With the arrival of Al Montoya to serve as Carey Price’s backup, it appears that Mike Condon could be heading back to the AHL next season. With two quality prospects on the farm though, how should their games be allocated?
First, it’s worth noting that Condon will have to clear waivers to get to the AHL next season. That said, given that most teams already have a backup that is better (or at least comparable), there’s a decent chance that he will get through. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume he clears and is sent to St. John’s to battle for ice time with Zach Fucale and Charlie Lindgren.
From a development perspective, the main priority has to be getting Fucale and Lindgren as much game action as possible which doesn’t really leave room for Condon. Fortunately, the Habs have a (somewhat) nearby ECHL option in Brampton that they can take advantage of and send one of their two young goalies down there for playing time.
Truth be told, I was in favour of starting one of the two youngsters in Brampton regardless of whatever else went on with Montreal’s goalie situation. In a perfect world, it would be good to get both goalies around 50 games and with the AHL only playing 76, that can’t be done with both strictly with St. John’s.
So who should go to Brampton? On the one hand, you have a relative newcomer to the pro game in Lindgren and it makes sense to start the rookie at the lower level. On the other, there’s a strong case to be made that Lindgren is the better of the two prospects and if that’s the case, he should be tested in the tougher league.
As for Fucale, he’s actually the younger of the two but is the more experienced as well. He was the starter with the IceCaps for most of last season and it’s not very often that your #1 AHL goalie (and #3 organizational netminder) gets dropped down two slots and heads to the ECHL the next year. However, he didn’t fare particularly well with St. John’s and one could argue a demotion is warranted.
Personally, I see Lindgren more as the goalie of the future which is why I’d start him with Brampton. That may seem contradictory but at least to start next season, my priority for him would be to simply get him game action early on. Because of Condon’s presumed presence with St. John’s, the goalie games are going to largely be split one way or the other; neither of their two goalies will get a #1 workload. The only way to get guaranteed starting minutes is in Brampton.
You might be thinking, why not just sit Condon since he probably isn’t part of the future and that way both prospects get lots of AHL time? Since Condon’s likely the first call up if Carey Price or Montoya get hurt, he has to play enough to stay in game shape which is probably four out of ten starts or so. And remember, Sylvain Lefebvre is still the coach and he played Robert Mayer in 67 games over two seasons when it was more than evident that he was never going to be an option for the Habs. He likes to split the minutes somewhat evenly regardless of who his two goalies are.
Basically, I would have Condon as the 1B with the IceCaps for next season with Fucale starting as the 1A there and Lindgren as the undisputed starter with the Beast. Obviously, it would be ideal for Lindgren to still get some AHL time so I’d flip the two youngsters a handful of times, allowing Fucale to get into some games in the ECHL as well.
Here is how I would allocate the starts for next season as things stand. There are 76 AHL games and 72 ECHL ones to work with.
Fucale: 36 starts
Condon: 30 starts
Lindgren: 10 starts
Lindgren: 40 starts
Fucale: 15 starts
Brampton’s backups: 17 starts
This way, both prospect goalies are getting their 50 games which not only is a decent workload for a prospect but would also represent an increase in their respective workloads from last season. At the same time, Condon gets enough playing time to stay in shape in case he has to be recalled to the big club.
At first glance, a three headed goalie monster of Condon, Fucale, and Lindgren might not seem like an ideal situation, especially when it comes to playing time. Fortunately, there’s enough to go around to give both prospects starters minutes plus give the emergency goalie (Condon) consistent action to stay ready. When you break it all down, it’s really not a bad problem to have; if anything, it’s a good one.