Zen and the art of butterfly goalie maintenance

Does [Butterfly goalies] + [The "new" NHL] = More hip and groin injuries?

Here's Tim Thomas -- seen as an unorthodox, hybrid goalie stylist -- answering a question about the wear on butterfly practitioners:

"It's hard for me to speak on how much stress is putting on their bodies because I've never really played that style, like you said; at least not exactly.

I think it's an individual basis. Some people get unlucky getting injuries, or sometimes it is something in their technique that is making them get injured.
But it's kind of like, I think every individual or every goalie has to find their own style, what works for them best, and not just totally rely on technique, because, I mean, if you're teaching -- I see young goalies nowadays at some hockey schools, and they are being taught totally the butterfly technique only; to go down and keep your shoulders up and keep your hands down. And that might work for the kids that end up being 6'2", but what about the kid whose full height only ends up being 5'8" or 5'9"? If they don't learn to play a different style, they are not going to be successful at the higher levels.

I don't know if it has anything to do with wear and tear on the knees and hips and stuff. I can't really speak for that. But look at Marty Brodeur. He doesn't have a classic style, and up until this year, he's been incredibly healthy, and even when he did get an injury, it was a bicep of all things."

This is something I've pondered since the post-lockout opening up of the game -- something I selfishly hoped would lead to more true goaltending tandems like we saw in the '80s, rather than the scenario where a team only sneaks its very rusty backup into a game once a month over the crying objections of its alpha 'keeper. (What can I say? I like a little goalie/QB controversy.)

You can guess my thinking: More powerplays, plus more open looks for unobstructed shooters (i.e. higher-quality chances), plus a groin/hip-testing skills competition after 65 minutes in intense tied games ... Does that increased wear add up to more injuries, sooner in a goalie's career? Does it then make sense to bet a long-term deal on any young goalie? Carey Price comes to mind.

For obvious reasons, this has become a greater concern to Islanders fans, but I'm more interested in the long-term, league-wide effects. It would be interesting to see a serious long-term study, controlling for factors like body type and workload.

One theory posits that the most serious, and easiest-to-fix issue is playing on back-to-back nights (Check an excellent, very detailed, physiological explanation of that theory at Stillnoname here, via the comments linked above):

There are a number of compelling reasons why a goaltender shouldn’t play in back-to-back games if it can be avoided: fatigue, dehydration, tissue damage, and fuel consumption all cause a player to be less than 100% for at least a day.

Which to me emphasizes the need for a strong backup -- particularly given the injuries wracked up by #1 goalies and what different league voices are inferring about them. You absolutely need a backup you can trust -- one who won't scare you into making a long-term mistake for a short-term gain. Which is why it raised major red flags to see Ted Nolan running Rick DiPietro out there so often last season, and why I'll be keen to watch how Scott Gordon uses both DiPietro and whoever carries the load next season if DP's not ready.

During Joey MacDonald's run of 17 consecutive starts, Gordon used him on back-to-back nights twice. (The string ended with a spot Yann Danis start, followed by the brief re-introduction of the since-shut-down DiPietro. Two weeks later MacDonald himself hit IR). Now Yann Danis, the third-string he had sit so long, is showing him qualities "like a true No. 1." Will that mean Danis, too, will be tested by back-to-backs?

True, we're dealing with elite athletes who are almost by definition freaks of nature. But if you're managing or coaching a team, and you have a star goalie who you hope will be around for a while, doesn't it make prudent sense to at least avoid running him out there in back-to-back nights? Isn't this where the GM 1) secures a solid backup, and 2) steps in to tell the coach, "Don't worry about your job security, we need to manage our assets"?

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