There was a time where Zach Fucale was one of Montreal’s better prospects. Since then, things have mostly gone downhill and he has been leapfrogged by several goalies since then. Has the time come for the Habs to let him go?
After spending most of the previous season with Brampton of the ECHL, Fucale got to start out as Charlie Lindgren’s backup in Laval while Michael McNiven appeared to be the goalie destined to get extra ice time at the lower level. However, a poor .878 SV% had him headed back to Brampton by the end of November.
The good news is that Fucale did play a little better with the Beast. The bad news is that his performance still wasn’t anything to get particularly excited about. In fact, between his mediocrity and McNiven’s, the team abandoned their original strategy and went with three goalies in the AHL in the second half of the season (except for when Charlie Lindgren was up on recall).
From February on, Fucale was a little better but that’s still not saying much as his SV% was still just .892. However, none of the three goalies were playing particularly well and the defence in front of them down the stretch was atrocious, to put it lightly. While that is certainly a fair qualifier, it’s also fair to say that Fucale didn’t exactly make it an obvious call to keep him around either.
Laval: 18 GP, 10-7-0 record, 3.26 GAA, .890 SV%
Brampton: 11 GP, 5-4-0 record, 2.83 GAA, .913 SV%
Argument To Qualify
As much as he has struggled, Fucale is still only a few years removed from a strong junior career and he has been dominant at times in the minors. Goalies often take a longer time to develop and it’s not entirely crazy to think that there is another level he can still reach.
What also helps Fucale’s case was Hayden Hawkey’s decision to remain in college next year. Assuming Charlie Lindgren is with the Habs full-time next year, that leaves McNiven as the only other goalie under contract. Realistically, they need two more so why not have Fucale be one of them? He’s waiver-exempt for one more year so they may as well exhaust that avenue as well.
Argument To Cut
His flaws from junior haven’t really improved in three professional seasons. He’s still wildly inconsistent from game-to-game and even period-to-period. The propensity for allowing really poor goals at the most inopportune of times has dogged him as well. One or two strong games simply can’t outweigh seven or eight adequate-to-poor outings.
Through three professional seasons, Fucale has gone from a potential goalie of the future to someone that most would acknowledge likely has no real NHL future. If management is indeed of a similar mindset, why qualify someone that you don’t think can help the big club? They might be better off signing a veteran third-stringer and then bring in a young guy to start at the ECHL level.
Personally, I’m of the mindset that it’s time to cut bait. I’d rather have a veteran third option, someone that can push or even spell Lindgren (who is still waiver-exempt) from time to time and bringing back Fucale basically eliminates that as they won’t have him or McNiven in the ECHL again. However, I think they’ll give him one last chance on a one-year deal. The starting job with the Rocket will be up for grabs and that will be the carrot that gets dangled – lock down the number one job and there may still be a future for him yet. Otherwise, he’ll be out in the summer of 2019.