It was the two-headed Finnish monster that wasn’t.
If, and more likely when, the Dallas Stars buy out the remainder of Antti Niemi’s contract this offseason, it will officially end the below-average, two-goalie 1A-1B situation that cost $10.4 in each of the past two seasons.
Throughout the past two seasons Kari Lehtonen and Niemi have been a favorite target of the national media. Many pundits put all the problems on the goaltenders and there have been countless columns calling for an upgrade -- Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury were always the favorites -- that would instantly fix the Stars problems.
That’s only true to a certain extent.
Yes, the Stars’ goalies had their struggles. They looked downright horrendous at points, and the Stars do need an upgrade in goal. (Ideally not Bishop or Fleury, but that’s a column for another day).
But before we rip apart Lehtonen and Niemi, we have to defend them. Or at least give them more defense than the Stars gave them this season.
Most goalies would have struggled behind the Stars’ defense this season. Dallas consistently allowed opponents to dominate the front of the net, and several young defenseman didn’t take the major strides they were expected to make.
There were also some unlucky bounces. You can’t blame Niemi and Lehtonen for the amount of goals that were kicked, batted, and deflected into their own net by another player wearing victory green.
So it wasn’t their fault the Stars dropped by 30 points in the standings (from 109 to 79) and they couldn’t do much about the horrific special teams. Niemi and Lehtonen were simply part of the problem, and ultimately neither are good enough to be a single solution.
So after a difficult season, let’s at least have some fun with this and rate the goalies on the Richter Scale.
No, not that Richter Scale. We’re talking about the Mike Richter scale, based on a former New York Rangers goalie and arguably the greatest American-born goalie in NHL history.
For the record, a 1.0 on this scale is the 1992-93 Mike Richter that was demoted to the AHL at one point. A 10.0 is 1996 Mike Richter dominating Canada in the best-of-three World Cup Championship series.
Richter scale rating: 4.5 (1997-98 Rangers season)
Like the 2016-17 Dallas Stars, the 1997-98 New York Rangers didn’t help their goalie out very much. It was a team that allowed a lot of quality scoring chances and Richter was forced to make difficult saves.
On top of that, the Rangers had star power.
Wayne Gretzky, Pat Lafontaine, Alex Kovalev, and Brian Leetch were like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and John Klingberg this season -- they couldn’t score enough to make up for the defensive deficiencies.
Richter was 31 that season and showed flashes of brilliance, but was on the downswing of his career. Lehtonen was 33 this season, showed flashes of brilliance, but is on the downswing of his career.
Richter scale rating: 1.0 (1992-93 Rangers season)
We can’t really sugarcoat Niemi’s season anymore. Sure, we can talk about his strong stretch at home early in the season, but as the season went on it became more and more obvious Niemi isn’t a reliable NHL goalie anymore.
Follow Sean Shapiro on Twitter @SeanShapiro.
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