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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Barry Trotz: Goalie Killer

With the Preds ship finally righting itself, i don't want to get too negative, but there's an issue that is cropping up again that is getting ignored in all the Sully's-return and 9-goals-in-2-games press and blog coverage: Barry Trotz kills goalies.

In the Preds win against Pittsburgh on Thurs, The Preds gave up 1 goal in the 1st, then gave up a second goal on a fluky bounce when a Preds player tried to clear the puck and it bounced of not one but two of his teammates and went in the net. Was it a goal that could have been avoided - yes - but nothing that goalie Dan Ellis could have done. But what happened next was a bit odd: coach Trotz pulled Ellis in favor of Pekka Rinne. Trotz said in the post-game press conference that he did it to "change our luck" and that he wasn't unhappy with Ellis' play. Blogger Brandon Felder asked Ellis about being pulled after the game:

Felder - "Obviously the game wasn't a great start but it was really bad luck goals. Were you at all frustrated by getting pulled there?"

Dan Ellis - "I think it was stupid. Bottom line. It's the exact same thing as last year. So yeah I was frustrated. Absolutely. I can't stop both teams."
Key words there: "It's the exact same thing as last year." What does he mean by that?...

This is something Trotz has done to 3 starting goaltenders in a row. First Vokoun, then Mason, (both pictured at left) and now Ellis - and Danny knows it. At the end of the 06-07 season, Vokoun was frequently pulled in favor of Mason. The team seemed to play better in front of Mason, and it made sense at the time. Vokoun played well, but Mason was deemed ready for prime-time and Vokoun was one of the players lost during Leipold's march to the sea Minnesota. Then last year (07-08) it was Mason who was frequently pulled and/or benched in favor of the upstart Ellis. The team played well in front of both and Mason was over and over again said to be the #1, but Mason was pulled more and more and Ellis got more and more starts so that by the time the playoffs started, Ellis was the clear #1 for the team. So during the offseason Ellis is signed to a 2-year deal, Mason is traded to St Louis, and Pekka Rinne is brought in to be the backup.

That brings us to this year. Ellis has played well, and while Trotz has shown more restraint when it comes to pulling goalies than in previous years, he has recently started his very bad habit of pulling them to "shake things up" - and not because the goalie is playing poorly.

This messy with goalie's heads. Dan Ellis knows it. He saw it kill Chris Mason's game last year, and knows that Trotz is starting down that path again.

Fortunatly i think Ellis is made of a little tougher mental stuff than Chris Mason (as it applies to being a #1 goalie). But Trotz needs to be very careful and do a lot of talking wtih goalie coach Mitch Korn, or he's going to find himself trading away Ellis, establishing Rinne as the #1, and bringing up yet another young goalie next off-season.