Simmons: Canadian goaltending on decline

Martin Brodeur's reign as Canada's top goalie is over, but the list of successors is not as long as...

Martin Brodeur's reign as Canada's top goalie is over, but the list of successors is not as long as it once was. (REUTERS)

Steve Simmons, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:08 PM ET

As Martin Brodeur has aged and his game has lessened, this question has remained unanswered: Who is the best Canadian goalie in hockey?

It is no longer Brodeur, as it was for so long. And that question becomes important in the wake of another year of world junior disappointment because the matter relates not only to junior hockey but to the NHL.

When the Vezina Trophy was changed in 1980 — from the team of goalies that gave up the fewest goals against to the singular netminder who was voted best by NHL general managers — the first decade was dominated by Canadians. But both recently and in the longer term, only six of the past 17 winners of the Vezina have been Canadian and four of those were won by legendary Brodeur.

Of the first Canadian goalies selected in the NHL draft over the past six years, only one of them, Jonathan Bernier, is playing in the league and he is a backup. The other five — Anthoine Lafleur, Chet Pickard, Matt Hackett, Mark Visentin and Jordan Binnington — have yet to make their mark in any way.

A goaltending crisis in Canada? Maybe not exactly, because there is still Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price as top Canadian goaltenders. But there are fewer to choose from than ever before and the recent unfortunate world junior results have proven that the next one has yet to arrive.

THIS AND THAT

Can we make reservations right now for a Vancouver-Boston Stanley Cup final? How about a best-of-15? Saturday afternoon’s game, which had just about everything in it except Roberto Luongo, was this year’s Indoor Classic ... Just for one day, I’d love to see Brian Burke as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. Just to see him let Habs fans know what he thinks of the idea of bilingual coaches. Winning sells first in Montreal, just as it does everywhere else. Language should be secondary ... If I’m Randy Cunneyworth, and Pierre Gauthier all but apologized for hiring an English-speaking interim coach, I’d have told him off and quit that very day ... The book on Colton Orr as a Leaf: Two and a half seasons and next to no impact. He fought 37 times in a Toronto uniform, won 18 of them definitively, lost 13, had six draws (purely subjective scoring). For the record, the Leafs won only 14 of the games Orr managed to fight in ... Heading into Saturday night, Joffrey Lupul had 63 points in 68 games as a Leaf. In his previous 50 games in Anaheim, he had 27 points.

HEAR AND THERE

Have to believe GM Bob Murray was speaking more with his heart than his head when he said Ryan Getzlaf was available. What is everybody in hockey looking for? A big, proven, physical, versatile, first-line centre, with gold-medal and Stanley Cup pedigree. In other words: Getzlaf ... Me, assuming Getzlaf is available, would trade Phil Kessel to Anaheim for him in a heartbeat, if that kind of deal were available ... After all that money Terry Pegula pumped into the Buffalo Sabres, shouldn’t he have expected a playoff team, if not a contender? The Sabres have looked lost in the first half of the NHL season ... I worry about a talented kid such as Cam Fowler, who just turned 20 and is already minus-41 in 109 NHL games ... Next year at this time, one and all will be debating the merits of Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens and Sammy Sosa as first-timers on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame ... Closing the 2011 book on Sidney Crosby statistically: 10 games played, two goals scored, 11 assists, 13 points. When will we see Sidney next? ... What wasn’t considered enough when the Philadelphia Flyers traded away both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last summer: Claude Giroux is better than both.

SCENE AND HEARD

Patriots offensive co-ordinator Bill O’Brien is the new head coach at Penn State, which is a tough enough job on its own, without being one of Bill Belichick’s assistants. Among the failed head coaches post-Belichick: Eric Mangini, Charlies Weis, Todd Haley, Josh McDaniels and Romeo Crennell, who is getting another chance in Kansas City ... Saturday was an impossible day for those of us with poor attention spans to do our work. The Bruins and Canucks were playing. The NFL playoffs were kicking off. The Ticats were hiring George Cortez as head coach and Jim Popp was intererviewing in Indianapolis. And the Red Wings were in town. So if I’m more unfocussed than usual on wild-card Saturday, my apologies ... Don’t know about you, but I can’t get that Mac Millar part-1950s, part-hip-hop song out of my head from the Philadelphia dressing room in HBO’s 24/7 series ... Not only have the World Series-champion St. Louis Cardinals lost manager Tony LaRussa and star slugger Albert Pujols, but storied pitching coach Dave Duncan, the old Oakland catcher, has decided to retire ... Just when I was ready to anoint Dwane Casey as the coach of the century, watching what he’s done with the Raptors and in particular with Andrea Bargnani, along came Friday night against the New Jersey Nets, when the Raptors looked like the Raps of old ... A question that must trouble pro sports: Has the quality of HD televisions gotten so high that the experience of watching from home become better than paying to watch something live?

