The Philadelphia Flyers are in deep trouble when it comes to goaltending. Their signing of journeyman former NHLer Sebastien Caron late Thursday makes him the seventh goalie to suit up for the team this season, thanks to injuries, poor play, and a lack of quality in the system.
Let's quickly run down the goalies who have worn a Flyers uniform this season.
Ray Emery started the year as the go-to guy in the Philly net. Signed last summer by the Flyers after spending a year in Russia, Emery was looking to redeem himself and prove that he was an NHL caliber goaltender after being tossed out by the Ottawa Senators for a laundry list of problems. Emery battled the injury bug before his season was declared over thanks to a very serious hip injury that could even spell the end of his career. He's a free agent in July.
Brian Boucher, in his third stint with the Flyers organization, was signed for two seasons to be the backup guy to Emery. He led the team to the Conference Finals in 2000 as a rookie before falling out of favor, but as a backup over the last decade, he's been very successful in runs with San Jose and Phoenix. When Emery went down, however, Boucher was thrust into the lime light. It wasn't pretty.
- Michael Leighton was picked up off of waivers when Emery went down as a backup to Boucher, but he was given a chance to play and he ran with it. Leighton backstopped the Flyers to a very successful January and February, where they had one of the best records in the NHL over that time. Boucher was relegated to the bench, and for a short while when Emery tried to return, Boosh was sent to the press box. Leighton's season likely ended with an ankle injury in mid-March.
Carter Hutton, fresh off his senior season at UMass-Lowell, was signed by the Phantoms on a try out contract as soon as his college season ended. With nobody else to turn to because the other goalies were injured in the AHL, Hutton was called-up by the Flyers to sit the bench for a game. He could only dress for one game under the rules, but that wouldn't have mattered anyway because he can't miss class.
- Johan Backlund was called up from the Adirondack Phantoms once Hutton was sent back down. Fresh off of injury, he was expected to only be the backup. But after a terrible performance from Boucher one night against Minnesota, coach Peter Laviolette gave Backlund a chance against Pittsburgh. He held his team in the game before getting hurt again in the second period. Boucher would finish the loss.
- Jeremy Duchesne, an ECHL guy who was called up to the AHL thanks to this chain of injuries, was the next to get the call after Backlund went down. He rode the bench for a game or two before being forced into the lineup after the Islanders put a four spot on Boucher.
- Not comfortable with Duchesne in net, the Flyers signed Caron, the seventh goalie to suit up in town this season.
And that's where they stand currently. Seven goalies, and none of them really inspire any sort of confidence. This has been the way in Philadelphia since, essentially, the first coming of Ron Hextall in 1987. But according to Flyers beat writer Anthony SanFillippo, the organization is determined to make this the last year of the goalie carousel.
"We can't go into next year with the same situation or a similar situation in goal that we have right now. What happened this year is really nobody's fault. Ray (Emery) came in here and did everything we asked and was good until he got hurt. We got lucky with (Michael) Leighton, but we can't expect to win doing things this way in goal.
"It's already been decided that our No. 1 priority for next season is to get a goalie. We have to go out and get that player and commit to him as our guy.
"It's probably going to mean somebody is going to have to be traded away, especially if we go after a young goalie on another team, but that's what we're going to have to do. We can't keep going the way we have been. The goalie has to be the most important target and we don't want to keep replacing one veteran with another. We want to get a guy who can be our goalie for several years.... We have to go in another direction."
The Flyers would have to give up a substantial piece of their lineup in order to acquire him -- perhaps a guy like Danny Briere or Jeff Carter, or a younger player like James van Riemsdyk or Claude Giroux. Recall, though, that the Flyers turned down an offer of Carter for Montreal's other goalie, Jaroslav Halak, earlier in the year. With the way things have gone since, however, that philosophy may be changing.
How do fans of the bleu, blanc et rouge feel about a potential deal for Price?
Personally, I understand that this question and the following poll will stir some passionate emotion. My take would be that I'm not prepared at this point to see either of the Canadiens goaltenders dealt, unless some home run type of trade can be completed.
The window for a two team beneficial blockbuster deal opens and closes terribly fast. The Flyers have a desperate need right now, that is also recognized by a number of organizations. Salary cap considerations will come into play over the summer, and options will decrease between the time of the 2010 Entry Draft and the opening of free agency on July 1.
Equally imminent, is the solving of the Canadiens goaltending questions. Can the Habs truly endure one more season with a Price / Halak goaltending controversy constantly on the backburner? Does pushing this question for another season lead perhaps to a deterioration of the situation, and maybe even risk the eventuality that one goalie or the other's worth depreciates in value?
These are serious questions that need the be considered over the summer.
I really hate to suggest it, but it just might be the time, in regards to that window of opportunity, to cut the deck, play the hand dealt, and move forward.
Fans in Philadelphia question Price, remembering a 2008 playoff series versus the Habs in which Price basically single-handedly won the Flyers the series with his terrible play. Still, Price has a very high upside and there is definitely an argument to be made that playing under the limelight in Montreal is something certain people just can't take.
Price may be one of those people, but it's not like playing in Philadelphia is any cup of tea either. Flyers fans would expect him to be the guy to lead them to a Stanley Cup, and as seven guys on the list above have learned quite well this season, that can be quite the pressure cooker.