The revolving door in Philly

I read a piece yesterday on TSN.ca that stated the Philadelphia Flyers are considering a deal for Atlanta Thrashers goaltender Kari Lehtonen.

The Flyers probably are entertaining this deal to end a revolving door in net that’s been spinning for more than 21 years. If general manager Paul Holmgren is smart, though, he won’t just stay away from this one - he’ll run and not look back.

Don Waddell on Line 1 from the 404? Click.

Indeed, the Flyers haven’t had a truly top-notch option in goal since 1987. That’s when Ron Hextall won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP – even though Philadelphia lost in the Stanley Cup finals to the Wayne Gretzky-Jari Kurri-Mark Messier-led Edmonton Oilers.

Since then? Besides Hextall, breathe deep because this list is impressive…

Roman Cechmanek, Dominic Roussel, Robert Esche, Antero Niittymaki, Martin Biron, John Vanbiesbrouck (affectionately known as Johnny Vaneyebrow by former New York neighbor Jimmy Bienkowski), Brian Boucher, Ken Wregget, Garth Snow, Tommy Soderstrom (also known as Jon Palmieri’s boy), Sean Burke, Jeff Hackett, Mark LaForest, Pete Peeters, Bruce Hoffert (who??), Stephane Beauregard, Wendell Young, Michael Leighton, ECHL- and IHL-refugee Frederic Chabot, Marc D’Amour (who, part deux??), Martin “Don’t call me Rejean” Houle, Neil Little, Maxime Ouellet, and finally, Jean-Marc Pelletier.

…and exhale.

The Flyers have won 791 regular-season games starting in the fall of ’87, with Hextall recording 203. No other goalie has cracked 100, as Cechmanek – still playing in the Czech Republic at 37 - won 92 from 2000-03.

But Kari Lehtonen?

After wrapping up their third season in 2002, the Thrashers thought they’d laid down a cornerstone of their foundation by selecting the 6-foot-4 Lehtonen second overall.

And with good reason. Playing with Jokerit in his native Finland in 2001-02, Lehtonen had a 1.79 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in 23 games. He also took MVP honors in the postseason, and led his country to a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships, where he was named the tournament’s top netminder.

According to Lehtonen’s draft capsule from SI.com: Despite above-average height for a netminder, he has impressive quickness and excellent reflexes. Employs primarily a standup style but can go to the butterfly when needed. Possesses a calm and cool demeanor and plays with confidence. Anticipates and reads the play well.

Fast-forward six years, and you have a goalie that looks nothing like what was described.

True, he’s played on a team that would be the worst If not for the New York Islanders. But after making 37 saves through overtime in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday, Lehtonen fell to 11-17-3 with a 3.16 GAA and .908 save percentage in 32 games.

The career numbers aren’t a whole lot better: 86-78-17 with a 2.88 GAA and .912 save percentage in 190 games.

As for that ‘calm and cool demeanor,’ it’s yet to be seen in the postseason. He gave up 11 goals while losing both starts to the New York Rangers in the 2007 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The rumor is the Flyers would give up James vanRiemsdyk in the proposed deal, and If I’m Atlanta, I’m all over that. Selected second overall in last season’s draft behind eventual Calder Trophy-winner Patrick Kane, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound New Jersey native had six goals and four assists for the fifth-place US team at recently completed the World Juniors.

As for Lehtonen … playing in front of fans in a city that booed Santa Claus – hell, they’d boo an autopsy – they’d eat the Finn like he was one of their famous cheesesteaks.

And the Flyers would still be on the hunt.

No comments: