Congrats to the 2023 Stanley Cup champions, the Vegas Golden Knights. Game 5 of this year’s finals are probably the most complete game I’ve ever seen in a series-clinching win…oh wait….Vegas scored again! But this is not an article to praise the Golden Knights, but rather to see what lessons the Philadelphia Flyers can take away from the Golden Knights’ victory. Specifically, how Vegas’s goalie situation played out, and thoughts on Adin Hill.
First of all, let’s be honest – the Golden Knights won primarily because they’re a deeply talented team. All four lines were solid and dependable, they had a defense that didn’t make mistakes, and they were ably led by a good coaching staff. . .so, what Daniel Briere, Keith Jones, and John Tortorella are trying to create with the Philadelphia Flyers. But their feat was not achieved because of an elite goalie’s performances. This is not to take away from Adin Hill, though – he made many great saves in the playoffs, including this one:
Adin Hill likely would have won the Conn Smythe Trophy, if not for the stellar play of Jonathan Marchessault. In his career, Hill hasn’t really been anything more than a journeyman backup goalie. He only started in 25 games in the regular season this year, winning 16 of them with a save percentage of 0.915 and a goals-against-average of 2.45. He was one of five goalies used by Vegas this year as injuries took their toll, and fellow journeyman Laurent Brossoit started their first eight games in the playoffs before the Knights were forced to turn to Hill.
Logan Thompson is the only goalie the Golden Knights have signed for the 2023-24 season. Adin Hill, Brossoit, and Jonathan Quick are all set to hit free agency, and there is a strong chance Quick rides this Cup win off into the sunset. There is also pretty strong chance that Hill and Brossoit may be re-signed by Vegas, but they’ll need to jump through more cap space hoops to achieve that. Vegas will have just $3.46 million in cap space to sign key free agent contributors like Ivan Barbashev and Brett Howden, as well as promising youngster Pavel Dorofeyev in addition to Hill and Brossoit.
The point is that the Golden Knights needed a team goalie effort to have the best record in the Western Conference, and they rode their goalie carousel to a Stanley Cup championship. There were other teams that did not have one goalie run the table for them too – the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils both rotated between Antti Raanta and Frederik Andersen and Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid. The Florida Panthers rolled out Alex Lyon three times before giving the nod to Sergei Bobrovsky for the remainder of their run. Most people think you need an amazing, lights out goalie in net to win a championship, and for the most part, you do. But, a goalie is only as good as who is in front of him. Would Martin Brodeur have brought the Ottawa Senators or the New York Islanders Islanders to a championship in the 90s? Without the suffocating Devils defense in front of him, he could’ve ended up as an average goalie.
While many fans want to see a Bernie Parent, Patrick Roy, or Dominik Hasek style goalie in net, that doesn’t always guarantee a victory. Remember, the Detroit Red Wings’ dynasty in the 90s started by having Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood split net duties. Perhaps having two decent/good goalies is better than having one great one. After all, look at how Sergei Bobrovsky fell apart in Game Five after over a dozen great performances.
Do the Flyers have their own Adin Hill already?
Trading away Carter Hart might be a mistake for the Flyers, at the end of the day. He has a lot of talent and a great future in front of him. If the Flyers can swing a trade and get a ton of assets back, that may be for the best. A goalie tandem of Hart, Cal Petersen, Felix Sandstrom, and/or Sam Ersson might be better than just leaning on Hart. Financial assets, instead of being tied down by a goalie, like the Los Angeles Kings and Petersen, could be allocated to reinforce the defense or offense. A high-scoring offense can bail out a goalie on a bad night while a strong defense can protect the goalie from having to save 30+ shots every single night.
The Flyers currently have four goalies, so someone is going to have to pack their bags. Felix Sandstrom might be the first one out. If Petersen is up to the challenge, he can back up Hart. If not, send Petersen to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and stick with Hart and Sam Ersson, unless you can pry Adin Hill himself away from Vegas, or another team making an offer for his services.
An Adin Hill can do a lot for you, but you need a good team in front of him too. There’s a famous quote from the classic baseball film Field of Dreams: “If you build it, he will come.” If the Flyers can field a better team, who is in net won’t matter as much. And while the Flyers have been searching for their franchise goalie since Ron Hextall, they really need to focus on building a better team in front of the netminder. The goalie will come, eventually.