Drop the gloves during the playoffs with SI.com's writers in the NHL Cup Blog, a daily journal of hockey commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
6:59 PM ET, 5/29/06
Roloson's shot at Cup history
Posted by Tom Layberger
Following his trade from Minnesota, Dwayne Roloson acknowledged that being shipped to Edmonton represented an ideal opportunity to secure a leading role between the pipes. After all, Wild GM Doug Risebrough had just inked Manny Fernandez to a three-year deal and the writing for Roloson was on the wall, clear as can be. And it was soon on his ticket out of town.
But in a playoff year in which we have refreshingly come to expect the unexpected, Roloson has made like a brick wall in protecting the Oilers' goal. Now he has a chance to win a Stanley Cup -– when all he wanted was a chance.
Should the 36-year-old Roloson have his name chiseled on the chalice, he would join Patrick Roy as the only goaltenders to author a neat little piece of Stanley Cup history.
Since the Cup became strictly a National Hockey League affair in 1927, Roy is the only goalie to be dealt in-season from another NHL club and backstop his new team to a title. And you thought a No. 8 seed making it to the final round was a novelty?
If you think about it, most every Cup winner has had a goalie firmly entrenched from the start of the season. Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk, Ken Dryden, Bernie Parent, Grant Fuhr and Martin Brodeur, to name some, didn't exactly come out of the woodwork.
That's what makes Roloson's situation so unique, not to mention he has gone from holding an unsightly 6-19-2 record at one point (despite playing pretty well) to the Cup round. The author of six playoff wins before this postseason is the little guy playing for the small-market Canadian team that was disposed of at the trade deadline by a team that did not make the playoffs.
It is such stories within the big picture that have made the 2006 playoffs quite memorable even before the puck drops on the Stanley Cup finals.
If you peruse the list of Stanley Cup-winning goaltenders of the past 20 years, you should be struck by the sheer quality of the names: Roy and Hasek and Brodeur and Belfour and Vernon. There is hardly a mystery guest among this distinguished lot, depending on how you feel about Chris Osgood (not persuasive although he is north of 300 career wins), 1990 Conn Smythe winner Bill Ranford (240 regular-season wins but a losing career record) and Nikolai Khabibulin (who earned himself an albatross contract with Chicago after his 2004 stellar play for the Tampa Bay Lightning).
Now fast-forward to the perplexing spring of 2006. Either Dwayne Roloson, the two-headed Cam Ward-Martin Gerber monster or Ryan Miller will be skating around with a 35-pound Cup over their heads in the next few weeks. Getting into touch with your inner Kreskin, if you had to look at these names from the perspective of 2026, I suspect that Buffalo's Miller or possibly Ward won't look terribly out of place. They would be viewed as rookies who went on to stellar careers after surprising early playoff success, comparable if obviously not in the same class as Patrick Roy's stone brilliance with the 1986 Montreal Canadiens. The others, well, they will be historical blips, of continuing interest to puckheads mostly because they won the championship in the year that goaltending changed forever.
I am still trying to get my mind around this, and playing with a couple of theories that could be more wrong than Sergei Gonchar on the Penguins blueline.
Theory 1: Forget what we've seen. NHL goaltending in 2005-06 is a fluke, as aberrant as Jim Carrey's Vezina Trophy in 1995. (Hey, general managers: good going with that vote.) Once the shock of the changes that the league made post-lockout subsides, goaltending will be business as usual. Goalies were force-fed so much this season: narrower pads, smaller catching gloves, the no-handle zone behind the net, a larger offensive zone (with the nets moved back), legal two-line passes, rule interpretations that limit the skulduggery that defensemen did to prevent scoring chances, more power plays, etc.
Once goalies adjust to the new game, the dominant netminders of the past few years, especially Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo, will again restore the natural order to the position. Roloson, who has been superb, will have been an interloper, not a goalie of enduring Stanley Cup caliber. I floated this theory past Brian Hayward and Darren Pang, two ex-goalies turned television analysts, and neither thought it had much merit. They sense the upheaval is permanent.
In any case, I still believe that hot goaltending will beat conventionally good goaltending; maybe that's all 2006 will prove to be.
Chew on Theory 2: Because the nature of goaltending has changed, and because the position is so much more difficult to play in 2006 than in, say, 2003, you might need two goalies to win a Stanley Cup. You won't hear that in Edmonton, of course -- there have been no Ty Conklin or Jussi Markanen sightings -- but Carolina coach Peter Laviolette has the Hurricanes a game away from the finals with a goalie carrousel (Gerber's play in Game 4 was as strong as Ward's relief work in Game 5 against Buffalo) and Anaheim reached the Western Conference final by sticking with the hot guy.
The axiom that if your team has two goalies it only means that it has no goalies will no longer wash if the Hurricanes win the Cup. There's a long way to go, of course (and the Philadelphia tandem of Ron Hextall and Garth Snow in the 1997 final is not exactly a template for this theory). But with all the breakaways, the odd-man rushes, the growing need for goalies to be as athletic and laterally mobile as they are technically solid, the exigencies of the position will force teams into thinking about using both goalies in the playoffs.