ESPN recently came out with their selections are the top 25 goalies right now in the NHL, and there has been recent backlash over the fact that the Winnipeg Jets #1 net-minder Ondrej Pavelec was left off the list.
To be fair, when looking at Pavelec’s numbers it is clear to see that he is not a top-10 elite goalie and based off numbers many would have to step back and take a long look at the recent 5-year $19.5 million dollar dear that was handed to Ondrej prior to the start of the 2012 season. In his two years in Winnipeg the Jets have been competitive and he has had his up and down nights that have allowed them to stay in the playoff races right up until the end of the season culminating in the Jets just missing out on the playoffs last year by a couple games and finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference. His game can really be frustrating at time, but his reliability has been off the charts early into his young career. His health, preparation and durability have never come into question and his league-leading 44 starts in the condensed 2013 season proves that.
Ondrej finished the season with a 21-20-3 record with a 2.8 Goals Against Average and a .905 save percentage. Nothing special at all there, but what the numbers don’t tell you is the level of respect his teammates and coaches have for him. Almost every guy in the dressing has gone on the record saying that they all believe he is a top-10 goalie and management thinks that they have a goalie who can lead them where they want to go and I for one actually agree. Ondrej has been a human highlight-reel since he came to Winnipeg and he has been dominant many a night. The sad thing is, being a young guy on a young team things tend to spiral quickly and that’s goes for the good, and the bad. For every Sports Center save there is an equally awful goal that gets let it and that is part of the learning curve for most goalies.
When Jets Head Coach Claude Noel was asked about his goalie missing the top 25 he responded by saying,
“That’s their opinion, but it’s probably fair until his numbers change. Players get ranked a lot of times according to numbers and I think it’s probably fair.”
I may be a little different then most when I say I don’t always like Coach Noel’s post-game reactions but no matter what the man is honest and holds no punches back. That being said, I completely agree with his statement and always have thought Pavelec was a legit goalie but agreed that his numbers obviously need to change before the perception of him being a roller-coaster ride can change. To be fair there were many times last year where his defence let him down and he was left to the sharks. Sometime he stood tall, but it seemed like those huge stops didn’t seem to come when they were always needed, especially when on the PK. But none-the-less he battles, he’s a competitor and he’s a hell of an athlete and many of his teammates would have put his name in the hat for team MVP last year and that case is just as justified a statement as it is having him left out of the top-25 goalies.
Now Pavelec, entering his third season in Winnipeg should feel confident and comfortable and hopefully he’s ready to be a leader in all phases of the game. He really does have the support of his coaches, teammates and the fan-base and I am glad he’s on my side. Had the Jets won 2 more games and made the playoffs he would have been one of the 2 or 3 main reasons why and it seems that he really does battle on a nightly basis. You got to love a goalie when he’s asked if he needs a break or a night off much like he was asked many times late in the season. He simply said,
“I’m a goalie, I’m paid to play and I expect to play every night”
He never once let up the notion that he was tired and that to me spells a winner though he, along with many of the Jets, are still trying to get rid of those training wheels and hop on that Triumph motorcycle to ride off into the sunset. Will this be the year? Only time will tell, but here’s to hoping Pavelec’s ranking in next year’s ESPN magazine is much improved. For if it is, it should be safe to say that these 2013-2014 would have been a playoff contender.
For those wondering here was ESPN’s top 10 goalies:
THE ESPN GOALIE RANKINGS
1. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
2. Jonathan Quick, Kings
3. Tuukka Rask, Bruins
4. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets
5. Pekka Rinne, Predators
6. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings
7. Craig Anderson, Senators
8. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks
9. Antti Niemi, Shars
10. Cory Schneider, Devils