Mac Carruth is on his way back to PortlandThe Spokane Chiefs have finally resolved their goaltending issues, but recent developments in Portland and Everett have left those teams with more questions than answers between the pipes.
With his team off to a somewhat middling 4-3 start, Portland Winterhawks GM/coach Mike Johnston is now faced with a huge conundrum as overage goaltender Mac Carruth has been reassigned to the Winterhawks by the AHL's Rockford IceHogs.
Johnston has maintained all along that he'd welcome Carruth back to the club, but the stellar play of Cam Lanigan, the 20-year-old ex-Kamloops and Edmonton goalie the Hawks picked up off the scrap heap in the offseason, has made the decision a bit tougher.
Complicating matters further is the fact that 17-year-old Brendan Burke, who was supposed to assume the starting role this season, has had a bit of a rough time early on (1-3, 3.79, .864).
The Hawks, of course, can't keep two 20-year-old netminders and drop Burke, though a vocal group of Portland fans online are already proclaiming Burke a dud and lobbying for Lanigan to stay.
Small sample sizes, of course, can greatly overstate or understate a goalie's true ability. Lanigan sits on top of the WHL in GAA (1.00) and save pct. (.960) in three games, and a strong performance for the Blazers in a seven-game loss to Portland last season has suddenly made him the most popular guy wearing a Winterhawk sweater.
But this is the same Lanigan who underachieved over more than 100 previous games in the league, and lost the starting job early last season in Kamloops to Cole Cheveldave.
On the flip side, Burke (son of ex-NHLer Sean Burke) has looked shaky at times and needs a confidence boost, but he hasn't been a total train wreck and is taking a disproportionate share of the blame for the games he's lost (as goalies often do).
As a youngster in a high-pressure situation, it's not shocking that it's taking him a while to get comfortable. He played sparingly as a 16-year-old rookie, and many netminders who weren't lights out early on have gone on to fine WHL careers. Casting him as a bust already seems shortsighted and impatient, even by fan standards.
Enter Carruth, the polarizing figure who's won more postseason games than anyone else in the history of the Winterhawks. Some say he's been one of the key ingredients in Portland's recent success; others who are less impressed contend the Hawks have won in spite of him.
The Winterhawks confirmed today that Carruth has joined the team on their trip through the Eastern Division (Portland plays at Regina tomorrow). Johnston almost surely won't part with fellow overagers Troy Rutkowski (the team captain) and Taylor Peters, so he has until Thursday's overage deadline to move Lanigan or Carruth.
The conventional wisdom is that Lanigan, despite his gaudy early numbers, will go and Carruth will return to the starting role and take some of the heat off Burke. But Johnston has been anything but conventional in building the Winterhawks into a winner over the past four years.
Read More »from Mac Carruth’s return to Portland latest shakeup in WHL’s U.S. Division goalie ranks