The discussion of a Jonas Hiller return is brewing behind the scenes, according to The OC Register, but with only a handful of games left in the season, and the Ducks current tandem of netminders mostly getting the job done, it's hard to gauge how important it is to get Anaheim's number one goaltender back in his crease after such a long hiatus away from the paint.
Arthur, is it too late for Jonas HIller to do anything more than have a heat check if he sees game action some time in the remainder of the regular season?
My initial reaction is to say yes, it's too late for Hiller to come back and be an impact player with him having missed so much time and there being only a handful of games left to impact.
But then I consider Emery, who missed a whole lot more time and whose only heat check came in AHL action. Emery's two starts have been big, so why wouldn't two Hiller starts be Important, even if we're just testing him out, even if it's just a heat check? That, of course, assumes Anaheim is somewhere in earshot of the postseason roll call.
Obviously, it could hurt us putting him in there early. That was the worry with Emery. The team needed the help, but the team was past the point where it could sacrifice two points for the sake of a goaltender looking for his confidence.
A heat check is one thing, but a health check is quite another. If Hiller would be coming back even one period before he's ready, then he's more of an impact player in the press box than he would be on the ice.
I don't see why Hiller can't have an impact. It's not just about his skill between the pipes; it's about the confidence he gives the team. You're right about Emery's starts demonstrating how impactful a goalie can be when he just steps in and plays well. I suppose that's why I'm agreeing that getting Hiller back could be huge.
Plus, maybe Hiller can be put on a conditioning assignment to make sure he can handle game action. I know the NHL game is faster, but a symptom-free AHL game means he might be able to have a symptom-free NHL game. As much as I've appreciated Ellis, and loved Emery, Hiller would be more than a welcome addition in net. He might even provide key performances in a couple of games that can push us into the playoffs. That is IF he's healthy.
You've already emphasized how important it is to not rush Hiller back, and I 100% agree. However, there's something else to consider. If Hiller is healthy enough to come back this year, who is the odd goalie out?
It's easy to say that it should be Emery, because he has a 2-way contract. But, I think Emery has looked better than Ellis. I know people see rebounds and get nervous, but I think they've forgotten what it was like to have Jiggy manning the net. Butterfly guys leave rebounds; it's what happens when your only concerns are taking away large portions of the net and letting the puck hit you.
Can you improve rebound control? Sure, but if the D keeps their collective head on straight, then it's not a big deal. Emery scrambles less than Ellis, and his reflexes seem to be a little bit better than Giguere's, who was struggling on the way out. I'm sure management will make the easiest decision and send Emery to Syracuse IF Hiller comes back, but maybe they should explore a couple more complicated options.