The honeymoon ain’t over yet, but the Vancouver Canucks’ new leaders have made their first error.
The handling of the backup goalie position has been botched by a combination of upper management and the coaching staff.
Jaroslav Halak should not have started on Monday night, and should not be a Canuck right now.
Jim Rutherford needed to lean on the player and his agent to pick a new destination sooner, and there were tools at the Canucks’ disposal for achieving such ends.
Instead, the Canucks chose not to rock the boat even after Spencer Martin gave them those three terrific starts when both Thatcher Demko and Halak were out with COVID.
As Jeff Paterson noted then, the difference between Martin and Halak was not so vast as to eat a $1.25 million bonus on Halak’s contract against next year’s salary cap.
Halak earned that bonus Monday night with his 10th start, and it was a second straight start where he gets pulled and fails to deliver the night off to Demko.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau and goaltender coach Ian Clark bear some responsibility too.
If this team — and by team I mean the coaches and the players, not upper management — are hellbent on making the playoffs, then the goaltender who gave them the best chance to win Monday night in New Jersey was Demko.
Just like it was Demko on February 9, when Boudreau went with Halak only to see him shelled for five goals on 12 shots and get yanked again.
part of Halak's job as a back-up is to ensure Demko gets nights off. Last 2 starts, Demko has had to come on in relief. The system isn't working https://t.co/YQojoxvGTp
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) March 1, 2022
As J-Pat pointed out on Twitter, even if you don’t win the game or perform well, part of the job of a backup goalie is to give the starter a night off. And right now, Halak cannot be trusted to do that.
I didn’t like the hook decision either. I’m all for mercy-pulling, but not consecutive mercy pullings.
At 6-1, Halak’s job was to eat shit, stay in the goal, and continue competing for Demko’s sake.
As for his future with Vancouver, Halak still must waive his no move clause in order to be traded. The Canucks should have encouraged him to do so earlier this season by keeping Martin with the big club and given him the second net in practice.
Instead, they’ll now try to peddle Halak in an environment where acquiring teams have reason to wonder whether he’s finally lost it at age 36, or where his inactivity earlier in the season means he just might not have enough runway left in 2022 to get back to form.
The good news for Canucks fans is that it only takes one team to like him for a trade to be consummated. With his long-term track record and his fine play earlier this season, Rutherford and GM Patrik Allvin still have a decent pitch to goaltender-needy teams.
And let’s face it, the goaltender market is often driven by team need not most recent track record.
All in all, a misstep that the Canucks can and will recover from, but a misstep that was avoidable with some foresight and some hardball.
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