Lock up Garon now

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

This past week Marian Hossa's agent Ritch Winter made an interesting comment regarding a factor in the decision-making process for Hossa when he was in free agency.

Winter inferred that when it came to evaluating the Edmonton Oilers, a concern that the Hossa camp had was goaltending.

I do not share those same concerns.

In fact it is my belief that Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe should strike quickly and sign Mathieu Garon to a long-term deal.

Garon was one of the top free-agent buys in the 2007 off-season.

He wrestled the job from struggling starter Dwayne Roloson last season, and an argument can be made that had Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish made Garon the guy earlier the Oilers might have snuck into the playoffs.

With a 26-18-1 record last season, a 2.66 goals against average and .913 save percentage, Garon gives the Oilers a solid presence between the pipes.

With the Buffalo Sabres signing Ryan Miller yesterday another very good goaltender is now locked down long-term.

There isn't a lot out there in terms of potential No. 1 goalies for the 2009 free-agent class, and it is unlikely that the Oilers could find another Garon-type on the cheap.

TIME IS NOW

So the time has come to move quickly, show belief in Garon and get him signed.

If the Oilers do sign Garon they should look at bringing aboard Lyle Mast as a goaltending consultant.

Everybody likes current goaltending coach Pete Peeters as he is a super guy, but Garon has a history with Mast from his L.A. days, and Mast is doing some real cutting edge stuff.

Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford was from the Show-Me-State with Mast and has slowly bought in.

Mast emphasizes head placement to empower athletes to create an optimum reactive environment.

For old-school traditionalists this is scary stuff, but it is starting to take off at the grass-roots level for goaltenders and even crosses over into sports like golf.

If you are going to invest $3 to $4 million on a starting goaltender, would you not spend $50 to $60K to have the best science behind him?

I would.

Hossa, on an appearance on Total Sports said the two strongest factors in getting him to seriously consider playing for the Oilers were new Oilers owner Daryl Katz and Shawn Horcoff.

Hossa and Horcoff played together with Mora IK in Sweden during the 2004-05 lock-out where Horcoff led the team with 46 points.

Talking to multiple players from different organizations around the NHL it appears as though Horcoff, who signed a six-year contract extension with the Oilers on Wednesday, is an emerging "player" with the players.

RESPECTED BY PEERS

He is seen as a bright, articulate, hard-working guy by his peers, who has turned himself into a very good hockey player .

This bodes well for the Oilers, as Horcoff can be a salesman for the organization in terms of trying to attract players, all the while re-emphasizing the core values that Lowe and MacTavish believe in:hard work, commitment and character.

Frankly, I am stunned that Horcoff has turned out to be as good player as he is.

If he puts up 60 to 70 points a season for the next few years while continuing to display the ability to neutralize top-end offensive centres he will be worth every dollar the Oilers are spending.

It is because of the success that Horcoff has enjoyed that I believe that Gilbert Brule will get his career back on track here in Edmonton.

Horcoff exceeded pretty much everybody's expectations of him from the get-go.

Former Oiler Jarret Stoll also developed pretty quickly into a decent player before concussions derailed him.

In my mind, MacTavish seems to be able to help get his centres to the next level and make them really good all-around players.

Don't be surprised if Brule is his next success story.


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