TIOPS DAILY BUZZ
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. Marc Andre Fleury’s 4 year, $23 million extension today was far from a surprise. Momentum was moving in the direction of the Penguins committing another long-term contract to Fleury in recent weeks and once word leaked of Allan Walsh meeting with Penguins officials last weekend, it was only a matter of time before the deal got finalized.
When initially hired over the summer, Jim Rutherford was lukewarm about whether Fleury was the Penguins long-term goaltender but all he needed was one month to change his mind?
As I wrote in yesterday’s Daily Buzz Section, Rutherford did extensive homework on Fleury and realized just how important he is in the Penguins room and well liked by players, notably the core players. It’s a trap that others in the organization have fallen into. Fleury’s personality of being such a great guy has had a huge impact on his career and has no doubt played a part in getting so much continued support by the Penguins brass, new or old, and favorable media coverage from the local ‘traditional’ media.
The fascinating part for Fleury is he should be thankful Pierre McGuire turned down the Penguins GM job two days before the Penguins hired Rutherford. This was McGuire’s job if he was willing to take a three year deal. McGuire’s primary plan was to trade or buy Fleury out. McGuire has even gone on the record with how he would handled the Fleury situation, implying that’s what he would have did.
Funny how things have worked out.
One narrative from the local media is Fleury had a “great 2014 playoffs”. Yes he was improved as for the first time since the 2009 playoffs, Fleury’s save percentage in the post-season was above .900, at .915. That number, though, is quite misleading because of two shutouts in the Rangers series.
In six of Fleury’s final eight starts in the 2014 playoffs, he had a save percentage, .900 or below, and in Games 5-7 of the Rangers series, all games the Penguins could have eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs, Fleury’s save percentage was .882, .897, .900.
Since the 2010 post-season, Fleury has a .891 save percentage and has won just two series (Round 1 vs Ottawa, 2010, Round 1 vs Columbus, 2014) during that span. One big concern for Fleury in the post-season is the momentum killer goals against and the lack of a killer instinct to close out a series.
Here are Fleury’s numbers in playoff games that were either elimination games or games the Penguins could knock the opposition out of the playoffs.
(Fleury’s record in those games, 4-10)
Round 1: Games 5-6 vs Ottawa: .909 SV%, .903 SV%
Round 2: Games 6-7 vs Montreal: .840 SV%, .692 SV%
Round 1: Games 5-7 vs Tampa Bay: .714 SV%, .810 SV%, .957 SV%
Round 1: Games 4-6 vs Philadelphia: .880 SV%, .923 SV%, .818 SV%
Round 1: Game 6 vs Columbus, .889 SV%
Games 5-7 vs Rangers, 882 SV%, .897 SV%, .900 SV%
2. I am not a fan of the Fleury extension from the standpoint that I don’t believe any middle of the road goaltenders like Fleury are worth committing $5 million+ to. You can get similar production and better value elsewhere like the Penguins did in 2013 with Tomas Vokoun at $2 million per.
However, it’s understandable where the Penguins are coming from. For a Cup contender it’s likely not an easy feeling to fret about whether there’s a better option elsewhere, while from a financial standpoint, goaltender salaries are bloated throughout the league and when you breakdown Fleury’s numbers, there are similar goaltenders in the same neighborhood financially.
The stance the Penguins are taking is a similar one former GM Ray Shero took. Fleury is a lock every season for 40 regular season wins and one of these years he’s going to put it all together in the post-season. Maybe he will, who knows, but the Penguins are likely never going to have as deep of a team that they had in the 2009 playoffs when they won the Stanley Cup with Fleury posting a .908 save percentage in the post-season. Since 1993, he remains the only Stanley Cup winning goaltender to win a Stanley Cup with a save percentage below .910.
At the end of the day, though, the positive for the Penguins is they held firm on their desire of a shorter-term deal. They initially offered a three year deal and eventually went four years. This isn’t a 7-8 year contract that they wouldn’t have been able to move if things go south again.
3. Rob Scuderi is not only gaining more trust from the coaching staff, he has graded out as one of the Penguins best defensemen through the first 10 games, at least in their eyes. According to a source, (not including Tuesday’s game vs Minnesota, 11th game), Scuderi had graded out by Penguins coaches as Pittsburgh’s 2nd best defenseman through the first 10 games. Players are graded on a game by game basis. Scuderi play the past couple games has played into the belief from team officials who were around last year that Scuderi’s ankle injury hampered him more than anyone realized. We’ll see if it can continue.