Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Two Goalies, One Job. Will Norrena or Leclaire be the #1 'tender?

Both will be, according to today's Dispatch.

As of today, Leclaire gets the start on Friday at home against Anaheim and Norrena will fill the net on Saturday's road game in Minnesota. Neither goalie has proved himself above and beyond the other, so the starter role is going to bounce back and forth for a while. That is, until one netminder dominates the crease, or until one of them is injured.

The tendency for the Jackets organization has been to lean on Pascal Leclaire. The team has invested much time, money and a first round draft pick in 2001 for his services. There's no doubt that the team wants to see a return on this investment, but he's going to need to stay healthy before any results will be seen.

Norrena, whom many chose as the team's MVP last season due to his winning record in the net, is going to keep the pressure on Leclaire. He was intended to be the backup last year, but quickly stole the goalie spotlight when an injured Leclaire played his last game midway through last season. If Norrena can pick up right where he left off last season, there's no reason why he couldn't take the number one spot. Even if Leclaire stays healthy, I predict that Norrena will have played more games by season's end.

However the cards fall, having two healthy goaltenders will keep the competition for the starting role fierce. If one goalie has so much as one bad game, you can rest assured that the other is waiting in the wings for his chance.

An added redundancy to the Jackets goaltender situation is 19 year old Steve Mason, who will be sticking around Columbus in the short term to see how things progress. Seeing as he is only 19, he retains two more years of eligibility in the junior leagues. The Jackets would like to send him back for "more seasoning", but if the time comes, he may just get his NHL debut. Turning to Mason as a third-rung goaltender is better than looking for a Boucher or a Conklin, as the team did last year when injuries emptied the crease. At least with Mason, the team is building a prospect, not just filling a hole in the roster.

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