AND ANOTHER THING

It won’t happen, but after last year’s last alleged embarrassment, wouldn’t it make sense to name Phil Kessel one of the all-star captains? Not many have played better and that way you can have Daniel Alfredsson captain one team to love, and Kessel as villian in Ottawa to captain a team to dislike. And, the other irony, he’d forced to talk, too ... If Jim Popp, who is interviewing for Bill Polian’s old job in Indianapolis, winds up as the Colts GM, his departure from the Montreal Alouettes would be well-timed. What does Anthony Calvillo have left, maybe one season and that’s all? ... Not many executives have gone directly from the CFL to prominent jobs in the NFL but Jim Finks did in it in the 1960s, leaving the Calgary Stampeders for the Chicago Bears. Others such as Polian, and the late Bob Ackles have gone CFL to NFL, but had lesser jobs before becoming GMs ... Half the teams in the CFL have changed coaches in the off-season and half the teams have changed starting quarterbacks ... If it’s the goal of the San Diego Chargers never to be great, then they’ve made the right move in retaining head coach Norv Turner ... This may be the year both Andre Reed and Charles Haley, both overlooked thus far for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, get the call. The voting class of 2012, which includes Bill Parcells and former Niners owner Eddie DeBartolo, isn’t as deep as usual ... Happy birthday to Ron Ellis (67), Bruce Sutter (58), Garth Butcher (49), Paul Reinhart (52), Jeff Francis (31) and Virgil Hill (48) ... And hey, whatever became of Herman Moore?

Fehr and Loathing

Congratulations, Donald Fehr. In your first act of significance since taking over the National Hockey League Players’ Association, you have entered the world of Bob Goodenow smallness. And that’s not an easy or comfortable place to find. The very fact the NHLPA has kiboshed the NHL’s proposal for realignment for what are ostensibly lame issues is a shot unrelated to the matter of realignment here. It’s a scream that the bad old days of NHL-NHLPA war are back. And how much fun was that, first time around? The official nonsense is that the players were unsure about how travel would be reduced under the NHL’s plan for geographical realignment and how unfair the playoff format would be? Is the PA speaking for its membership here? Highly unlikely. But Fehr and company are speaking for their own power and it’s clear they’re not about to bullied by anybody or anything. Even something, like realignment, which made perfect sense.

All-Star Voting

All-star voting in every sport brings with it debate each and every season. But for two very good reasons, the NHL should look at putting an end to this age-old argument. Now that the NHL has changed the all-star format to a player draft — where captains from each team wind up picking their rosters — having all-star starters is truly moot. But considering what happened this season in Ottawa, with four of the six starters being voted in by the home team, a noble gesture of sorts — it has become less meaningless than ever before. For example, there’s no certainly that the four Ottawa players will even be on the same team, which would make the all-star game appear as an intrasqaud game. It’s nice that the Ottawa fans showed their affection for their own: It’s also time to put this process to rest.

Where art thou, Blue Jays?

In about five weeks time, Blue Jays players will begin working out together in Florida, putting together the basis of next year’s team. So far, the theme of the off-season has been swing and a miss. The Jays have gone hard at the Japanese pitcher, Yu Darvish, at choice free agents, maybe even at Prince Fielder, although Alex Anthopoulos isn’t saying. But what they haven’t done, except in acquiring a closer, is do much to improve a team that finished fourth last summer. There are no new bats, no new gloves, few arms to make a difference. The good news is there is still time for upgrades. The bad news being, it’s not a lot of time.


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