Once upon a time, Andrew Raycroft was chosen over Vesa Toskala to start against the Ottawa Senators on Opening Night, thanks to a weak decision by Paul Maurice. Things didn’t go as planned, the Leafs were shut out 4-0 at home and the season’s dismal start was etched in history forever.
Just two measly wins all year long and no hope for a better tomorrow, Raycroft was left to wallow in his many blunders. That was until Toronto bought him out and along came Colorado, licking their chops and feasting their eyes on Raycroft, ready to do what they do best – give goalies another chance. As it was with Patrick Roy and Jose Theodore, is now with Raycroft, and ever shall be, forever and ever.
Yet under the surface of every questionable acquisition in goal these days, you’ll find that it all boils down to potential. In Raycroft’s case, Colorado sees a ton of it, sitting there like a mound of clay. The horrible season, the downward spiral of focus in games and the inability to make the easy save; none of that outweighed the potential of what could become. The move was not just a testament of faith, nor was it born out of desperation. It was a chance to create a winner by molding a piece of clay.
For you see, the answer lies in Colorado’s goalie coach, Jeff Hackett, and his incredible work ethic. That’s exactly what Theodore lacked when he came to Colorado two seasons ago. Not anymore. Not after working with Hackett. For Raycroft, he picks up a much-needed catalyst, a reason for competing at the highest level once again. He gets that in Hackett, who was a former teammate at some point early on in both Theodore and Raycroft’s careers, with the Canadiens and Bruins respectively.
I’m not saying that lightning will strike twice and Raycroft is automatically destined to become the same player he was when he won the Calder, but hey, Hackett did it with Theodore, why he can’t do it with Raycroft? In fact, Hackett probably has MORE to work with, as Theodore was, in my opinion, much more competitive when he came to Colorado than Raycroft is right now. Raycroft doesn’t lack talent, he lacks confidence. There are probably a few small things in Raycroft’s game that will be worked out, making him consistent, confident and a potential leader once again.
So for $800,000 Raycroft looks more like a piece of clay than a big useless gold statue (which many Toronto fans would say fits the description perfectly). The bottom line is this: Hackett was able to turn Theodore's game around and now he’s undertaking the exact same opportunity with Raycroft, another former teammate. This and this alone is what makes the former Maple Leafs goaltender a potential steal for the Avalanche. The same can be said for your team, as his value will certainly be low on the radar.
Here’s a quick look at the fantasy value of each goalie on the move so far this summer and whether or not I feel their fantasy value is going up or down.
1. CHRIS MASON - Was traded to the St. Louis Blues for 4th round pick and with Manny Legace's injury problems (I remember explaining the trouble with meniscus injuries) so there could be a sentiment that Legace needs to be challenged by Mason for the starting role. Mason’s affinity for blue and gold will make him a successful player in St. Louis but it’s too early to tell how many games to expect from him.
2. JOSE THEODORE - Washington bound, but won’t fare much better in the lethal Southeast Division. Theodore left a comfortable home in Colorado for only $1 million more over two years (Colorado reportedly offered $7 million). Was the money worth it, Theo? His value certainly goes up playing for a potential division winner as opposed to a team that barely slips into the playoffs in the heated west.
3. OLAF KOLZIG - Signed on with Tampa Bay. Good for him. I love how Kolzig signed with a team in the Southwest Division. All of a sudden the games against Washington will be awesome to see when Kolzig gets the nod (especially with greedy Theo in net). I also love the tandem with Mike Smith. Two big, mobile, lanky goaltenders that have another thing in common that Barry Melrose will love; they wear their emotions on their sleeves. If Smith slips, ‘Zilla’s there to take over. Kolzig’s value is on the rise.
4. CURTIS JOSEPH - A return to the Leafs is more about his veteran leadership in the locker room. Cujo’s value is on the rise since he no longer backs up Miikka Kiprusoff, but how many games he plays really depends. I don’t expect Cujo to play more than 30 games, but if he plays 20, that’s a hike in his value.
5. PATRICK LALIME - Lalime is in prime pouncing mode to take the starting role if Ryan Miller is moved at the trade deadline or when the season ends. I think Miller is poised for a great season now that he’s had a whole season to settle in behind a team that no longer has the big guns in the lineup. Either way, if Lalime improves on last year’s performance, he could easily see 25 games. Lalime is a work in progress and I have a hunch he will be a regular starter at the beginning of either the 2009-10 or 2010-11 season.
6. CRISTOBAL HUET – It seems like wherever Huet goes, there’s already another premiere goalie nestled in net. First it was Kolzig and now in Chicago it’s Nikolai Khabibulin. I don’t think Huet is the answer in Chicago, so I think his stock declines slightly in the West. It’s an interesting situation for sure, but I’m a believer that Khabibulin will play the best hockey of his career this year since his run with Tampa Bay.
7. TY CONKLIN – Everyone knows that Chris Osgood doesn’t need to play more than 50 games to be effective in the playoffs. He’s not like Hasek at all. So Conklin provides Ken Holland with a great situation once again at an incredible price. Fantasy value goes up for an entire season as Conklin will see at least 30 games. I stick with the sentiment that if you draft one Wings goalie, just draft the other and end it.