Thursday, September 20, 2007

King Cloutier

"There's nothing I can do," said Cloutier, of the catcalls that have punctuated most of his stay with the Kings. "I can't control what they do. I can't start to worry about what people are yelling or thinking of my play or what I'm doing. At the end of it, it's going to make me better when I work my way out of it. I've been in that situation before, my first couple of years in Vancouver, and then I had a couple of successful seasons and it went away, so …

"In order to get it away, you need to put up some numbers and get some wins."
Duhatschek's out in California for the preseason, something that's going to lead-up to next weekend's games between Anaheim and Los Angeles in England.

It's been interesting getting all of his reports from the Kings', Ducks' and Sharks' training camps, markets we don't necessarily see a lot coverage of at this time of year. The Kings, in particular, are an interesting study in a team trying to turn things around awfully quickly with a mix of free agents and young talent, and a few are picking them to surprise this season.

As the thinking goes, they just need a goalie.

Dan Cloutier was a solid goaltender in Vancouver, he really was. You can't win 30 games three seasons in a row and be a scrub, and while it's true he had some decent Canucks teams in front of him, they were never decent in the defensive end.

But the image most casual hockey fans have of Cloutier is of the Nicklas Lidstrom long bomb of 2002, or of that omnipresent Photoshopped image of the beach ball behind him in the goal.

He's not that bad — or at least he wasn't before that awful showing in the 2003 playoffs against Minnesota, the concussion and knee injuries after the lockout, and the lost season that was last year in Los Angeles. But he's played in tough markets in the past, received his fair share of heckling, and was often left hanging out to dry in Vancouver — a noted goalie graveyard.

The best-case scenario for him at this point just might be Jason LaBarbera standing out at camp and taking the starting role, because, at this point, Cloutier's not ready for it. He might even be a far better fit as a backup, where there's less pressure and you often face lesser opponents, and at age 31 with that unfortunate fat contract, he's not going to the minors in either of the next two years.

The Kings' record in their division was awful last season, something attributable to just how tough a go the Pacific is. Los Angeles won just six of 24 games against Anaheim, Dallas and San Jose in 2006-07, and even a .500 record in those games would allow them to stay in a playoff race through the trade deadline.

Rob Blake needs to be better, Jack Johnson needs to surprise, Ladislav Nagy needs to score and, yes, Dan Cloutier's going to have to play a role.

It's going to be interesting.

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11 Comments:

At 5:24 PM, September 20, 2007, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

He's not that bad — or at least he wasn't before that awful showing in the 2003 playoffs against Minnesota, the concussion and knee injuries after the lockout, and the lost season that was last year in Los Angeles.

Actually, he was...

http://jesgolbez.blogspot.com/2006/07/dan-cloutier-to-la-kings.html

His SV%'s were constantly in the bottom half of NHL starters, and his wins were thanks to the team in front of him.

The Kings certainly will not make the playoff if Cloutier plays a significant amount of games.

 
At 5:30 PM, September 20, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I don't think you can make the argument a .914 save percentage is terrible.

And "that" bad implies he deserves catcalls and all that other crap. I can name dozens of goaltenders far worse than Cloutier (did you see Fukufuji last season?)

His save percentage in 2003 was the league average and in 2004 it was a few per cent above.

 
At 6:03 PM, September 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just that Cloutier is brutal. He is that. But he's also fragile. If he's not letting in a 100-foot waster in the playoffs, he's getting hurt scratching his @zz. If I had my choice of any of the league's 30 nominal No 1 goalies, I'd rank Cloutier 31st.

 
At 6:11 PM, September 20, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

James, I agree that Cloutier was not bad - but average.

However, there are three types of average:

1) A goalie who is average all the time;

2) A goalie who comes up big for important games but underperforms when not much is at stake - for an overall average performance; and,

3) A goalie who chokes during big games but excels when nothing is on the line - for an overall average performance.

Unfortunately for the Canucks - and now the Kings - Cloutier was, and probably still is, a #3 average goalie.

 
At 6:24 PM, September 20, 2007, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

I don't know if Cloutier excelled ever last year, big game or no.

I wrote a post last December about L.A.'s horrid goaltending. They went 5-6-2 for the month of November; had they had a goaltender who could have stopped 9 out of 10 shots they would have projected instead for a 9-1-3 month.

It's scary how much a junk goaltender can kill a club.

 
At 6:27 PM, September 20, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

No one's arguing he wasn't awful last season; that's a given.

 
At 6:29 PM, September 20, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

James you're one of the most impartial bloggers out there but you are and always have been a Cloooooter apologist.

It's ok, you were a pretty hardcore Vancouver fan back them

 
At 6:31 PM, September 20, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I think saying he's had a few good seasons is being impartial.

Right now? His career very well might be over given the way he's played since 2004.

 
At 7:16 PM, September 20, 2007, Anonymous Dennis Prouse said...

This is what happens when you let loyalty get in the way of common sense. Bringing Cloutier to LA, and then bidding against themselves to sign him to that ridiculous contract, was a horrid decision on Crawford's part. There wasn't a coach or GM in the League who would have made that decision other than Crow. What's worse, after last year's crash and burn there is zero evidence to suggest that he is capable of turning it around.

Is there a list of stinkiest existing contracts kicking around the league? We can start with Cloutier, Rathje -- there have to be many others.

 
At 7:33 PM, September 20, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Bringing Cloutier to LA, and then bidding against themselves to sign him to that ridiculous contract, was a horrid decision on Crawford's part. There wasn't a coach or GM in the League who would have made that decision other than Crow. What's worse, after last year's crash and burn there is zero evidence to suggest that he is capable of turning it around.

I couldn't agree more. As I said to Jes in an email, I'm embarrassed for the Kings that they have that deal on the books.

It puts Cloutier in a bad situation as well, as if he had, say, a $900,000 deal right now, he wouldn't be under the gun to come back and perform right away.

 
At 2:25 PM, September 21, 2007, Blogger Matthew said...

Looks like it will be the AHL for Mr Cloutier this year ...
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/news_story/?ID=218857&hubname=

 

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