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Steigerwald: Call Me Crazy, But Pens Will Regret Giving Up Fleury

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 14: Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights poses for his official headshot for the 2017-2018 season on September 14, 2017 at the City National Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

Matt Murray and the Penguins needed that.

Imagine the upheaval and angst if the Edmonton Oilers had come into town and hung a five spot on them Tuesday night. After the 7-1 embarrassment in Tampa and replacing their backup goalie with the Baby Penguins’ backup, there was and still is a lot of focus on the Penguins goaltending situation.

I took some heat last week on Twitter for saying that I hadn’t seen anything to change my belief that the player the Penguins would miss the most was Marc-Andre Fleury.

And I still haven’t.

I would have traded Murray for a number one pick and a player or two and kept Fleury. I know that puts me in a tiny minority and maybe out on the fringe with the lunatics but my mind hasn’t been changed on that either.

This is, by no means, taking anything away from Murray or denying his talent. Come on. He won two Stanley Cups as a rookie and there’s a really good chance that he will prove me to be a lunatic.

Everybody knows he’s ridiculously talented. He’s not going to make a lot of acrobatic, highlight reel saves but that’s probably because he’s so good at getting himself into position.

There’s really only one thing we don’t know about him. Can he go wire to wire as the number one guy and win a Cup?

Marc-Andre Fleury did it in 2009 when he was 24. He played in 62 regular season games and 24 playoff games.

Murray has played 102 games in the NHL — 16 more than Fleury played in his first Cup-winning season.

He played 60 games last season — 49 in the regular season and 11 playoff games.

His playoff numbers were ridiculous. A 1.70 goals against average with three shutouts. I would not have replaced Fleury, but only an idiot would argue with Mike Sullivan’s decision to do so after the fact.

Would Murray have been able to put up ridiculous numbers if he had played against the Blue Jackets and the Capitals instead of the Senators and Predators?

He only had to face over 30 shots three times in his 10 starts and the Penguins lost two of them.

Fleury played in 15 playoff games and faced over 30 shots in 11 of them. He stopped 39 out of 40 against Columbus and 49 out of 51 against Washington.

And he stopped all 29 shots in Washington in Game 7.

Fleury also stopped 33 of 35 in an overtime loss to Ottawa in Game 1. Would Murray have been that good for an entire playoff series?

We don’t know.

What we do know is that if Anti Niemi had been the Penguins’ backup goaltender last year they wouldn’t be trying to three-peat this year.

How many games can Murray be expected to play?

How many should the Penguins want him to play.

There was a belief in the organization that Fleury’s playoff performances may have suffered because of the number of games he played.

He played 65 games in 2009-10 and 2010-11 and 67 games in 2011-12.

In 2013-14, when he was 30-years old, Fleury started 64 games and led the league in shutouts with 10.

That’s a lot of good quality work.

Murray has been Hall of Fame good but he’s never played more than 49 games in a regular season. It always makes more sense to keep the young guy and trade the grizzled old veteran when the young guy is playing at a world class level.

With the possible exception of when you’re talking about NHL goaltenders.

They tend to get better with age.  There’s a long list of great goalies who played their best hockey after 30.

Fleury turns 33 next month.

So far this season the Penguins are 6-0-1 with Murray. Tuesday night against Edmonton he was spectacular and may have made the save of the NHL season.

But the Penguins have 19 back-to-back games this season and as of right now they are backing up a goalie, who’s yet to show that he can play more than 60 games, with a 26 year-old AHL back up.

Murray may be making me look like a lunatic for the next 15 years and Fleury may become just another goalie now that he’s with an expansion team, but, as of right now I still think the smart move would have been the bold one.

Trade Murray for a nice package of draft picks and players. Keep Fluery and find a good, proven backup.

Maybe we can re-visit this in May.

Kenna James at Blush
8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. John

    October 25, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Not saying he is right in this, but its an interesting discussion point. We have serious depth issues right now. We traded away more to get Sheahan who hadn’t done anything of note in the last 1.5 years and he might not be the answer at 3C. Our defense once again is going to have to rely on WBS due to injuries. I don’t have the confidence I had last year in what’s down there. Maybe Bentgssen is a good one, but who knows? Now, we have a serious backup goalie issue. Niemi wasn’t goo0d (not all his fault), Jarry is struggling down there early and we bring up essentially who was 4th on the depth chart after training camp.

    Murray could have solved some of these problems in a trade.

    Not saying I would do it, but he brings up an interesting point.

  2. James

    October 25, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    Good point but Murray is young and has a lot of years ahead of him, MAF had his run in Pittsburgh and is approaching the end of his career.

    Trading Murray makes no sense at all and let’s review this topic in April 2018 when the season wraps up and the playoffs start. I think you are worried about durability but again Murray is young and youth tends to be a bit more resilient than older players especially in sports.

  3. Joe

    October 25, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    We would of had to lose Murray and keep a goalie who is in his final years as a net minder. In 2 years we would be looking for his replacement when we already had him. It hard to let go of a solid goalie but let’s be clear in 6 years of play-off hockey Fleury was a huge disappointment. It’s not till we win with another incredible goalie did we feel like Flower was worth keeping to play backup. He is a great goalie during the regular season but shaky during the time when it counts. We made the only choice that made sence. We can always get him back after he is no longer a starter.

  4. Terry

    October 25, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    What are you talking about ya you’re crazy Murray beat the rangers,capitals,ligbtening ,and the sharks in his 1st playoffs then the senators and the preds last year so he has done it and right now i wouldn’t trade him for any other goalie in the league including the great fleury

  5. Paul Haberman

    October 26, 2017 at 6:13 am

    It’s amazing how sports guys will say anything crazy to get the fan’s goat!
    Case in point, Steighy?
    I know you cannot be that thick…
    Always liked you because of your honest opinions even if they were unpopular, but this time you screwed the pooch!

  6. Greg

    October 26, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Ive said this before. “The backup goalie is our biggest issue” EVERY team in the league would love to make that statement. Stay healthy and see what you need at trading deadline. Thats all the regular season means to the Penguins as proven over last 2 years.

  7. Terri

    October 26, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    I don’t think you’re crazy…and perhaps Murray will prove to be a regular and playoff heavy weight contender. Maybe, but Fleury is a proven commodity and goalies do get better with age. We will see…..

  8. Robert

    October 30, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    The only reason I agree with this article is because Fluery was a first overall draft pick and Murrary is not. But I think we did what needed to be done also for salary cap hits! You keep Fluery trade away Murrary in a package you’re over your cap limit because we are close to it now. Because why didn’t we sign a better free agent back up? We couldn’t. You work your minors and call ups. Jarry is good enough just needs development time IMO.

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