Today is the first installment of a new feature I like to call “Arguments I Hate”. The premise is simple. I will present something that a lot of people say or believe is true, and tell you why it’s nonsense. Today we’ll look at the assertion that Vancouver is a ‘goalie graveyard’.
The term ‘goalie graveyard’ was a term first coined by former Canucks general manager and quote machine, Brian Burke. What Burke was suggesting was that Vancouver was among the toughest cities on goalies. At the time, the Canucks were in the midst of rolling through a whole bunch of goalies and were currently trying out Dan Cloutier. The Canucks were unable to solidify the goaltending position since having Kirk McLean between the pipes in the mid-1990s. Despite the catchy name, the goalie graveyard argument is a myth.
The ‘goalie graveyard’ argument is an argument that I hate because it has been used to suggest that the Canucks have had a lot of good goalies that fans are overly critical of. Since Kirk McLean was traded away in 1998, the Canucks have had the following goaltenders play 10+ games for the team: Arturs Irbe, Sean Burke, Garth Snow, Corey Hirsch, Kevin Weekes, Felix Potvin, Bob Essensa, Dan Cloutier, Petr Skudra, Alex Auld, Johan Hedberg, Dany Sabourin, Curtis Sanford, Jason LaBarbera, Cory Schneider, Andrew Raycroft and Roberto Luongo. Of those goalies, only Sean Burke, Felix Potvin and Roberto Luongo were considered the number one goalie from the team they were acquired from. Of those goalies, I would suggest that only Roberto Luongo has been treated unfairly by the fans, and that has only been the case in the last couple of seasons. Previous to that, Luongo could do no wrong in Vancouver.
Have Canucks fans criticized goaltenders in Vancouver? Absolutely. Was it warranted? You bet. Felix Potvin was basically run out of town in 2001 after being outplayed badly by Bob Essensa. Potvin proved that he had something left in the tank with the Los Angeles Kings afterwards, but his play was not up to par in Vancouver and the fans knew it.
Goalies like Dan Cloutier and Kevin Weekes drew the ire of fans because of their play. But at the same time, goalies like Arturs Irbe, Corey Hirsch, Alex Auld, Andrew Raycroft and Cory Schneider played well in Vancouver and were rarely criticized. Fans in Vancouver are hard on their starting goalie when he struggles mightily for long periods of time, but show me a market that isn’t? The problem in Vancouver was that they didn’t have a good goalie, not that the fans ruined good goalies.
If Vancouver is a goalie graveyard, then certainly Philadelphia is one too by the same logic (look at their list of goaltenders recently, it isn’t impressive). Surely Montreal is a goalie graveyard too. They jeered hall of famer Patrick Roy before he got traded. Jose Theodore fell apart in Montreal despite being a former Hart Trophy winner. Is the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise a goalie graveyard because they trusted Damian Rhodes, Milan Hnilicka, Pasi Nurminen, Johan Hedberg, Kari Lehtonen and Ondrej Pavelec to tend their goal? Surely after the failures of Patrick Lalime, Ray Emery and other legendary Senators goalies makes Ottawa a goalie graveyard.
‘Vancouver is a goalie graveyard’ is an argument I hate. If you bring bad goaltending to this city, you’ll get criticized and eventually traded. Just like every other hockey market.