The future of goaltending for Team Canada
By Elliot Chan, Contributor
Imagine a golfer trying to sink a par three putt on a football field with a game in progress. In a sense, that is what goalies are—individuals playing their own sport in a larger game with all the pressure that nobody notices until they make or break. It is a unique position that requires mental and physical stability and that is what makes it difficult to pinpoint a consistent future for these athletes.
Malcolm Subban was the first goalie to be touted as the bona fide number one starter for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship since Carey Price in 2007. Needless to say, quality goaltenders don’t emerge often. Even when one does well in the World Juniors it doesn’t necessarily mean success in the NHL. For example, in 2006 Justin Pogge won the MVP and helped Team Canada capture their twelfth gold medal in the tournament, only to end up being shipped around from Toronto to Phoenix in his professional career without ever achieving the same level of accomplishment. Few goaltenders are able to savor a lengthy career, but those who do become legends.
As Martin Brodeur’s career wanes, all eyes are seeking the new fixture in Canada’s crease for the upcoming Olympics and World Championship tournaments. With the memories of Roberto Luongo’s 2010 gold medal performance tarnished by his inability to win the Stanley Cup, hockey fans can turn their attention to others remaining on the top notch. Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes has a Stanley Cup ring, a Conn Smythe Trophy, and a gold medal from the 2007 World Championships. Marc-André Fleury also has a Stanley Cup ring and was the third string goalie in the 2010 Olympics. Many suspect that it will be his turn to take the helm and solidify his legacy as the starter in Sochi 2014. Finally, there is heavily ridiculed BC boy Carey Price, famous for mimicking Patrick Roy and telling hometown fans to relax. His stats aren’t as prestigious as the others, but I believe that team Canada would benefit from his fiery attitude.
Like any other profession, good consistent performance is what sets those who are great from those who are merely decent. Goaltending is no different. But when it comes down to a one game winner-takes-all, even the best rely on luck. On January 3, 2013, the USA defeated Canada in a 5-1 slaughter at the World Juniors. Subban was pulled after allowing four goals on 16 shots during the second period, far from top prospect caliber. For now, the Boston Bruins’ draft pick remains a prospect, but with mental and physical conditioning, I foresee Subban making a big impact with the Canadian squad for many years to come.
Other top goaltending prospects for Team Canada’s future include Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals, Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes, Devan Dubnyk of the Edmonton Oilers, Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Bernier of the LA Kings, and Brian Elliott of the St. Louis Blues. The competition for Canada’s crease has never been so openly contested and it’ll be interesting to see who will step up and face the privilege of ultimate pressure.