Sunday, January 6, 2008

Tough Times in Minors for NHL Castoffs Cloutier and Denis

Sometimes a trip to the minors to "get your game back" can be a demoralizing experience, especially if you struggle. When you play such a critical position as goaltender, where confidence means everything, it may ruin your career. Two goalies going through that right now are the Los Angeles Kings' Dan Cloutier, and the Tampa Bay Lightning's Marc Denis. It's tough to watch, a little like a car accident. Of course you never want to see something like this happen, but you're watching through your hands. We all know that when they are on their game, Dan Cloutier and Marc Denis can be quality goaltenders, but unfortunately, right now they are not. As a result, they are struggling badly at the AHL level.

Cloutier was sent down to the Manchester Monarchs at the start of the season, and has been splitting time with Erik Ersberg. He has appeared in 12 games posting a dismal 3-8 record, but it gets worse. Cloutier has a 3.50 goals against average and a .875 save percentage. That is absolutely awful if you're not sure what those stats mean. I truly hope he can find out what exactly the problem is, because you never like to see a goaltender struggle like this. Hopefully he can work with his coaches, pinpoint his issues, and make the slow, painful climb back to the NHL. Situations like these has put many a goaltender on the retired list, and I believe Cloutier has plenty left in the tank.

Denis was sent down recently, after clearing waivers. He had only 1 win in 10 games (coincidentally enough, the 1 win came against the Leafs) and his play was slipping. Tampa Bay is not a bad defensive team, and we all know about their goaltending woes. They decided that something needed to be done, and sent Denis down which was the correct move. When they acquired him from Columbus, they had thoughts of him taking over the #1 role which wasn't too far-fetched. He was a very solid goaltender. Nothing flashy, but he could get the job done. I'm not sure what went wrong and when, but something changed. That's why he finds himself where he is. Playing below-average hockey for the Norfolk Admirals. Denis has a 1-1-1 record in 3 games with Norfolk. Okay, not bad right? Well look at his save percentage and goals against average, .872 and 3.24. That's not the Marc Denis we knew in Columbus, and with the World Junior squad in 1996 and 1997.

That's the story of two goalies who we all hope can get their game back, but right now the outlook isn't so good. I really can't say what I expect to happen. It's all up to the players whether they make it back or not, but one thing is for sure, it's not an easy task. It may be harder for them to make it back to the NHL then it was to make to the NHL the first time.


Ron Guillet said...

Cloutier has been abysmal for a while now... it is a shame, but I fear his career may be coming to an end. Denis on the other hand, still has hope. I think the Lightning should put him on waivers, or re-entry if they have to, and see if another team will take a chance on him... a new surrounding with a stronger D, as a back-up of course, might be just what the doctor ordered for the young tender.

Brochu said...

Unfortunately, it seems to be the trend for NHL teams that have made big mistakes in goaltending to just send goalies to the AHL, where they are quickly forgotten. Good luck to both goalies, but the chances are they will stay in the minors until their contract runs out.

Magnum said...

Denis beat Montreal, a 3-2 shootout victory. The only game he played against the Leafs was a 6-1 loss.