Bring Back the Stand-Up Goalies

Is the Butterfly style really better? A trio of good lucks. Back up goalie talk. How much will the Sens improve? A Coyote new arena?

The other day my New Jersey buddy, George Falkowski, showed me pictures of his goaltender son making big saves.

I was suitably impressed -- but not totally. Michael is 16, has played a lot of goal and shows promise. This lad has stopped a lot of pucks against good competition and still is growing.

What turned me off about Michael is what turns me off about too many National Hockey League goalies. They are wedded to a system that is inherently flawed and quite often dangerous.

That would be the style -- ridiculously, I think -- named butterfly. 

It became popular in 1961 when Glenn Hall introduced the "Inverted V" technique and his Chicago Blackhawks won The Stanley Cup.

But when Hall did the butterfly, it was only on rare occasions. Plus, he had the knack of springing right back into an upright position. 

Contemporary goalies spend more time on their knees than they do on their skates. That's precisely what's wrong with the butterfly system. 

As the photo of Michael Falkowski demonstrates, a fallen goalie allows too much goal-scoring room for over-the-shoulder shots. It's like begging the shooter to fire high. And they do, over and over. And score, over and over.

Two of the wisest men in hockey history -- Hall of Famers Lester Patrick and Eddie Shore -- both decried the kind of goaltending we're seeing today.

"A goalie who falls to the ice," said Patrick, "is leaving himself too vulnerable to scorers. They should stand up and play the angles."

Lester Patrick -- in case you never heard of him -- coached the Rangers to Stanley Cups in 1928 and 1933. They didn't call him "The Silver Fox" for nothing. (Hey, they don't call me The Maven for nothing either.)

Eddie Shore, one of the all-time best NHL defensemen, studied the game as intensely as anyone I ever knew. Shore agreed with Patrick on the non-wisdom of fallen goalies but Eddie did more than just talk about it.

After retiring from the NHL, he bought the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League. Occasionally, he coached and managed the club as well. 

"Goalies should be stand-up and stay stand-up unless forced to fall to the ice," demanded Shore. 

When I say "demanded" I'm not kidding.

To hammer home his point, Shore would try something in practice that would seem crazy today. He would take a long hunk of rope and tie his goalie to the net. Eddie then would have his players take shots at the upright netminder 

One such "victim" was Don (Dipper) Simmons who learned stand-up goaltending as well as anyone. Simmons eventually moved up to the Toronto Maple Leafs where he won a Stanley Cup.

Standing up, I might add. (And I did.)

Now, you may legitimately ask why few -- if any -- NHL goaltenders go the stand-up route? 

I can only guess at the answer and that is simply this: goalie coaches at the kids level find it easier to teach the butterfly because all it requires is falling down and sliding from side to side on the knees. That's easy for the youngsters. But it's wrong.

Sure, it can work on a youth level but the butterfly technique is hell on the hips. And that explains why there are more goaltending injuries these days than ever before.

Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur was the last outstanding goalie to reject the butterfly. Winning three Stanley Cups with the Devils, Marty called his system "The Hybrid."

What Marty meant is that he incorporated some of the Glenn Hall inverted "V"  and blended it with stand-up. Marty's all-time win record indicates that there was something worthwhile about not falling down all the time.

I'd love to open a "School for Standup." Matter of fact, were I the Stop The Puck Professor, my first move would be to tie the student to the goal post just like Eddie Shore did. 

The second lesson would be right out of the Hall of Fame playbook of Gump Worsley. Teach the kid how to stand up and play the angles. 

I'd love to see Michael Falkowski as my first "New Standup" graduate, but I don't think his Old Man would let that happen. Matter of fact, Georgie wouldn't stand for it!


THE JIVE: The iconic, testy baseball manager, Leo Durocher, once said, "Nice guys finish last." Like so many classic lines, it's both on and off-target. But it does remind me of three hockey players who are -- this second -- getting "good luck" wishes from The Maven.

First and foremost, Jonathan Toews. The captain is back with his Blackhawks after his year's sabbatical and this nice guy deserves only a nifty season on his return. Another good fellow is Bobby Ryan who's being  given a shot to make the Red Wings varsity. He got himself a goal the other night in a Detroit win over Chi and that can only help his cause.

Finally, my old pal from New Jersey, Cory Schneider, is now the Islanders "Third Goalie," which may not seem that important, but it is. Cory still has the goods and the way puck-stoppers go down these days, Lou Lamoriello did the smart thing by retaining Schneid as backup to both Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlimov.


