As we did with new and presumed backup goalie Chad Johnson, we're going to look a little more into new starter Jaroslav Halak by talking to writers who have followed his most recent stops.
We left out Montreal because it was a couple of contracts ago -- though it's where the Slovakian made his name as an NHL goalie -- and Buffalo because, well, he was just passing through.
What follows is my exchange with Laura (hildymac) from St. Louis Game Time, where they followed his last four seasons. We'll add a part two regarding his very brief Capitals tenure later.
Of some relevance here, I also follow the Blues closely so I've watched a lot -- and shared many opinions with other Blues fans -- of Halak the past few years.
Halak with the Blues, 2010-2014 (Age 25-28), 159 GP
LHH: When the Blues swung the deal for Halak from Montreal, were you immediately psyched, and the Blues had finally landed their "clutch" guy? Did you think it was as much a sure thing as the Blues have had in goal since...Grant Fuhr?
SLGT: I think that initially many of us were shocked that the deal happened to begin with because the Blues tend to be so quiet over the off-season. The move, to me, signaled the start of Armstrong's big move era - the Blues have wanted to make that jump since 2010. It's disappointing that they haven't been able to do so.
I think a lot of us thought that the Blues finally gotten the clutch goaltender that they had needed after Manny Legace's meltdown, and relative to Legace, the team did. It was a probably the best thing the Blues've had since the '90s, and it's disappointing that it didn't work out for whatever reason.
LHH: All things considered, how do you think the Halak era in St. Louis worked out?
SLGT: I think that it was truncated, which didn't really give Halak a chance to fully show his capabilities. Playoffs were brief for him, so who knows what could've happened when he got on a roll? Regular season seemed to be a bit plagued by injury and lack of conditioning at times, and just generally inconsistent play at others.
I think it would've worked out well if he'd been given a longer chance, but at the same time, the fact that he was inconsistent during the regular season meant that he never ran away with the starting position, and that means that he probably didn't necessarily need to be given a chance.
LHH: Yeah, for me I feel like he mostly performed as expected, but fell victim to some untimely injuries -- too close to the playoffs, and then the team is ousted by the West's two best teams -- and the dreaded goalie curse that hangs over the Blues.
I feel like that led Armstrong to go all-in on the narrative that is Proven Winner Ryan Miller. A move which I rationally questioned, but emotionally thought was something they almost had to try. How do you explain his entrance and exit?
SLGT: I think that his entrance was a desperation move that wouldn't have happened if Armstrong had read the goalie analysis that we did on Game Time. Miller's reputation preceded him, but that probably shouldn't've happened since Miller's passed his good playing days by. He never found his groove - maybe it was because of the mid-season switch to teams with drastically different philosophies and systems. Maybe he really is just a headcase.
Miller's exit was a way of Armstrong showing he made a mistake while being able to say "Well, we have Jake Allen here, see..." Too many eggs in a crazy basket, honestly. It was a trade that the Blues didn't need to make, especially when their most glaring issue was always at center.
LHH: A lot of the talk during Halak's Blues tenure, and in retrospect inclusive of his Montreal tenure, was that he needed a co-#1 like Carey Price and Brian Elliott to push him in order to be his best. Do you buy that? Do you think he can carry the load for 60+ games for the Islanders?
SLGT: Oh, absolutely. I think that Elliott was the best thing for Halak in St. Louis. Honestly, I think that the competition was good for both goalies. I think he can carry the load for the Isles, but I'm not sure that he'll have as high of numbers as he might have if someone was behind him lighting a fire under his ass. Still, he's an excellent upgrade for you guys and I'm happy that he wound up with the Isles.
LHH: Thanks to Laura for the insight. Follow her work under the hildymac byline at St. Louis Game Time.