What’s A Back–Up Goalie?

TORONTO (Dec. 6) — By waiving Jhonas Enroth on Monday afternoon, Lou Lamoriello acknowledged his first mistake as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. But, he came by the blunder honestly.

You may recall that Lou built and GM’d the New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cup titles between 1995 and 2003 (as well as two losing appearances: 2001 and 2012). He drafted and deployed one Martin Brodeur as frequently as it rains in Vancouver at this time of year (more later). The Devils played 212 regular–season games during their three championship seasons: 48 in the lockout–shortened 1994–95; 82 in each of 1999–2000 and 2002–03. Brodeur — the all–time National Hockey League leader in goalie wins and shutouts — started 185 of the 212… or 87.3 percent. His back–ups, Chris Terreri and Corey Schwab, started the other 27. Not surprisingly, this imbalance increased during the playoffs. Brodeur had the net in 64 of 67 games… or 95.5 percent. The minutes–played ratio at Stanley Cup time was laughable. 1995: 1,222–8 for Brodeur over Terreri. 2000: All 1,450 minutes. 2003: 1,491–28 for Brodeur over Schwab. Total: 4,163–36 minutes.

In 13 regular seasons (1995–96 to 2009–10, excluding 2008–09 when injured), Brodeur never started fewer than 67 games. Twice, he played in 78 of 82. The Devils’ split during that time: 1,027–39 for Brodeur.

So, really, what could Lou Lamoriello know about a back–up goalie? Or, the value thereof?

Upon divesting of last season’s 30th–place tandem (Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer) — and then acquiring Frederik Andersen from Anaheim for a first–round draft pick (30th overall) last June — Lamoriello went to the “remainder” shelf for a No. 2 goalie. Enroth never appeared in more than 28 games while playing for Buffalo, Dallas and Los Angeles between 2009–10 and 2015–16. In four less–than–memorable starts for the Maple Leafs this season, he earned a shootout point at New Jersey (Nov. 23). His 0–3–1 record and 3.94 goals–against average made it easy for Lamoriello and Mike Babcock to say bye–bye on Monday.

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JHONAS ENROTH IN ACTION FOR LEAFS, AT MINNESOTA, OCT. 20, 2016. BRUCE KLUCKHOHN GETTY IMAGES

In fairness to Lamoriello, Enroth did perform effectively for the Kings last season, posting a 7–5–1 record and 2.17 GAA in 16 games. So, it was reasonable for the Toronto GM to sign Enroth as a free agent to a one–year contract for $750,000 — just $175,000 over the NHL minimum. As it were, the Leafs got what they paid for. And, erred by not sensing the worthiness of a No. 2 goalie. With the compressed NHL schedule; numerous consecutive–night games and coast–to–coast travel, it’s essential to have a reliable stand–in between the pipes. Rare exceptions are in Montreal and New York, where Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist play Brodeur–like minutes. But, we saw what happened to the Canadiens when Price missed virtually all of last season with a knee injury. And, in the 2014 playoffs, when he led the Habs past Tampa Bay and Boston into the Eastern Conference final. A mishap involving Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers in the series opener ended Price’s season… and Montreal’s legitimate Stanley Cup hopes. New York eliminated the Habs in six.

The Leafs, of course, aren’t yet a contender for the NHL title. Still, the club is looking to make strides in the first year of its construction plan. Despite a middling record (10–9–5) after 24 games, there is much to like about the Maple Leafs and — apparently — good composition in the dressing room. Andersen started poorly but is now playing well. Should he be fallen by injury, however, the Leafs will begin to lose more often and risk shattering the rookie NHL experiences of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Connor Brown, Nikita Zeitzev and others. It isn’t worthwhile going cheap for a No. 2 stopper. Any more than a football team doing so at the quarterback position. Obviously, a No. 1 goalie is more valuable, but most starters need competent “help” during the marathon NHL grind.

To this point, the 2016–17 Maple Leafs are devoid of that commodity.

SPLENDOROUS VANCOUVER

Having booked a 5:30 p.m. flight home — and amid a remarkably–rare sunny afternoon for this time of year — I went for a two–hour walk in Vancouver on Sunday… with, of course, my trusty NIKON.

Enjoy these images:

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WHAT A LOVELY SIGHT WHEN PULLING BACK THE HOTEL–ROOM CURTAINS SUNDAY MORNING…

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AS COMPARED TO THE TYPICAL SIGHT AT THIS TIME OF YEAR.

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BY MID–NOVEMBER EACH YEAR, THE NORTH SHORE MOUNTAINS ARE CAPPED WITH SNOW.

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TWO OF THE CITY’S MOST–FAMOUS LANDMARKS. AT LEFT, THE FABRIC “SAILS” OF CANADA PLACE (OPENED MAY 1986), WHICH COMPRISES THE VANCOUVER CONVENTION CENTRE, THE PAN PACIFIC HOTEL AND THE WORLD TRADE CENTRE. AT RIGHT, THE ICONIC OBSERVATION LOOKOUT OF VANCOUVER’S HARBOUR CENTRE TOWER (OPENED IN 1977).

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AND, THE CITY’S TWO MOST–HISTORIC HOTELS, LOCATED KITTY–CORNER TO ONE ANOTHER ON ROBSON ST. NEAR THE BURRARD ST. INTERSECTION. ABOVE, THE HOTEL GEORGIA (OPENED MAY 1927). BELOW: HOTEL VANCOUVER (OPENED MAY 1939). IN MY EARLY YEARS COVERING THE MAPLE LEAFS FOR THE FAN–590, THE CLUB (AND TRAVELING MEDIA) STAYED AT HOTEL VANCOUVER.

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THE EASTERN EDGE OF VANCOUVER HARBOUR.

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THE WEST FACADE OF CANADA PLACE, WHICH JUTS INTO THE HARBOUR.

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THE BUILDINGS OF NORTH VANCOUVER, ACROSS THE BURRARD INLET FROM DOWNTOWN.

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SEA–PLANES TAKE OFF AND LAND IN THE BURRARD INLET AT ALL HOURS OF THE DAY.

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GROUSE MOUNTAIN (elev. 4,039 feet) AS SEEN FROM THE MAINLAND SHORE.

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SNOW–CAPPED PEAKS IN THE NORTH SHORE MOUNTAIN RANGE.

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THE “YONGE ST.” OF DOWNTOWN VANCOUVER.

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AS MENTIONED, SUNDAY WAS A BEAUTIFUL AFTERNOON.

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LOCAL HERITAGE INSIDE VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.

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DEPARTING WESTWARD FROM VANCOUVER JUST AFTER 5:50 P.M. UPON TURNING EASTWARD, THE CITY SPRAWLED OUT BENEATH MY WINDOW (TOP–RIGHT). THE WHITE IMAGES ABOVE THE CITY ARE THE ILLUMINATED SKI–RUNS OF CYPRESS MOUNTAIN (LEFT) AND GROUSE MOUNTAIN.

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HERE’S AN IMAGE THAT EVERY NORTH AMERICAN TRAVELER YEARNS FOR. REMEMBER THE 1996 QUASI–CULT MOVIE FARGO? WELL, THIS IS THE CITY FOR WHICH IT WAS NAMED. FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA, AT NIGHT, FROM 35,000 FEET. ROUGHLY 870 NAUTICAL MILES NORTHWEST OF TORONTO.

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ARRIVING IN SNOWY AND SLICK TORONTO AT 1:15 a.m. MONDAY.

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SEASON’S GREETINGS AT TERMINAL 1 DOMESTIC BAGGAGE CLAIM, PEARSON INTERNATIONAL.

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

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