Why Tandem Goalies Could Work for the Lightning

On Puck Daddy last week, Justin Bourne wrote on the topic of goaltending. He wrote about why one top goalie is better than a two-headed monster. His reasoning drew upon the advantages of having defined roles for the starter and backup goalie. He reasons that the defined roles helps avoid the drama that comes along starting goalies which would be amplified with two starters and how a good backup will help his teammates improve.

In addition to what Bourne wrote about, another benefit of having one clear starter is that the players playing in front of the goalie will not have to constantly adjust their playing styles depending on who they are playing in front of. That way they can anticipate how their goalie will react to certain types of shots and what they style play is like. The more comfortable a player feels when relying on their goalie to react a certain way will allow them to focus more on their role as a skater.

Right now there are two teams that have the tandem goalies splitting starts, the San Jose Sharks with Niemi and Nittymaki and the Lightning with Smith and Ellis. While I agree with his reasoning on what would work best in an ideal situation, I don't think Yzerman had an ideal situation to walk in to.

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When Yzerman took charge of the team, he inherited one very struggling Mike Smith who was on the last year of his contract that pays him $2.4 million this year. Smith had shown great potential back in Dallas but after his concussion in early 2009, but he had been plagued with set-backs in his recovery process that affected him much of last year. With the team being reformed with the new changes and already so much money tied up in Smith, what Yzerman needed was a competent goalie to be 1B to Smith's 1A. That's why Dan Ellis got hired.

In this particular case, I think having Dan Ellis around will push Smith to want to fight for his job. This is the last shot for Smith to show the Lightning that he can still be a good goaltender if he wants to talk about re-signing another contract here in Tampa or really with any other team in the NHL. Him and Ellis played together previously for the Iowa Stars and Smith ended up winning the role of starter back then, maybe he can do it again. If he can't, we have Ellis to fall back on. If it ends up that Smith cannot function as a starting goalie, then after his contract is over, the Lightning can just wash their hands of him and look in another direction during the summer. As for Dan Ellis, this is his time to prove that he can be a starter after leaving Nashville where he had lost the role to Pekka Rinne.

So in the short term, I think having a tandem goaltenders will work for the Tampa Bay Lightning since they are not at the level to contend for the cup. But in the long term, I would have to agree with Bourne in that one top goalie and one back-up is better than two equally talented ones.

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