The Pittsburgh Penguins loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs was a meltdown of epic proportions. They lost their composure, they lost some respect around the league, and they lost faith in their starting goaltender.
That latter fact wasn’t to the point where they decided to unseat Marc-Andre Fleury as the no. 1 goaltender in Pittsburgh, but they put him on notice not long after. The Penguins acquired Tomas Vokoun very early on in the summer, which sparked speculation as to whether or not Fleury should feel safe in the Penguin crease.
In Vokoun, the Penguins get a guy who is over the hill and in the twilight of his career, but still has plenty of game left. He’s a guy who can step right in as a starter should Fleury falter. But should we expect that to happen early on in the season that may or may not happen?
It’s tough to call Fleury “elite”, given some of his inconsistencies over the past few seasons, particularly in the playoffs. There are some teams, probably 20 or 25, that would be ecstatic to call him their starting goaltender. Perhaps another playoff meltdown and they could have that opportunity.
Fleury won 42 games last season and has won at least 35 in each of the last three. His numbers in the past two years are some of the best he’s put up in his career. And he’s still only 27. But the Penguins are not happy with the way he has performed in the postseason the past few seasons, which have seen the Pens win only one playoff series.
There is certainly a chance that Vokoun could supplant Fleury at some point during the season if he were to struggle. But given how well he has performed in the regular season, should we expect that? Probably not. It’s the playoffs that have been Fleury’s issue. If he turns in another strong regular season and once again melts down in the playoffs, then we can prompt some speculation about his future with Pittsburgh.
This move may have been more of a wakeup call for MAF than anything. There’s no doubt that Vokoun can still hold his own between the pipes. But does anyone actually see him taking over as the starting goaltender for the Penguins at any point? Probably not. If Fleury can turn in another top notch regular season and actually perform well in the playoffs, then the trade of Vokoun worked.
If Fleury struggles at any point or falters in the postseason, then the Pens would turn to a guy who has had success in limited playoff appearances. It’s almost a win-win for the Pittsburgh Penguins. But while we shouldn’t read too much into Marc-Andre Fleury’s future with the Penguins now, a year from now could be quite a different story.