Sanford et al
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I don't know much of Sanford beyond what you see here, so this should be interesting. Here's what I think:
1) As good as his defence
Last season, Curtis put up some nice numbers – better than Price's even. But do not be fooled, that whole right side of the pie shows that he got some very nice defensive help from his teammates. The 0.910 expected save%, particularly, is a very nice starting point to be giving a goalie – it leaves little to do to crack the league top 30 list. By the same token, his stats in St. Louis were poor on a poor team – no heroics then.
2) Don't expect full starts
Last season he played in 19, but only started 15. In 3 of those 15 starts he was pulled. Similarly, the previous year, there were 7 complete games with 9 incomplete ones. That's 19 complete games in 2 years (and 16 partial ones). I wouldn't expect anything different this year, health of the current team permitting. An able back-up to be sure, but not one seen as a starter in this NHL anymore.
3) Settling in
After briefly trying to crack the NHL as starter, and then as top-2 man in St. Louis, it seems that Curtis may be settling now into that third man role where he can thrive. More occasional starts with more regular work on the farm have translated into better stats in both locales.
Topham on Sanford:
When I heard we had signed Curtis Sanford, my mind immediately went back to the pitiful St Louis Blues. The first I heard of Sanford was when he wrested the starting job form Patrick Lalime in St Louis back in 2005. That season was effectively his NHL rookie season and he put up some good numbers. But ever wanting to fit the mould of future Habs goalie, the next year when given his golden ticket, he stumbled (that'd be that 0.888 season you can see above). From that moment it seems the league has said thanks but no thanks to Curtis Sanford as starter or even backup starter.
But since then, he's also pulled his game together. 2 seasons in the NHL were spotted with fewer games but improvement. Parts of a season in the AHL were marked by absolute dominance. Consider then, when Gainey was looking for a goalie to help Cedrick Desjardins and possibly stand in for some minutes if an NHL guy went down, that Curtis Sanford was not such a daft choice.
I expect this season will be a mirror of Marc Denis' season last year, with pretty much the entirety of a season spent in Hamilton, shining for the most part, with a brief if any call-up to the Bell Centre. His experience of being part of the league winning, and always ambitious, Moose franchise should aid and abet the morale in Hamilton – a reminder that though dreams lie in the NHL, winning in the AHL while being paid hundreds thousands to do it ain't half bad. Any mentoring of Cedrick Desjardins at this point would be a big bonus, because the Habs are staring down the barrel of a gun with goalie prospects at the moment. I think over the season he will be asked to pass the torch to Desjardins, something that may spell the end to another brief veteran goaltending career in Hamilton.
Where Sanford will start 2009-10: Starting goalie in Hamilton
Where Sanford will end 2009-10: Co-starter in Hamilton
Key (NHL) stats: 5 GP, 0 GS
1) Cedrick Desjardins
Just who is this Cedrick Desjardins that we are meant to be trusting with our fortunes if disaster strikes? You can be excused for not knowing the answer.
Cedrick is an undrafted youngster who has taken the road less travelled to get to where he is in the depth chart. From very very humble beginnings as a 1-game winner (20 starts) on the 11-game, Crosby-targeting, tanking specialists that were the 2002-03 Rimouski Oceanic he steadily improved as a goalie in junior. 2003-04 was OK, but it was 2004-05 and 2005-06 where he shone. In 04-05, he backstopped a Crosby led team to the Memorial Cup finals (though they lost to a stacked Knights squad). The next year, with equally impressive stats for the Q, he took Quebec (with Radulov and Esposito) to the Memorial Cup finals again – this time to win.
