Five Questions: backup goaltender options


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Flyers Faithful is pleased to have Adam Kimelman of NHL.comMarc Siciliano of Kukla’s CornerDan MacNeal of Crimespree HockeyJames Minger of Flyers-Philia, and Flyers Faithful’s own Kevin Christmann participate in the current iteration of Five Questions. This is the fourth of a five-part series focusing on Free Agency that will run all week.

With rumors that Sergei Bobrovsky could be traded, what veteran goaltenders do you see as being adequate backup options to Ilya Bryzgalov? (Note: our participants had provided their answers prior to the Bobrovsky trade and Josh Harding re-signing.)

Adam Kimelman: Martin Biron would be the perfect option, but I think he’s pretty happy with the Rangers and I think they really like him. Scott Clemmensen is a proven backup capable of carrying the load, as is Johan Hedberg. Both would work well behind Bryzgalov if Bobrovsky isn’t on the team anymore.

Marc Siciliano: The backup goalie debate is an interesting one this offseason, but it is an important debate to have. While all signs point to Bryzgalov stabilizing his presence in the net, it would be nice to have a reliable veteran presence behind him to turn to when the time gets rough that you can actually rely on.

While Bobrovsky may very well prove to be an adequate NHL goaltender down the line, it’s obvious it won’t be with the Flyers. In a backup role, Bob ultimately floundered down the stretch due to a lack of playing time. A more veteran goalie – especially one who has played in a backup role – might be more prone to success coming in after a long stretch of games off. Some of the names I’m quite partial to (in order) include Chris Mason, Scott Clemmensen, and Dan Ellis (and #DanEllisProblems).

One thing is for sure: unlike most Flyers fans, I want nothing to do with Marty Biron. Having lived in the NY market this past season, I had the (dis)pleasure of tuning into MSG whenever I was in the mood to stomach a Rangers home broadcast. The times I saw Marty usually weren’t pretty, and I know many Rangers fans that felt the same way on a regular basis. Trust me Flyers fans: he may be great in the locker room, but don’t let a prior love affair blind you of the ugly facts. Marty Biron is not the answer, no matter how dreamy his eyes are.

Dan MacNeal: Whoever is the backup is going to have to only play, 20 games max.  Josh Harding would be a good pickup, but it seems like he wants to start, and play in Minnesota.  He’ll also probably command more than the Flyers want to spend on a backup.  Marty Biron could be a good option but it seems like he might re-sign with the Rangers.  Perhaps Scott Clemmensen could be added; he was solid for Florida last season.  There are plenty of backup goalies available in free agency but none of them really stand out amongst the crowd.  I don’t think the Flyers would go the trade route for a backup.

James Minger: I agree with the popular view that there’s no room in Philly for Bobrovsky. The kid is just too talented to continue to be a backup. Also, the Flyers need somebody who is a professional backup. Meaning that not only would this person be capable of playing 20- 30 games a year, this person would know that there role is to play “lesser teams,” stay late in practice to take junk shots, play the second half of back-to-back games, and most importantly, this person would know that Ilya Bryzgalov is #1.

Bryzgalov makes having a professional backup even more important because there are going to be stretches where he falters and the backup would have to step-in despite not playing in two weeks; and play well. Having a veteran backup is also crucial for Bryzgalov because of his mental fragility. A young, up-and-coming goalie like, Bobrovsky poses as a threat to Bryzgalov’s confidence.

If Johan Hedberg weren’t 40 years old, he would be the perfect backup, but he is and that means the Flyers have to go somewhere else with their search. As far as moving Bobrovsky, as Flyers fans, we know that Bobrovsky has #1 skills but the rest of the league may not think of him as highly. That being said, I see Bobrovsky being a component in a package deal to Columbus for Rick Nash, or being traded for 2nd and/or a 3rd round draft pick to a team that needs goaltending depth; teams like the Blackhawks, Flames, Ducks, or Red Wings.

As far as who should be the Flyers new backup, I like guys like Al Montoya, Scott Clemenson, and Joey MacDonald. All three of these guys are used to lesser roles on the depth chart, can play for extended periods should the starter get hurt/goes through a slump, and most importantly, these guys are cheap!

Kevin Christmann: My number one criteria in a backup goaltender to Bryzgalov is cost; they must be cheap. With such a significant investment in Bryzgalov, there is no doubt as to who will and should get the playing time. So financially, it makes sense to invest a relatively small sum of money in the backup goaltender position as they shouldn’t see very many games.

Secondly, I believe the Flyers need a true veteran backup goaltender that has accepted his role as a backup. It certainly appears as if Bryzgalov thrives when he plays a lot, so the Flyers need to find a guy that is ok with, and good at, starting only 20-25 games a season. To make a baseball analogy, we don’t want a Jim Thome who can thrive with some regular at bats but struggles as a pinch hitter.

I would imagine Scott Clemmensen, Marty Biron, Johan Hedberg, Chris Mason, and Al Montoya would make some sense. I think Clemmensen would be my favorite of the bunch.

When recently asked about the backup goaltender position, Paul Holmgren brought up the name “Michael Leighton”. I know many would just toss the name out of the window immediately. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if there is some animosity between the Flyers and Leighton. The Flyers for Leighton possibly not being truthful about a back injury, and Leighton for having been buried in the minors for two years. That said, if the guy was brought back for minimal, and I mean minimal, dollars…I honestly think I might be able to suck it up.