Leaf of the Day - Mar 6-8, 2009 - Damian Rhodes

March 6-8, 2008 - Damian Rhodes


It's amazing what a little goaltending will do for a team.

One of the biggest shortcomings of Leaf teams for at least the last 10 years has been the lack of credible backup goaltending.  Whether it was Kidd, or Healy, or Raycroft, or Joseph, the Leafs never really seem to have the kind of backup that gives one confidence that he could take the ball and run with it if need be.

The last time it happened, Curtis Joseph went down with a hand injury and Corey Schwab did more or less what Clemmensen has done in New Jersey this year.  He really kept the Leafs in it.  It wasn't enough to keep him around, though.

The ideal backup is someone who could reasonably be a starter somewhere else.  With 30 teams, that is much more of a rarity than it was when there were 21.  The last goalie I'd suggest really fit that bill was Damian Rhodes.  He wasn't quite Potvin, but you weren't afraid of what was going to happen when you saw him between the pipes.  You didn't have to spot him against bad teams on the road.  The guy could play.

The Leafs dealt him to Ottawa in the trade that brought Muller back, and they've never really been right with their backups since.  Beaupre came and he was a disaster.  Cousineau, etc.  Rhodes instantly became the best goalie Ottawa had ever had, and this was really the start of their climb to respectability.  Not bad for a guy who only got to make his NHL debut because the Leafs needed a guy with "NHL experience" to expose in the 1991 expansion draft.

Now, Potvin's play was as much a function of the team as anything, but could the loss of Rhodes made him a little too comfortable?  Shades of Vesa?

I'd forgotten that he scored an NHL goal.  Yay Damian!

Damian's stats:

1985-86  Richfield Spartans   High-MN   16       0 3.50          
1986-87  Richfield Spartans  High-MN  19 1 4.55
1987-88  Michigan Tech Huskies  WCHA  29 16 10 1 0 4.20
1987-88  United States  WJC-A  5 5.88
1988-89  Michigan Tech Huskies  WCHA  37 15 22 0 0 4.41
1989-90  Michigan Tech Huskies  WCHA  25 6 17 0 0 6.26
1990-91  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  1 1 0 0 0 1.00            
1990-91  Newmarket Saints  AHL  38 8 24 3 1 4.01
1990-91  United States  WEC-A 
1991-92  St. John's Maple Leafs  AHL  43 20 16 5 0 3.62 6 4 1 0 2.90
1992-93  St. John's Maple Leafs  AHL  52 27 16 8 1 3.59 9 4 5 0 4.13
1993-94  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  22 9 7 3 0 2.62 1 0 0   0 0.00
1994-95  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  13 6 6 1 0 2.68            
1995-96  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  11 4 5 1 0 2.79            
1995-96  Ottawa Senators  NHL  36 10 22 4 2 2.77
1996-97  Ottawa Senators  NHL  50 14 20 14 1 2.72
1997-98  Ottawa Senators  NHL  50 19 19 7 5 2.34 10 5 5 0 2.14
1998-99  Ottawa Senators  NHL  45 22 13 7 3 2.44 2 0 2 0 2.40
1999-00  Atlanta Thrashers  NHL  28 5 19 3 1 3.88
1999-00  United States  WC-A  5 3 1 1 1 2.40
2000-01  Atlanta Thrashers  NHL  38 7 19 7 0 3.36
2001-02  Atlanta Thrashers  NHL  15 2 10 1 0 3.67
2002-03  Lowell Lock Monsters  AHL  7 1 4 0 0 4.12
2002-03  Greenville Grrrowl  ECHL  12 2 8 2 1 3.76 1 0 1 0 6.00
2002-03  United States  WC-A  1 0 0.00
2003-04  Lowell Lock Monsters  AHL  7 1 4 0 0 4.12
Leaf Totals    47 20 18 5 0 2.64 1 0 0   0 0.00
NHL Totals  309 99 140 48 12 2.83 13 5 7 0 2.18

- Credited with scoring a goal while with Michigan Tech (WCHA), January 21, 1989.
- Played 10 seconds of playoff game vs. San Jose, May 6, 1994.
- Traded to NY Islanders by Toronto with Ken Belanger for future considerations (Kirk Muller and Don Beaupre, January 23, 1996), January 23, 1996.
- Traded to Ottawa by NY Islanders with Wade Redden for Don Beaupre, Martin Straka and Bryan Berard, January 23, 1996.
- Credited with scoring a goal vs. New Jersey, January 2, 1999.
- Traded to Atlanta by Ottawa for future considerations, June 18, 1999.
- Missed majority of 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons recovering from hernia surgery, March 26, 2002.

the HHOF take on Damian (clearly not updated in recent memory):

Damian Rhodes held a dream of playing in the NHL since his early childhood. It started while playing "knee hockey" in his family basement with a local buddy. The two would scamper about on their knees, savouring that feeling of making the glorious glove save.

From the moment that puck entered his mitt, Rhodes knew that goaltending would be his position of choice. He entered the rich tradition of Minnesota's youth hockey programs and progressed through the ranks to backstop for the Michigan Tech Huskies from 1987 to 1990. While there, he made plenty of big saves but is perhaps best remembered for scoring a goal on January 21, 1989.

During his time with the Huskies, Rhodes was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs who, upon completion of his schooling, dropped him into their farm system for future reference. He started with the Newmarket Saints of the AHL for a season and then shifted east to share goaltending duties with Felix Potvin in St. John's. After the end of the season, Potvin caught on with the Leafs while Rhodes took over the helm in St. John's for one additional year before joining Toronto as Potvin's backup in 1993.

With the departure of Daren Puppa, Rhodes was able to pick up a handful of games each year while Potvin performed workhorse duties. But in 1996, the Leafs sent Rhodes to the Islanders who, in turn, flipped him to Ottawa as part of a larger trade.

With the Sens, he finally landed his first starting role. Victories, however, were a bit hard to come by in the early years. But as Ottawa's fortune's improved, so did Rhodes' bottom line. By the close of the 1997-98 campaign, he finally finished with a .500 record and a personal-best five shutouts. During the season that followed, he helped lead his team to the third-best record in the NHL.

But in 1999, the league underwent another expansion with the arrival of the Atlanta Thrashers. The club liked Rhodes' play, and made him the first-ever player signed to their roster. The move meant plenty of ice time and even more shots to face as his won/loss record took a turn for the worse. By November of his first campaign, however, he suffered a knee and ankle injury that sidelined him for 45 games. He has since bounced back and remains a central player in the Trashers' goal crease.


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