Entering the NHL’s 2014-15 season, over half of the 30 teams face questions regarding their goaltending. Here’s a look at their respective issues between the pipes.
Anaheim Ducks: Lack an experienced starting goalie. They will start this season with Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Both showed promise last season but have a combined 31 NHL regular-season games between them.
Arizona Coyotes: The big question is, can Mike Smith stay healthy and regain the form which carried the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final? Over the past two seasons Smith struggled with injuries and consistency. The Coyotes need him at top form if they’re to contend in the tough Western Conference.
Buffalo Sabres: Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth will jockey for the starter’s job. They’ve got big shoes to fill. This marks the first time since 2003-04 the Sabres didn’t begin the season with Ryan Miller as their starting goalie.
Carolina Hurricanes: What becomes of long-time starter Cam Ward? Injuries and inconsistency led to Ward losing the starting role to Anton Khudobin last season. Can Ward regain his once-stellar form? And if so, will the Hurricanes try to trade him?
Edmonton Oilers: Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth will battle for the role of starting goalie. Up to this season both were considered backup goaltenders. For the Oilers to make significant improvement this season they’ll need Scrivens or Fasth to prove they’re capable of being a reliable NHL starter.
Florida Panthers: It’ll be interesting to see if Roberto Luongo remains among the league’s elite goalies backstopping a young Panthers defense corps. Luongo’s performance has been in slow decline since 2011.
Minnesota Wild: What will the Wild do about their log jam in the crease? Josh Harding (MS) and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal injury) are reportedly healthy again, while young Darcy Kuemper has yet to be re-signed. One of them will be the odd man out at some point this season.
Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price remains their starter, but it’s between Peter Budaj and Dustin Tokarski to determine who becomes Price’s backup. If the Habs attempt to demote Tokarski they could lose him to a rival club via waivers.
Nashville Predators: All eyes will be on Pekka Rinne, who missed most of last season to complications from hip surgery last summer. The Predators need him healthy and in top form if they’re to contend for a playoff berth this season.
New York Islanders: They acquired and re-signed former St. Louis Blues starter Jaroslav Halak during the off-season. After bouncing from St. Louis to Buffalo to Washington late last season, Halak must prove he’s still a reliable NHL starter. The Islanders will lean heavily on him this season in their quest for a playoff spot.
Pittsburgh Penguins: This is the final season of starter Marc-Andre Fleury’s contract. His agent and Penguins management have mutually agreed not to open contract talks at this point. It appears Jim Rutherford, the Penguins new GM, is taking a wait-and-see approach with Fleury. The netminder will need more than just another solid regular-season outing. He must also silence critics of his postseason play.
San Jose Sharks: It was rumored earlier this summer the Sharks unsuccessfully shopped starter Antti Niemi. Niemi is eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer and faces a challenge from backup Alex Stalock this season.
St. Louis Blues: Are Brian Elliott and promising (but largely untested) Jake Allen enough to backstop the Blues to Stanley Cup contention? Jaroslav Halak didn’t pan out, while their short-lived experiment last season with Ryan Miller was a failure. It’s now down to Elliott and Allen to do what Halak and Miller couldn’t.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Can James Reimer win back the trust of coach Randy Carlyle and wrest the starter’s job away from Jonathan Bernier? If the answer is no, how long will it take the Leafs to trade him this season?
Vancouver Canucks: Since winning the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie in 2010, Miller’s stock has declined, especially after washing out with the Blues during his short-lived tenure in St. Louis last season. Having inked a three-year deal with the Canucks, Miller must prove he’s still among the league’s elite netminders.
Winnipeg Jets: Is this the season Ondrej Pavelec finally proves himself a worthwhile, consistent NHL starter? Or will Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff finally lose patience and shop for a new starting netminder? Could be an interesting season between the pipes for the Jets.