Photo via Circling the Wagon
With Rob Zepp being left without a contract, NHL journeyman goalie Jason Labarbera has taken over the AHL-NHL swingman goalie role for the upcoming season. Given Steve Mason’s health issues this past season, it’s possible Labarbera will be forced to play a few games for the Flyers this season. Unlike Zepp who came over from Germany with no NHL experience, Labarbera’s been around the NHL and AHL for basically his entire professional career.
With NHL save percentages hovering around .914 since 2010-11, it’s been a while since Labarbera posted an above average save percentage at the NHL level. On 99 shots last seaon, Labarbera had a .909 SV%, which while sub-average, he just needed one more save for a .919 which is roughly starting goalie territory. Of course, one bounce the other way and Labarbera posts a .899 SV% and he’s below replacement level, such is life in small samples.
Of course, Labarbera’s not going to be asked to face a significant number of shots at the NHL level. Should Mason or Neuvirth get hurt, Labarbera would backup the other one and if both were to get injured, especially for any significant amount of time, the Flyers would likely go out and trade for a rental goalie before making Labarbera a starter.
Labarbera’s now 35 years old and has been around for a long time. He’s been on some good Coyotes teams and he was a part of a bad Oilers team. He’s been the starter in the AHL and he’s backed up some very well known NHL starters like Jon Quick, Roberto Luongo, Ilya Bryzgalov and Mike Smith. He even had the LA Kings starting job in 2007-08. Basically, this experience makes him the perfect tutor for Anthony Stolarz with the Phantoms. He should have a lot to offer Stolarz who did not have an impressive first pro season.
Labarbera’s value will be found in how much he can help Stolarz develop and if all goes well, he should cede the Phantoms starting job to Stolarz as the year goes by in order to let Stolarz develop into a future NHL goalie. If Stolarz can’t take that step forward, Labarbera will be a solid AHL option as well.