Saturday, September 1, 2007

Hasek Getting Better With Age

Dominik Hasek will be 42 years old when the season begins, and the Detroit Red Wings aren't worried one bit. Last year he was able to stay away from the groin injuries that have plagued him late in his career. His work load was very light, playing in only 56 games behind an air-tight defense, but he was there in every key moment when the Red Wings needed him most. He had a sparkling 2.05 GAA, and posted 38 wins. Hasek proved that he was still able to produce in the NHL, and signing another 1-year-deal in Detroit this offseason shows that he still wants to win. Having a backup like Chris Osgood, who can spell him for 20-25 games, is very important as Hasek gets older. Osgood played so well last season that the Red Wings saw almost no drop-off when he played instead of Hasek. Osgood is a seasoned veteran who clearly still has some gas left in the tank, and actually plays a part in the team's success, which most backups don't, due to the amount of games he plays.

The two goalies who played in Grand Rapids last season were Jimmy Howard, and Stefan Liv. Howard should be back again next season as the starter, and has proven to be a solid netminder at the AHL level. It's his job to step it up some more, as the Red Wings management hope he can one day start for them. He has been called up a little bit, and should see some more time this season at the NHL level, but he will likely be sent to Grand Rapids at the conclusion of training camp. Stefan Liv on the other hand, will not be back this season, as he signed a 3-year-contract to play for HV71 of the Swedish Elite League. His rights are still owned by the Red Wings, but he will continue to develop overseas. His unorthodox style has been compared to Dominik Hasek, and only time will tell if he makes it back to North America. After the Red Wings management heard the news that Liv would be leaving, they went out and signed Adam Berkhoel. Berkhoel played for Atlanta a few years ago when they were having injury trouble with their goaltenders, but has mainly bounced around in the AHL and ECHL. Last year he started for Dayton of the ECHL, and played well enough to earn a spot as the backup to Howard in Grand Rapids. The Wings also have a solid Swedish prospect named Daniel Larsson. He played for Djurgardens IF Stockholm of the Swedish Elite League, and continues to develop nicely. He was drafted in 2006, and we shouldn't see him here in North America for a couple of years. If he continues to improve, he should challenge for an NHL job down the road, but there is still plenty of work to do and games to play before we start making assumptions about his future. Dominik Hasek wants to win another cup before he re-retires, and with the roster the Red Wings have, he very well may, but he has nothing else to prove and will retire when he feels he's done. Chris Osgood should back him up nicely, and Jimmy Howard will be in Grand Rapids, waiting for his chance.