So you noticed that the Bruins waived goaltender Malcolm Subban for the purposes of assignment to the AHL yesterday. And now you want to grab him.
This is a bad idea. And it has very little to do with Subban, and everything to do with how waivers work and how you build a roster in the NHL. Stop trying to decide if he’s bad or good for a second and think about the big picture.
Okay, first of all, Subban is a good AHL goalie who has played in two NHL games with horrendously bad results. Compare that to Garret Sparks, who is a better AHL goalie who has played more NHL time, so you know what he can do. Not much so far, is the truthful answer. Subban, by the way, is six months younger than Sparks.
But forget about that. Let’s say he’s a good goalie with some potential, which he is, and the Leafs don’t have many, which they don’t, and let’s take him. Snatch him up! Whee!
And now what?
There are two options. Option one: You run three goalies while you try to decide if he can actually play as an NHL backup. You might think he can, but this hasn’t been proven. No problem, you’ve got a waiver exempt defender in (likely) Andreas Borgman sitting there. Off to the AHL with you, Borgy.
Is your team better? Was this a good idea? How long do you pull this trick until you make a decision? (Hint: The Islanders did it for ages and it caused problems in moving players onto the roster to cover injuries.) This is not a smart plan.
Option two: You waive Curtis McElhinney to put him in the AHL and you place your faith in the guy with no track record, who has never been seen in practice by your goalie coaches and all you’ve got to go on is some numbers on his AHL all-situations save percentage. All you have to do is believe! Does that sound like the Leafs?
Meanwhile McE didn’t clear waivers because he does have a track record. Maybe overall it’s been suspect, but not lately, and the NHL is full of GMs who would grab that guy. NHL goalies are in the NHL because they’re in the NHL. This might be stupid some of the time, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, and you can just ignore it.
So then you’ve put yourself in the position of having to swap Subban for Sparks if this all goes wrong, and why exactly do you expect Sparks to be better than his record so far? If you think he can do the job, give him the damn job! And if he’s capable, why isn’t someone else claiming him right now since he is also on waivers? But never mind all that, you’ve backed yourself into the corner of using Sparks, what’s your backup plan if he goes south fast? What’s that? Kasimir Kaskisuo? Oh, this is getting better all the time.
Grabbing Subban means placing total faith in him. It means risking, for real, the loss of McE just for the sake of a player who may be capable someday of being better, but is likely on his way right now to the AHL for very good reasons.
But wait, I hear you say, why not just grab Subban and put him in the AHL? The Leafs need goalie depth (no kidding, we’ll talk about that in more detail tomorrow). But the answer to that is simple. You have to put him on waivers first. And Boston can just pluck him right back, and we start this game all over again. If no one else makes a claim, Boston gets to put him in the AHL. That’s how waivers work. That’s how they’re supposed to work.
Grabbing someone off of waivers means you’re planning on using them in the NHL right now. And no one takes an unproven goalie prospect in that situation. And it’s not because they’re stupid or timid or just don’t understand goalies. It’s because that is a really foolish way to build your roster. If the Leafs, or any other team, want to add prospects, you trade for them.
If someone puts a genuine bona fide NHL backup who is better than McE on waivers, then we’ll talk. Snatching prospects for the hell of it is for bad teams who give NHL jobs to anyone.
Postscript: And lo, the bad team claimed him:
LV claims Malcolm Subban— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 3, 2017