March 3, 2012; Raleigh, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon (32) makes a glove save against the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC center. The Lightning defeated the Hurricanes in overtime, 4-3. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE
With all of the focus on goaltending, the defense has been sort of left out in the cold. But, that's fairly typical. When it comes to hockey, people tend think about offense and goaltending, not defense.
Still, that's a bit discouraging. A good defense will make a good goalie look like a Vezina candidate, and a bad defense will make a good goalie look very mediocre. But, as many people just noticed the goaltending and not the defense, they see that a goalie is just good or bad and that's all there is to it.
The two are very much intertwined. Goaltending is not a singular position in that goalies just do their thing and the rest of the team does theirs. The defensemen are the bridge between the forwards and the goaltending, and they interact a great deal between the two. Which is why it often takes a while for defensemen to mature - they have to not only learn what their goalies want them to do, but also what their forwards want them to do.
The standard operating procedure for the Detroit Red Wings for many years now is to have outstanding defensemen, and have good - but not fantastic - goaltenders. With a few exceptions, of course. And the Wings have had the closest to what any would call a dynasty in decades.
Also keep in mind that General Manager Steve Yzerman was a member of that organization as both a player and a member of their front office for 27 years.
Which isn't to say that goaltending isn't an issue for the Tampa Bay Lightning, because it is. But, so is the defense. Would it be easier (or better) to upgrade the goaltending, or upgrade the defense?
So the question of the week is....
There are a number of things that need to be addressed by the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason, but which do you feel is more important and why - improving the defense, or improving the goaltending?
Clark Brooks - Staff Writer / Ridiculously Inconsistent Trickle of Consciousness
Presuming only one of those areas can be addressed (there's rules to QOTW), this is a real chicken-or-egg scenario.
Can good defense mask bad goaltending? Can good goaltending compensate for poor defense? I'm more inclined to say yes to the first question. If I have to choose my liability, I want to rely on my goalie as a true last line of defense, not as defense Option A.
So for me, I'm upgrading the defense first.
Tina Robinson - Staff Writer
If there has to be a decision between upgrading/improving the defense or the goaltending, I think I'd rather see the defense upgraded first. (I'd rather have both). After seeing the goalies in Tampa struggle mightily this season and how much the defense DIDN'T help out, I'd lean toward fixing the D first. We need to find or promote or otherwise acquire defensemen (more than one) that will be willing to clear out in front of the goalie on a consistent basis.
I believe Matt brought it up in the last QOTW, but I agree, we need a defenseman that will be physical, protect the goalie, clear out the crease when needed and still be ready to move the puck out of the zone quickly and safely. I know some goalies do just fine with an increased number of shots, but I am of the opinion that more shots will eventually lead to more goals and less games won.
If we need an example of this, just look no further than the play of Mike Smith with the Phoenix Coyotes this year. Now, I know there are other factors to be considered as well..he finally appears to be completely healthy and over the concussion problems that plagued him in Tampa and he just needed a fresh start over somewhere, but I sincerely believe than he's playing better because the defense is playing better in front of him.
Upgrade the D and then let's see how the goalie(s) do.
Clare Austin - Staff Writer
I can't make myself choose one or the other because they have to bring someone in for both goaltending or defense simply due to the fact that there aren't enough signed players to fill the roster in both positions. (There are 4 d-men under contract for 2012-13, including Mattias Ohlund, and only one goaltender, unless you assume Dustin Tokarski will back up Mathieu Garon. And that assumption kind of defeats the point of the question in my mind. Anyhoo....)
So, if we take this as a question of where do you invest the most money/assets, defense or goaltending, I have to say defense, but that's as much because they need to sign or promote three or four guys rather than just one.
All the stats show that, aside from the very elite (like Roberto Luongo), having a "hot" goaltender is more important than having a "good" goaltender. That is to say, most goalies in the league vary so much from year to year that predicting their worth to the team ahead of time is impossible. So on goalies you either invest in an elite goalie or you invest in defense. It's less worth it to pick up a pretty good (or even quite good) guy in goal, unless you can do it really cheap, than to get four good defensemen, even at an inflated price.
In the end, I'm thinking that around $13-16M more on defense and $2-4M more in net are probably realistic.
John Fontana - Managing Editor
Goaltending is the last line of defense, and some people believe that you build a team from the net out. I'm of the mind thinking it's the last line of defense - meaning responsibility lies with the five guys in front of the crease firstly.
Upgrading defensive play - not just defesive players - is integral for the Lightning. While we like what a lot of guys currently on the roster bring to the table, there is a serious lacking in faceoff strength and a bad habit of giveaways resulting in odd-man rushes on the Lightning goal by opponents. That's a failing that needs to be rectified by personnel changes and changes to tactics preached by coaches.
Does that mean goaltending isn't important? No. It does mean goaltending shouldn't have to defend as many opponent opportunities as the Lightning have allowed the past season (they gave up, on average, 30.5 shots on goal a night). They do have to make the saves that ought to be made, but those five guys in front of the net have to limit opponent opportunities to begin with.
If you missed it, check out last week's question, Who do you want to see the Lightning re-sign?