From there, he had a training camp invite but nothing more from the Chicago Blackhawks. And then, though the stingy Montreal media would never give Gainey credit for it, the French Canadian (NB, to be exact) goalie was scoped by the Habs organization. With Halak and Danis in the picture, Cedrick was to offer depth, and that first season he did (in Cincinnati), where once again his numbers improved. The following year, 2007-08, he was to be called up to the Bulldogs for an extended stint and performed very well (0.909 in the AHL). he'd end the season in style by starring in the Cyclones' capture of the Kelly Cup – a third championship final in four years. That brings us to last season where Desjardins was chief deputy to Marc Denis all season long. In 30 games, he once again improved his numbers (0.919 and 2.55 this time) to mark another season of progress. In the end, it was probably his strong play that sealed Denis' fate and paved the way for a Sanford/Desjardins tandem.
I note that he is a possible call up because his numbers in the AHL so far are very credible. We've seen him in camp against NHLers now too, and he fared well enough to keep that credibility. With other young goalies at the top level, it doesn't seem like Desjardins is here for the Canadiens. However, if he takes another step forward, he could well make things interesting by the trade deadline – making himself, Sanford or one of the NHLers bait for organizational improvements.
2) [Fill in blank]
If 3 goalies sustain injuries, Gainey will need to move as there is nothing looking anything like an NHL player beyond Desjardins in this system.
Loic Lacasse might have had a place here, but the 2004 draft pick, who put up some nice stats in his first stint in Hamilton showed the patience of Jaroslav Halak's agent and has committed careericide in the first degree by signing a contract with the NAHL. Oh, heady days.
The next wave
1) Robert Mayer
Though born in Czech, he represents the Swiss, and with a name like Mayer it's not hard to fathom why. The Canadiens signed Mayer during the summer of 2008 after his first season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. His 2008-09 was once again spent in new Brunswick, and while his personal stats took a leap in the right direction, the Sea Dogs he was leading were left disappointed in their quest for silverware.
It says the Canadiens assigned Mayer to Hamilton after his sojourn in Montreal for training camp, but that was only temporary. He should be the top goalie the next level down – a replacement for the departed Lacasse. Hopefully he'll get the lion's share of the work in Cincy, so he can take the next step in development and provide us with a bit of proper depth at this position.
2) Jason Missiaen
Perhaps in the future we will get a chance to witness Missiaen skating up to "The Monster" after a sweep of Toronto in the playoffs (OK, sweep of the Marlies?). The sooner the 6'3" Swede is made to look like a dwarf and not a troll, the better – then we can put that stupid nickname to bed.
As for Missiaen, there isn't really much more to say than that he is very big (6'8" by most accounts). Drafted by the Canadiens in 2008, probably on a bit of a flyer, he is still playing junior hockey this season. After taking what seemed to be backwards steps with the Petes last year, Missiaen seems to have started well this season as their new full-time starter. As with Mayer, any improvement will be welcomed. But it's hard to see him unseating Price, Halak or even Desjardins at any point in the future. Still, where there's a limb, there's a way – and he has lots of limb, his pads must make Giguere's look like toys.
3) Petteri Simila
The Canadiens scouting of goalies seems to have become a little lax, wouldn't you say? I mean, I know it's good we have two guys under the age of 25 in the NHL. And that if all goes well the goaltending position could be sealed and delivered for a decade and a half; but perhaps one criteria on top of height?
Petteri Simila is the midge of the Canadiens junior goalies, a mere 78" tall. What we do know about him is that he was drafted with the very last pick in the NHL draft (basically a free agent signing if you ask me). Someone somewhere must have caught one of the Karpat back-up's games and decided he was worth a look. Still, let's not assume too much, the scout didn't bother to mention it until the draft was basically over.
I look at Simila as a try-out really, no different than Desjardins or Mayer – the fact he was drafted being irrelevant. This season's try-out for the big man will be in the Niagara Falls area with the IceDogs. Though he'll wear the logo which enshrines Don Cherry's pitbull for the year, we can rest assured that the luminary himself won't be interfering with our prospect, since he sold the team a while back.
Simila has an uphill battle to prove himself to IceDogs brass, let alone Habs brass. The season has started with him in the back-up role. If he can wriggle into starting position and do something of note, another camp might be in his future. Then again, Canadiens prospects are so thin on the ground at his position merely being able to tie skates by next summer might be enough.