These days, it seems like the NHL teams that don't have goaltending problems are in the minority.
The list of those with goalie woes is long. Chicago. San Jose. Buffalo. Tampa Bay. And, of course, the Maple Leafs.
Its just a question of how these teams, specifically their coaches, prefer to talk about them.
Dale Hunter, possibly the one-year coach of the Washington Capitals, wasn't about to sugar-coat anything after the Caps fell behind Ottawa 4-0 on Wednesday night en route to yet another stupifying defeat. Goalie Tomas Vokoun, who seemed like a canny acquisition by GM George McPhee last summer, was the object of Hunter's displeasure.
“Tomas would like a few of them back,” Hunter told the Washington Post. “He wasn’t as sharp as he should have been, and it’s in the back of our net.”
“We need some big stops early, that’s part of the game. Tonight we played a good, solid road game and we lose. . .Goaltending is a big part of the game and we need good goaltending.”
Not exactly putting Vokoun on a spit, but some coaches wouldn't even go that far. There seems to be an unwritten rule that no matter how many smelly ones go in, you don't admit your goalie couldn't stop a beachball. Broadcasters often go along with it, saying a goalie "would like that one back" - wouldn't they want them all back? - or desperately searching for a pebble on the ice that might have redirected the puck even a fraction of a millimetre.
Maybe that's how you save the confidence of netminders. Or maybe its payback for the nights when they're abandoned back there.
To me, honesty works best. Fans aren't stupid. They have eyes, and they have opinions.
Sure it's a tough position to play. My kid's a goalie. I know the heartache.
But pretending doesn't change anything. So kudos to Hunter. He may be back in the OHL with the London Knights next season after a forgettable stint with the Caps (who still may grab a playoff berth) but good on him for speaking the truth.