundamentals are finally coming together for him.
And beyond all of that, my original point was that Fleury's performance is going to lead the Penguins to offer him a significant contract, which means there probably won't be much in the discretionary fund for Hossa. With Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche declaring that Fleury was the best goalie in the NHL when he returned from his ankle sprain, and also during the ten games before that injury, it sounds like the team has their minds made up. The going rate for top notch goalie contracts is about $5 million a year. Figure another $4 million a year for Malone and Hossa just won't be affordable.
However, I love Hossa and I think he's been amazing since coming over from Atlanta. This is...um...somewhat of a minority opinion. Most people seem to be agreeing with Chris Costa of Warwick, NY, who wrote to Dave Molinari in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Maybe I am missing something, but three No. 1 draft picks and a great shootout player for Marian Hossa? This guy has looked no better than a second-line winger, at best. What is the deal; is he hurt? That may explain some, but not all of this. I have not seen this player take over a shift, let alone a game, and that is not indicative of a player worth three No. 1 picks.
Chris Costa, Warwick, N.Y.
Okay, first off, Pascal Dupuis is already better than Colby Armstrong. He does everything that Colby did, except faster. Eric Christensen was completely lost as a third or fourth liner and his shootout skills are easily replaced by Jaarko Ruutu and Kris Letang. Angelo Esposito had 79 points in 60 games in the QMJHL, which sounds good, but that barely puts him in the top 20 in the league. He was also dropped from the Canadian team before the World Juniors. And for the 2008 first-round pick, the Penguins will be selecting somewhere around 25th. Here are the guys taken 25th overall since 2000, in order: Steve Ott, Alexander Perezhogin, Cam Ward, Anthony Stewart, Rob Schremp, Andrew Cogliano, Patrik Berglund. Cogliano and Schremp will be good for Edmonton, but we have fourth liners and guys in Wilkes-Barre better than anybody we'll get 25th in 2008.
Even if we don't resign Hossa this summer, which we probably won't because of Fleury (see above), we didn't give up too much for a guy who is dominant at times. He backchecks like a manic, can stickhandle on a Manhattan sidewalk, outskates guys and strips them of the puck like they were children and he's a bull in the corners and along the boards. He doesn't "dominate shifts" because he's playing next to the best player in the world and it's Crosby's responsibility to lug the puck, not a winger's. And if you're the type of hockey fan that only understands tangibles and also thinks Jordan Staal had a bad year, he has 1 goal, 5 assists and 15 shots in three playoffs games. You can't play the what if game, but Hossa was also flat out robbed twice by Gerber. He's had a bunch of chances, but two in particular stand out. A ripped one-timer from the slot that Gerber gloved and the pass from Dupuis when Hossa was literally behind Gerber in the crease and didn't score. Turn that bad luck to good luck and Hossa's line is 3-5-8 in three playoff games and he's leading the tournament in scoring. I honestly have no idea what else people want from Hossa. The guy is snakebit right now and we're up 3-0. It'd be one thing if we were losing this series. The way he's been playing, and with the chances he's getting, he could put up a hat trick tonight. Which, incidentally, would give him 9 points in 4 playoff games. Perhaps that would be enough to please Chris Costa of Warwick, NY.
Speaking of a Hossa hat trick, I'm also predicting the Penguins wrap it up tonight. If I picked them win the series in 7 and they do it in 4, just how much credit do I deserve? Either way, I'm taking a ton of it!