Monday, January 14, 2013

Third wheel? 1/14

Like many others Sunday, Adirondack Phantoms goaltender Scott Munroe heard the news that the Philadelphia Flyers had traded minor-leaguer Luke Pither to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for goaltender Brian Boucher and prospect defenseman Mark Alt. Then Munroe read the Flyers planned to assign Boucher to the Phantoms, waiver claim notwithstanding, where Munroe and rookie Cal Heeter have been tending the pipes all season.

"I had a lot of reactions," Munroe said. "And I'll just kind of keep it at that for now until we actually find out what's happening."

Were they the same reactions Munroe had five seasons ago, when the Flyers brought Boucher back to the then-Philadelphia Phantoms after Munroe was coming off his rookie season? Then, Munroe had a chance to learn from the veteran goalie.

"No, different," Munroe said. "Just a unique situation and we'll kind of have to see how it plays out."

One way the situation could play out is the Flyers keeping all three of Boucher, Heeter and Munroe with the Phantoms. That seems to be the plan, based on comments that appear on the Flyers' website.

“It’s not an ideal situation but we’ll deal with it,” Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren told the team's inside reporter, Anthony SanFilippo. “It allows us to have an NHL-caliber goalie in the organization to jump in if we need him to do so. We’ll figure it out eventually with the Phantoms, but for now we’ll live with three goalies down there.”

Keep in mind that this is all conditional on Boucher clearing waivers, whenever that goes through. If they do go with three goalies in Adirondack, it wouldn't be uncharted territory for Munroe.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers had him, Nathan Lawson and Mikko Koskinen on the roster for the first few weeks of the 2009-10 season.

"It sucked," Munroe said.

For one, there are only two nets in practice. Also, there are three keepers vying for one start.

"Sharing a net and then rotating, you're playing every third game," Munroe said. "It's not ideal, especially halfway through the year. We'll kind of have to see what happens. Until it actually happens and the transaction goes through, who knows. We'll just have to wait and see."

Phantoms coach Terry Murray is also taking a kind of wait-and-see approach with the situation. Like Munroe, he has also had three healthy goaltenders on his team's roster before, but made the most of it.

"It's never ideal," the coach said. "I've been through it. It's not ideal. You don't want to have it because all three are messed up emotionally and mentally. If it happens with three, I've gone through the process and I've felt that it was resolved the best it could. Simply 'You two guys are playing' and the third one is 'You get your shots before and after practice, the other two have to have the net for the full practice.' It's a hard conversation to have, but you have to do what's right for the team."

Heeter, a rookie, has only dealt with the three goaltender situation in college at Ohio State. But there one of the guys was "just a placeholder," so it wasn't necessarily a true three-keeper dynamic. There are a couple of things he likes about the potential of sharing a locker room and net with Boucher.

"I welcome the competition and look forward to playing with Brian if I get the chance," Heeter said. "I think there’s a lot I can learn from him. He’s been a pro, he’s played a long time. He’s a seasoned veteran. For me, I look to it as more of a positive than a negative as anything. I think it’s just going to make me better as an individual and then hopefully I can learn some things from him as well.”

It will be interesting to see how this develops or how long they opt to go with the three goaltenders.

Both Munroe (2.56 goals-against average, .918 saves percentage) and Heeter (2.81, .911) have played well this season, and Heeter has been nearly lights-out in three January starts, posting a 1.91 goals-against average and .956 saves percentage.

Regardless of what happens with Boucher, Heeter said it really wouldn't change his outlook.

“If I’m staying here, I’m going to work hard," Heeter said. "If I’m getting sent down, I’m going to work just as hard there too. It makes no difference to me, really. I’d like to stay here if I had my decision, but that’s up to management.”


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