By Mark Madden
The Penguins goaltending dilemma is now officially out of control.
It’s not wrong to play Brent Johnson. His statistics are overwhelming. He just pitched a shutout. He hasn’t lost in regulation.
But it’s not right to bench Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s the guy you count on to win 16 games in the spring. He’s a major, accomplished talent.
Don’t forget about the money. You CAN’T forget about the money. Fleury is signed through 2015 at $5m per season, Johnson through 2012 at $600K per.
Really, what do you do? Fleury won’t find his form in practice. He thrives on work. Rust might gather. If your answer to all that is “too bad,” you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.
But Johnson is playing better than Fleury. Better than just about any goalie in hockey.
Ask yourself two questions:
*Can you imagine Johnson maintaining this level of play all season and through the playoffs? He never has.
*Can you imagine Fleury playing below his talent level indefinitely? He never has.
To me, it all comes back to playing Fleury and establishing him as your No. 1. If he doesn’t cut the mustard, then you’ve got a hard decision to make after the season.
But until then, what are your options?
If you REALLY think Johnson can function as a championship-level No. 1 goaltender, remember that he’s only played in over half his team’s games ONCE, in 2001-02. Believing in Johnson over the long haul is quite a leap of faith.
I don’t envy Coach Disco. There’s no sure-shot way to handle this, and little precedent. But at some point it’s got to be one, or the other.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).