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Admirals Stat-urday: Spinning the Wheel of Goaltenders

Five different goalies have stood between the pipes for Norfolk this season, with about 3 more sitting off the ice on a PTO with virtually no chance of getting in a game. Depth has helped out with injuries in Anaheim, but last week Admirals' fans watched two goalies get injured in the same game.

Igor Bobkov allowed one goal on 22 shots against the Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning) in his third game this season after being called up due to injuries to Brad Thiessen and John Gibson the night before.  It was the only goal allowed in his last three games (2 ECHL, 1 AHL).

Zack Stortini picked up his first Gordie Howe hat trick Friday with a fight, his second goal of the season, and an assist against the Springfield Falcons (Columbus Blue Jackets)

3  Norfolk has won three out of their last five games and are undefeated so far in December (3-0-0-0)

4  Defenseman Nolan Yonkman picked up just his fourth point of the season last Saturday vs Syracuse with an assist.  In 21 games played Yonkman has no goals and four assists.

5  Five different goalies have gone between the pipes so far this season:  Frederik Andersen, Brad Thiessen, Igor Bobkov, John Gibson, and Viktor Fasth.

Devante Smith-Pelly has goals in each of his last two games and has six goals in 12 games played this season.

7  Goaltender John Gibson has seen six shootouts this season, going 3-3 and allowing seven goals on 28 attempts.

8  Defenseman Jessie Blacker picked up his fourth goal of the season (third as an Admiral) last Saturday against the Crunch.  In eight games with the Admirals, Blacker has three goals and three assists (3+3=6 points)

9  The Admirals went to their league-leading 9th shootout versus Springfield Friday night after giving up two goals in 35 seconds in the third period allowing Springfield to tie the game.

10 Ten different Admirals players had points in 5-4 SO victory over Springfield on Friday.  It was also Norfolk's tenth game of the season requiring extra time.

--Forty percent of the Admirals' games this season have required extra time to finish.  I'll let that simmer...

--Last Friday Admirals' fans tuned in to follow the meeting between Norfolk and Syracuse.  The Admirals went on the road after a disappointing weekend in which, despite stellar performances from John Gibson and the newly signed Brad Thiessen, the Admirals managed to get beaten by one goal each in two games against Providence. The combination of Gibson and Thiessen restored confidence to Norfolk fans, as Thiessen is an experienced goalie who was brought in to provide stability and reliability in the back-up role.

The rivalry born of a player swap was still in as full force last weekend as it has ever been, and while fans expected a hard hitting, grinding kind of game, what they did not expect to see was starter John Gibson get knocked from the game midway through, and then see goalie Brad Thiessen get up slowly from the ice after making a save not long after coming in as relief.  Thiessen managed to tough it out, even winning in the shoot-out, but it was clear he wasn't feeling great after the game either.  That night the call went out to Igor Bobkov to pack up and get to Syracuse.  Fans didn't know who would be sitting, Thiessen or Gibson.

As it got closer to game time, a PTO signing was announced by Norfolk, a goalie.  The worst case scenario, both Thiessen and Gibson, injured, unable to play, had come true.  Bobkov came in having played the night before and earning a shutout, and whether because of skill, luck, pride or guts held Syracuse to just one goal and made two others by the Admirals stand up for his first win of the season.  Bobkov has been the odd man out this season after playing the back-up role in Norfolk last year, but with word that Thiessen is out for an extended period may find himself getting a game or two in Norfolk in the mean time.  I certainly won't mind if he can duplicate the effort from last weekend.

--Lastly, I want to chime in quickly on the announcement of Shawn Thornton's 15 game suspension because as a fan of hockey I can't in good conscience remain silent (I promise it will be quick.)

Once again Gary Bettman capitulated to the guys paying his salary rather than taking player safety in to account. Why was the league so intent on bringing a "clean" record in to their decision making process here? A first time murderer hadn’t killed anyone before, so should they be let off more easily? Same thing with assault– "Your honor, I never beat anyone to within an inch of their life before, so you need to go easy on me."

I don’t buy the whole "Julien didn’t know Thornton would do what he did" argument either, it’s the same thing as putting a visitor to a zoo in the cage with a tiger who, up until then, had never attacked anyone before, and then having the nerve to be surprised when it does maul the visitor or even to claim the visitor "aggravated the tiger."

If the NHL really wants to send a message to everyone that this type of violent behavior will not be tolerated they will start to punish the teams as well as the players. If a player is suspended, the coach loses a roster spot for the length of the suspension.  In Thornton’s case, the  Boston Bruins would only be able to dress 17 players for 15 games, so not only do they lose Thornton (or whomever) but they also have to play short-handed.

This should/would have the following effects: If the player really is "looking out for his team" then he shouldn’t want to put his team down a roster spot by taking a stupid penalty, if indeed it is team first. The coaches would not employ their players in such a way as to set up a potential suspendable situation for fear of losing the player and a roster spot. Once it happened a few times, I think GMs and owners would think twice about employing the kind of players that would hurt their teams, and once those types of players find they can’t get work they’ll have to change their game or be unemployable. And as mentioned above, GMs wouldn’t be able to call up no-body's from the minors to sacrifice when it will hurt them after the fact.

Punishing the player doesn’t go far enough, as there will always be another Shawn Thornton waiting in the wings (or the AHL) to be called up to fill the role. Clean up the system, punish EVERYONE involved. Let the players and the fans know that speed and skill are the backbone of the game, not "enforcers" like Shawn Thornton.

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