It’s not a goalie controversy yet.
Really, let’s look at just a couple months ago when the goalie situation was discussed.
“(L)abeling Hart as the starter and Elliott as the backup is probably not the best way to look at this season’s goalie tandem. While Hart should take the majority of the starts, it’s unlikely to be a traditional 55-27 split. More likely, depending on hot gloves, and injuries and Hart needing to develop, it may creep closer to a 45-37 split. It’s likely that during certain stretches, Elliott will take something akin to a starter’s load but never keeping it for long. It wouldn’t be shocking if, due to play, Elliott takes 2 games during a 3 game in 4 night stretch.”
Just as those words were written in August, the same situation described there is playing out right now. Elliott has taken a few starts by being hot while Hart has struggled. Right now, Elliott’s .926 SV% is running high, while Hart’s .862 SV% is running low. Both should even out with more games and there’s no controversy. Hart is still the future franchise goalie and Elliott is still a grizzled veteran transitioning into a mentor/backup role.
But that means the current status of the goalie situation is a 1A and 1B. And 1A/1B means there will be ebbs and flows and one guy will play 3-4 games in a row, and then it will be 3-4 games of the other guy.
The best news here is that Hart is faltering in October is far better than Hart faltering in March after the trade deadline. There’s time for the coaching staff to look to fixing his mechanics and helping reset Hart to being the goalie he is capable of being. If the diagnosis of the issue leads to the feeling that he needs to go get some more seasoning in the AHL, there’s plenty time of to go grab a goalie via waivers or trade or give backup duties to Alex Lyon, who’s posted a .951 SV% in the AHL so far.
It’s doubtful Lyon is a true backup, as his 13 game NHL career SV% of .894 is sub replacement level, but given Hart’s waiver exempt status, he could shuffle around to give Hart a few AHL games with no real risk of Lyon playing in the NHL. It would take some creative roster maneuvering with Lyon and Hart, but Chuck Fletcher is easily capable of making those moves if needed.
It’s not a goalie controversy – not at all, it’s just growing pains and no one should panic at all.