THE JIVE: Leave it to the "Bible of our Sport," The Hockey News, to produce a most fascinating list. Author Nick Emanuelli offers five compelling back-up netminders. I'll bet you'll never guess who they happen to be, 'cause he sure fooled me.

He starts off with Chris Driedger of the Kraken. Come to think of it, Driedger played some awfully good goal for Florida last season. Good pick, Nick, good get for Seattle. Runner-up is the Habs Jake Allen whose body of work helped Montreal do the near-impossible last spring. I love the third pick, Jaro Halak, now with my buddy Travis Green's Canucks. A healthy Halak could be a first-stringer on a lot of teams.

Now comes the real surprise; Pavel Francouz. He's with the Avalanche after considerable success in Europe and one NHL season as well. Nice going, Joe Sakic; you pulled that one right out of The Czech Republic. Last and certainly not least is Alaska's gift to the NHL crease, Jeremy Swayman. Right now, he's back-up for the Bruins but it would not surprise me a bit if he winds up being numero uno.


THE JIVE: I asked our new assistant editor, Irad Chen, if he could pick a team in the East that's much better than it was at this time last year; but still won't make the playoffs. Chen wasted no time pinpointing Ottawa.

"The Senators finished with a 7-2-1 record," Chen points out, "and they're almost finished with their re-build. I like that their average age is 25. And they have a solid core -- guys like Thomas Chabot, Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris, to name a few -- but they can't compare with the competition."

Certainly, the Senators are far from being in the Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto and Florida category.

"The Senators have upgraded themselves well," Chen adds, "but they lack enough veterans to carry the day.  

"But they'd be a lot better," Chen points out, "if they got the kind of goaltending out of Matt Murray that they thought they'd get when he was signed." 

Murray finished with a conspicuously poor 3,38 goals against average. Yet he's young enough to rebound and -- let's not forget -- he was a Stanley Cup-winner in Pittsburgh.

"The good news," Chen concludes, "is that g.m. Pierre Dorion beefed up his front office by adding Pierre McGuire. The bad news is that McGuire can't play defense.

"The other good news is that Ottawa will ice a very, very entertaining team; much more than before. The other bad news is that they won't make the playoffs -- again!"


THE JIVE: Petr Mrazek pulled off a very good move by signing on with the Maple Leafs. He's making big money and he's surrounded by stars. And you can be sure he'll beat out Jumpin' Jack Campbell for the top goalie spot -- because he's better. The other good move that Petr made is following through on the advice given him by fellow Czech, Jaromir Jagr.

Mrazak is using Jagr's sports shrink. And if you're wondering why that's such a smart thing, consider the burg in which Mrazek now is playing. Good, old madcap T.O.


THE JIVE: Keeping a close watch on Arizona's arena quest, sports-business columnist Evan Weiner is right on top of the story. Here's his update -- and it's sure looking good for the Coyotes.

The National Hockey League’s Arizona franchise ownership has released its plan to build an arena village in Tempe. It will be a $1.7 billion expenditure that comes complete with an arena, hotels, restaurants, stores, a sports lounge, and a theater, In the world of the stadium game, sometimes it is easy to pick out what government officials and sports owners want.

Elected officials in Tempe put out a Request For Proposals to develop a piece of land within the city with the NHL team in mind. The proposal that came back was as close as you can get to the wish list that Tempe officials wanted when it put out a Request For Proposals for a tract of land. Team officials claim the project would mostly be financed by private investors, but the team also  wants $200 million in generated city tax revenues to fund additional developments and a property tax abatement.

Tempe officials wanted that parcel of land to house a sports stadium or an arena and a practice facility. They wanted a team owner to create a stadium or an arena village that would include 1,000 residential units, 200,000 square feet of retail space, and a large plaza with amenities. Name recognition for Tempe and an opportunity for Tempe public service announcements.

The Arizona ownership was the only group to turn in a proposal. It seems that Tempe knew there was going to be only one bidder because all the other area teams seem set in whatever direction they are taking. Tempe officials claim they will review the Arizona ownership bid and that could take some time but Tempe and the hockey team’s ownership were talking about a deal for a while before the RFP was issued in July. It seems the decision on the RFP winner has already been made.

Stan’s other pieces for the week:

Islanders: Gerry Hart, the Heart of the Original Islanders

Devils: How to Celebrate a Cup

McVie maintained humor when coaching three NHL expansion teams