It wasn't long ago that Marty Turco was considered one of the better goaltenders in the NHL. In the early 2000s, for example, he finished in the top five in save percentage three times, leading the league during the 2000-01 and 2002-03 seasons. Now at the age of 34 -- probably past his prime, but certainly not over the hill -- he's going to be hard-pressed to find a job in the NHL, like so many other goaltenders his age (and in his tax bracket). What's been behind the fall for this three-time All-Star? Here are three possible culprits:
1) The Trapezoid Rule
Of all the rule changes that took place in the NHL after the lockout, the dumbest, least sensible and worst of all was the addition of the trapezoid, limiting the movement of goaltenders in their efforts to play the puck. It's made them more restricted and stationary than the goalies you would find in a Bubble Hockey game, and it never has, and never will, make any sense. Simply put: it's stupid. Very, very stupid.
For great puck-handling goalies like Turco, it puts a dent in their overall game and effectiveness. Prior to the lockout, Turco was one of the best puck-handling goalies in the NHL. He was able to beat forecheckers to the corner, moving pucks along to his defensemen to squash any potential cycle/possession in his zone. It was an invaluable tool for a team to have a goalie with the type of ability Turco had to act as a "third defenseman." Now that it's a two-minute minor for a goalie to play the puck outside of the trapezoid, Turco, and goalies like him, can no longer control that aspect of the game. As a result, they're facing a few more chances, more shots and, ultimately, giving up more goals.
How many more? Well, that's almost impossible to quantify, and it's probably not that big of a difference. But given his skill set and ability, it's hard to believe it hasn't had some sort of impact on his play.
2) Declining Athleticism
This is more of a question -- or even a guess -- than fact, but throughout his career Turco has been a ridiculously athletic goaltender. That, of course, is a large reason he was able to freely roam out into the corners and move the puck (when the league still allowed him to, that is). Is it possible that, over the years, some of that athleticism has declined? He is, after all, going to turn 35 in August. It's certainly not a stretch to think it or believe it.
That ability not only allowed him to be extremely mobile, but it also allowed him to make some showstopping, highlight-reel saves.
Athleticism in a goaltender can help make up for a lot of shortcomings when it comes to positioning and fundamentals (example: Marc-Andre Fleury). Once that athletic ability starts to decline, it can be awfully difficult for a goalie that never had to rely on his positioning to, well, rely on his positioning. To Turco's credit, it's something he worked on prior to last season, and he went on to have his best season -- statistically speaking, anyway -- since the lockout.
3) The Dallas Defense Is Simply Not as Good
During the 2002-03 season, when Turco led the NHL with a .932 save percentage, the Dallas defense was made up of Sergei Zubov, Derian Hatcher, Richard Matvichuk, Phillippe Boucher and Daryl Sydor. It was a menacing group and one of the best in the league at that time. Combined with a head coach like Dave Tippett (and before him, Ken Hitchcock), it was a lethal combination for opposing offenses. By the time 2005 rolled around, when the NHL started to shift from big, hulking, stay-at-home monsters on defense to swift, puck-moving rearguards, only Zubov and Boucher remained, and both were starting to pass their prime. Just as a strong defense will be a positive boost to a goalies performance, a weakened one will certainly have the opposite effect.
So where does Turco go from here? We've already seen Evgeni Nabokov, an equally -- if not more -- accomplished goaltender turn to the KHL this week due to a lack of opportunities and interest in the NHL. There's simply not many teams in the league with an open spot for a veteran starting goaltender, especially one that made more than $5 million last season and has seen his performance suffer, for one reason or another, over the past couple of seasons. Especially if he's willing to turn down multi-year offers from one of the few teams that did have an opening.
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