Just mentioning his name can be controversial for some Penguins fans. Many are criticizing his play this year, and although some of that can be attributed to a very lackluster and beat up defense, there is no denying that Murray has to be better this year. Murray is only posting a .907 save percentage in 11 games this year, his lowest of his career. On the other hand, Casey DeSmith, the Penguin’s backup goalie, is boasting a .922 save percentage in 16 games this season.
With these stats in mind, it would seem to some that DeSmith is the better goalie, and right now, he is. The key part of that sentence, is right now. Whether he is playing like it or not, Matt Murray is the better goalie. However, he is not playing like the better goalie right now.
Now, I am not writing this column to try and convince certain fans that Murray is indeed the better goalie, but rather to shine a light on a similar situation that occurred last year with the Washington Capitals.
Braden Holtby, Stanley Cup champion and Vezina winning goaltender, also posted a career low .907 save percentage. In a similar situation, their backup goalie, Philipp Grubauer posted a .923 save percentage in a total of 35 games. Grubauer took on a large chunk of these games at the tail end of the year, but still got some games thrown in all year just like DeSmith was before Murray’s injury. Grubauer even started the playoffs for the Capitals. That is until game three of the first round, when Holtby took the starting job back and ultimately led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup.
The situation of star players underperforming isn’t anything new, it happens all the time. However, the best plan of action is to let them get back to their former shape, rather than instantly dumping said player off in a trade as a last ditch effort. Players can have down years, but when the down years are a consistent occurrence, that is when some caution should be taken. Rash trades of even less than star caliber players can turn out much worse than expected.