This is Anaheim Calling to the hockey world.
The Ducks surprised just about everyone who seriously follows hockey by blanking the Blackhawks 3-0 on Friday. Chicago came into Anaheim with the league's second best penalty killing unit, but left the building 2 for 5 shorthanded.
J.S. Giguere was key in shutting down the Blackhawks soaring offense. Jiggy's statline for the past 3 games reads as follows: 3 wins, 1.30 GAA, .960 SV%. The Anaheim netminder is starting to look like his old self again, and he isn't giving any indication that Hiller will be logging crease time in the near future. Arthur, there's no denying that Hiller is a great young goaltender; will it be devastating for the organization if he loses the goalie battle and gets shipped off this season?
It would be devastating, but I think the devastation began when Francois Allaire left Anaheim. If Allaire was still around, I would say that Hiller could return to dominance or that we could still find another Hiller. But without le guru des gardiens, we were always running the risk of a Peeters and Pogge regime i.e. the end of goaltending as we know it.
And yet, I just don't think Murray can make the call to ship off Hiller, even if Giguere legitimately beats him out for this job. They've reached a point of no return where the best thing that Giguere can do is increase his own trade value, which is exactly what his recent performance does.
Jiggy is also reminding us that his colleague in the crease is an unfinished work in Francois Allaire's portfolio, that the Swiss netminder has yet to snatch the pebble from Allaire's hand. Hiller hasn't learned to trust his positioning on nights when he doesn't have his best stuff, and that is the lesson that carries a goaltender, particularly an Allaire pupil, through the NHL regular season. Don't get me wrong, Hiller's raw skills, his rockstar reflexes and highlight-reel athleticism, are enough to win a playoff series, but in a six month season, he has to find a way to win when those skills are not available to him. Otherwise, teams will catch him guessing, moving and generally struggling to find the plate.
And I know Ducks fans will blame the defense for either goalie's performance this year, but I think that, too, is a lesson for Hiller. He needs to be able to win games without a Norris ballot playing in front of him; Giguere certainly did when he earned this job.
I don't think losing Hiller would be as bad as my knee-jerk reaction is telling me. In fact, losing Hiller might help Anaheim this year as well as in the future. Hiller is scary good with those reflexes, but you've already said he's an incomplete product of Allaire. Meshing styles is dangerous when you haven't fully mastered at least one. Peeters' might not be able to help HIller without clashing with the foundation that Allaire has laid. If that's the case, it would be wise to stick with the veteran Giguere, who has a strong identity as a net minder, and let Hiller re-create himself on someone else's time and dollar.
Our goalie cupboard isn't overflowing with prospects, but Pogge has experience and Pielmeier had outstanding moments during camp. Maybe Peeters can still bring along one of those prospects. We'd have to keep Giguere past his current contract, but I think he would have the wherewithal to know he's aging and doesn't have the same $6 million value. Goalies are playing a little longer these days, and Giguere might still be a long way from "done." Will losing Hiller be a problem next year? Yes, because no matter what he gets paid it will be less than Giguere, and we'd lose an extraordinarily capable back up.
However, if Hiller becomes available, I don't think there's a better goalie out there on the trading block. Hiller is nothing but upside. Plus, his contract situation is ideal for teams who aren't sure about their goaltending situation this year. So, is there a cap-strapped team, looking to make a splash by announcing three huge new contract extensions, but thinks their Cup dreams could still be sideswiped by their lack of quality goaltending...?
Send us Dustin Byfuglien, Cam Barker and your First Rounder for Jonas Hiller and James Wisniewski. Keep in mind, Blackhawks fans, this rids you of Dustin Byfuglien and frees up money for Toews, Kane and Keith.
That deal would give us three first round picks in the next draft. Yes, we would be taking on 6M in salary for next year without dropping any, but the fact is we have to trade a goalie, either this year, or this summer, and Hiller has more trade value than Giguere.