Barring a late move on the trade front, or off the waiver wire, the Guelph Storm will open the 2017-18 season next week with two home-grown goalies in the lineup for the first time since 2012.
Back then it was Garret Sparks in net and Jason DaSilva on the bench. DaSilva would get in seven games, including one start, before moving on in a year that saw the team dress four different goaltenders.
It has been 10 seasons since the Storm started and finished the campaign with two home-grown goaltenders - back in 2007-2008 when Thomas McCollum and Cody St. Jacques started and finished the season.
So it’s easy to see that one of the common criticisms of the team over the years has been an inability to develop its own goaltenders.
I’m not sure the criticism is entirely fair.
To develop a goaltender there has to be the ability and mental make-up there to develop. Which means drafting a developable entity.
To quote my Aunty Winnie, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
Goaltenders are, by nature, hard to predict.
Drafting hockey players is not a science. Drafting junior hockey players even less so. Drafting junior hockey goaltenders is virtually a crap shoot.
It’s why one or two of the highest-ranked goaltenders might go in the second or third round, after that teams wait until the middle rounds before taking them.
The best goaltender in Storm history were all drafted in the eighth round or later in the OHL draft? Adam Dennis, wasn’t drafted until the 14th round. Craig Anderson the 10th round. Chris Madden the eighth. Thomas McCollum wasn’t drafted at all.
Nobody thought Adam Dennis was going to be the best goaltender in the league, which he ended up being. Nobody thought Craig Anderson was going to play 552 games in the NHL, and counting.
The two goalies drafted highest by the Storm were Mark McArthur and Matt Mancina, both third round picks. Liam Herbst was a first round pick of London.
Goaltenders are so hard to scout. A good defenceman or forward on a bad team can often still stand out. A good goaltender on a bad team? A bad goalie on a good team? Much harder to gauge.
It doesn’t help that team’s scouting staffs don't often have a scout with a goaltending background.
“Stick him in there and let him learn” has been an opinion of the last couple of years among some fans at the Sleeman Centre. But “sticking him in there” can be counter-productive. One of the essentials in developing young players is putting them in situations that they can learn from and succeed in.
That’s hard to do with a young goalie when the team has been as bad as it has been the past two years.
I don’t know if Anthony Popovich and Nico Daws will be the goaltending tandem for this team all year. Both have done nothing in the pre-season to warrant concern. Both have been steady.
But we all know the regular season is a different beast and George Burnett might feel more comfortable with a more experienced goaltender in the mix.
But at some point you have to find out if what you have.
Mike Kelly always used to tell me you wait around 20 games into the season before assessing where your teams needs lie. I have a feeling that applies to the Storm goaltending situation.