On an individual basis, it's been a series of ups and downs for Fleury, and heading into Game 7 on Wednesday night, the Penguins desperately need one of the "up" nights. This season -- and postseason -- they have not been receiving their money's worth from their franchise goaltender.
We know he's capable of doing it, but we just don't know which player is going to show up.
The situation with Fleury reminds me of a quote from Red Wings general manager Ken Holland during the Stanley Cup Final two years ago regarding the price he's willing to pay for a goaltender: "My feeling is if you can get one of the five or six best goalies in the league you can spend the money. We can't get into those guys, and the difference between the eighth goalie in the league and the 15th goalie, it's a big difference in money. It's not a big difference in performance."
On a somewhat related note, two economists, David Berri and Martin Schmidt, have published a new book, Stumbling On Wins, that offers a number of bold arguments about the way sports teams operate ... or the way they should operate.
One of the ideas presented: NHL goaltenders are overpaid. I'm taking the studies with a small grain of salt simply because one of their other conclusions is that Isiah Thomas really wasn't a bad NBA executive. And that simply doesn't pass the laugh test. But that's another argument for another day on another website.
From Forbes.com's Tom Van Riper's review of the book:
Hockey goalies are overpaid. Their goals against averages are determined as much by the quality of their teams as anything else. Most all stop about 90 percent of the shots they face. Put any goaltender on the New Jersey Devils and his numbers would likely resemble those of the renowned Martin Brodeur.Ah, yes, it was the system that made Brodeur (that statement, by the way, is dripping with sarcasm). I have to assume that their conclusion is based on findings like this: five of the highest paid goaltenders in the NHL this season played on teams that did not quality for the postseason, while a handful of others (Tim Thomas, Cristobal Huet, Jose Theodore) are spending the postseason sitting on the bench behind younger, cheaper (and better) alternatives that supplanted the big-money keepers. Also: a large number of the top goalies in terms of goals against average and save percentage were making peanuts (Tuukka Rask, Jimmy Howard, Jaroslav Halak, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jonas Hiller, Craig Anderson) compared to some of their higher paid counterparts.
It would be impossible to describe his performance as anything other than a disappointment this season, and if he doesn't continue to progress as a player and improve his consistency from night-to-night in the very near future, that $5 million cap hit is going to be a tough pill for a team to swallow in the salary cap era. Especially when there's quite a few teams getting more production between the pipes for significantly less money (like the team that's forced the Penguins to a seventh game in the Conference Semifinals).
Coming up big in another Game 7 would be a nice start.