This has certainly been the year of the goaltender, from Carey Price to Pekka Rinne, Marc-Andre Fleury, Cam Talbot all the way down to guys like Andrew Hammond - guys who have stolen the headlines because of injuries or have seized their opportunity. We have seen many storylines emerge. With 25 of 30 teams using three or more goalies this season - which is unreal - we are seeing some internal battles that may make a regular everyday tender expendable in the foreseeable future.
We have touched on lots of the individual battles in certain organizations, so let's take a look at the Vancouver Canucks.
With all the debate surrounding Andrew Hammond's work, and Craig Anderson coming back healthy to play the last couple games, it has sparked a conversation about the Vancouver Canucks. Eddie Lack has done a very good job in the absence of Ryan Miller, and has given the Canucks a chance to win every night. Now let's assume that it's a steady path and the Canucks make the playoffs, or are on the cusp of making the playoffs led by Lack down the stretch - the great debate out there will be who do you go with when Miller is healthy?
I'm on record saying I like Eddie Lack as a goaltender, and I think he has needed somebody to work with to excel, (see efforts with Luongo last year) but you have to take a look at why Miller was brought in.
The Vancouver Canucks rode Lack for 19 straight games down the stretch last year, and part of that can stem from former head coach John Tortorella not believing in Jacob Markstrom's ability at the NHL level, and the fact that Lack was good for the Canucks last season.
Now people will say it was a different coach and different management that made those decisions, which would be true. But you would have to think that Jim Benning was well aware of the team that he was inheriting. With that being said, Lack could have been deemed his number one moving forward this season but he chose to go out and sign Miller to a three-year, $18 million dollar contract, and keep Lack as his No. 2, while taking a chance by waving Markstrom and putting him in the minors for some more seasoning.
That was a clear decision that the position in his mind needed pedigree, stability and someone that the underachieving team from the season before could trust and play in front of confidently.
Ryan Miller has been that guy, regardless of his ups and downs this season. He came in and has done his job in a position that has been a lightning rod, given the Luongo/Schneider fiasco that dominated the spotlight for way too long.
Assuming or "if" the Canucks stay afloat down the stretch with Lack driving the bus and "if" Miller gets cleared with sufficient time to get some games in to shake the rust off, you have to think they still give Miller the reins to run with it in the playoffs.
Now people will point to last year's playoff and say it didn't work out well for him. That's true, but you also have to factor in the injuries St. Louis had as well. This was a team that had as many eight regulars that were nursing serious injuries down the stretch and into the playoffs. They were a real depleted team; had they been healthy, you never know - that's not for me to speculate on - but it's more about what Miller had to deal with at that time. Eddie Lack has not done anything to hurt his stock as a guy to go to, even being a 1A guy with Miller who is 34 turning 35 this summer.
But make no mistake, the organization will give him every opportunity to carry this team into the playoffs if healthy. That is why he was brought in - between his experience in the Olympics, and being a Vezina winner, regardless if it was five years ago, he has earned the pedigree of a veteran who can be a difference maker. That coupled with his work this year will get him every opportunity when and if he is 100 per cent healthy in time for playoffs.