>Was bringing back the Dominator a good idea? (Aug. 06 Manistee News Advocate)

Posted: August 2, 2006 in Columns, Hockey

>Dominik Hasek was at one time undeniably one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. His unique style and spectacular ability to flop around in the crease, making butterfly moves to stop shots, helped the Red Wings to win their last Stanley Cup in 2002. With their recent reacquisition of “The Dominator”, The Red Wings are now looking for a repeat performance. The Wings took a page out of their history book while looking toward the future, and signed the 41-year-old Dominator on Monday to a one-year contract worth $750,000, with incentives based on playoff performance. “Dom seems very committed and very excited about an opportunity to come back to Detroit and try to help our team win a Stanley Cup,” general manager Ken Holland said. “We really see Dom coming into training camp as our No. 1 goaltender. Bringing Dom back is a real positive for our team and is very exciting.” But did the Red Wings really need help in goal? They posted the NHL’s best record in the regular season with Manny Legace in the crease, but surprised fans with a first-round playoff elimination against Edmonton. It seems to be a trend in professional sports today to ignore the statistics a coach or a player has racked up during the regular season, and judge him instead solely on his playoff performance. Legace’s performance helped the Wings to get to the playoffs in the first place. Putting the blame for the first round loss squarely on his shoulders seems a little unfair.It’s no secret that Hasek is returning to Detroit after an injury-plagued season with the Ottawa Senators. He joins another Red Wings Cup-winner, Chris Osgood, who was brought back as a reserve. This goaltender lineup would have sounded like a dream three or four years ago, but today, has fans wondering if Hasek’s recurring injuries will keep him sidelined; or even if he does manage to stay healthy — whether or not he still has the stuff that cups are made of at the age of 41. After deciding not to bring back Manny Legace, the Red Wings made finding a starting goalie their top priority. They explored the trade market, spoke to three teams and took a close look at Ed Belfour, whose 457 victories rank second on the NHL list. Negotiations broke down, though, leading Belfour to sign a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers. Belfour would have been a far better pick than Hasek, and a better fit for the Wings. It’s a shame that Holland couldn’t make this deal work. Hasek, who will begin his third stint with Detroit, earned $1.5 million with the Senators last season. Ottawa said good-bye to the six-time Vezina Trophy winner earlier this month and replaced him with former Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Martin Gerber. The Senators seem to have the right idea about gambling another season on the ailing Hasek. Detroit acquired Hasek the first time in 2001 in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres, where he had been since 1992. He backstopped the Red Wings to the championship during his first season in Detroit and then retired that summer. Since coming out of retirement, Hasek hasn’t been the same sensational goal-stopper that he was in the past. Despite the controversy surrounding a retirement comeback, Hasek resurrected his career and rejoined Detroit for the 2003-04 season. That created an uncomfortable goaltending triangle with Curtis Joseph and Legace. Hasek played in just 14 games, going 8-3-2 with a 2.21 goals-against average, before a chronic groin injury ended his season, the same injury that has recurred since, and may flare up once again.Hasek was having a good season last year, going 28-10-4 with a 2.09 GAA in 43 games with Ottawa, but didn’t play after injuring his groin while playing for the Czech Republic in the Turin Olympics. Hasek hoped to return during the post-season but never fully recovered. If the regular season means nothing to the Wings, and the playoffs mean everything, then the possibility of losing Hasek to a mid-season injury should have been given more weight by Ken Holland and the rest of the Wing’s management team. Hasek hasn’t played a complete season in four years. “I do all kinds of sports, testing my groin,” Hasek said. “At this point, it feels great. That’s my goal, to feel great the whole season.” Unfortunately, hoping won’t make it happen. Hasek said he hasn’t discussed his playing schedule but wouldn’t mind playing 45 to 55 games. “I don’t have to play 65 games like I used to. It’s not necessary at all,” Hasek said. “I want to be playing my best hockey when the playoffs arrive.” For our sake, I hope that Hasek can make it through those 55 games without succumbing to his nagging injuries. The Wings will have a much better chance of keeping him healthy if they play Osgood and Hasek equal time, rather than the primary goalkeeper/backup goalkeeper arrangement. Hasek, 41, has a career record of 324-206-82 in 638 NHL games. He ranks fifth among active goaltenders in wins and 18th overall. His 68 shutouts are third best among active players and 12th highest on the league’s career list. He also won the Hart Trophy, awarded for the NHL’s most valuable player, twice in 1997 and 1998.His record is good, but lets just hope he didn’t peak back in 2002, and that he still has a little goaltending magic left in him. Otherwise, fans in Detroit might be wishing he would have never left retirement.Cean Burgeson can be reached at cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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