Is Huet Broken Beyond Repair?

The Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t a very good hockey team but they don’t get paid in beer and pizza. The Blackhawks are much better but not good enough to survive a terrible goal tending performance. 

Simply put Cristobal Huet was in goal last night because he has to play some games before the end of the season. The Hawks were in the midst of a five games in nine day stretch and Antti Niemi is not Marty Brodeur. Huet had been sick with the flu but was deemed fit to see action…Or so Joel Quenneville thought. 

Quenneville hasn’t mentioned it to me, but given the choice my belief is he would rather play Huet on the road. So last night the Blue Jackets were the lucky hosts. 

Huet hadn’t played since losing to the Flyers on March 13. 

Unfortunately it appeared Huet hadn’t seen action since March 13 of 2009

What occurred in Columbus last night might signal the beginning of the end of Cristobal Huet’s time in Chicago. Almost every one of the seven goals scored on Huet was directly his fault. If body language can indicate such, Huet looked like a beaten man after the second goal. 

The 8-3 loss was as bad as the score indicated and was painful to watch.

To make matters worse for Hawk fans Huet couldn’t have picked a worse night to be bad, as many of his teammates weren’t very good either.

It’s not easy to feel sorry for a player making over $5 million dollars but Huet appears to be a mess. He is the type of person fans should want to root for as he shoulders the blame and doesn’t make excuses. But last night he looked as if he didn’t want to touch the puck let alone stop it. 

It would not be a stretch to say Huet has never really fit in with the Blackhawks. Now he appears to have lost his confidence. Down deep his teammates must feel like they can’t afford to make any errors in front of him. Last night’s performance was one of the worse goal keeping efforts I have seen. 

Let’s cut through the pretense the number one goal keeping job in Chicago wasn’t open for debate before last night’s game. Huet will get a few more starts before the end of the season but time is running out for him to regain his form. 

The real issue now is if Huet can be useful at all, or is he broken beyond repair. 

Quenneville pulled Huet in the middle frame but brought him back for the final period. 

It’s easy to say now, but it might have been best for the Hawks bench boss to wait for another day to get Huet back on track. But maybe Quenneville was more afraid of exposing Niemi to another twenty minutes of the Blue Jacket attack. 

Having one shaky goal keeper is bad but two is much worse. 

After making an ordinary save in the final period Huet heard the Bronx cheer from the Hawk fans in attendance. Probably the best thing about last night for Huet was his stinker wasn’t at the United Center. 

With the loss Chicago blew their chance to lessen the burden in the final nine games. The Hawks are now 4-1 against the Jackets and will meet them for the final time on Sunday night at the United Center. 

The injury riddled Hawks will conclude the regular season playing nine games in 15 days. Because of the heavy workload Huet will be needed again. 

The fate of Huet in Chicago will ultimately rest with Rocky Wirtz.  Unlike his predecessors Rocky knows it cost money to make money. 

With a crowded UFA goalie market on tap this summer Huet’s salary will make it almost impossible to trade him. If he is gift wrapped with a couple of desired players the Hawks could be cutting off their nose to spite their face by making such a trade. Even with an ample amount of bait, trading Huet would be a big task for Stan Bowman. 

My guess is Huet will somehow be elsewhere next season, with Mr.Wrtz paying all or a good portion of his pay. The benefit to Bowman will be the $4,875,000, which is the difference between Huet’s salary and Corey Crawford’s cap hit. 

What to do with Huet this summer is the minor concern for now. Brain Campbell will probably miss at least another six weeks and the team is not playing their best. 

The playoffs are just around the corner and Quenneville will have to hope Huet is not broken beyond repair. 

Al’s Shots 

The Hawks clinched a playoff birth because the Flames lost to the Islanders. 

But no one felt like throwing a party. 

Kris Versteeg was a team worse -4. 

Nick Boynton was a +1, the only plus Hawk. That’s hard to do when your team surrenders seven even strength goals. 

Boynton played almost 19 minutes last night and has done a nice job since being called up. 

Even Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane weren’t very noticeable in Columbus. They seldom disappear and usually not together. 

Huet allowed seven goals on 27 shots…that will help destroy a save percentage.

Does that even matter anymore? 

blackhawkswin@comcast.net

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  1. Dave Morris says:

    Al, as you know, I have written previously on H/I, as well as some other sites, about this season being make or break for Huet.

    Huet’s meltdown over the past two years reminds me of Martin Gerber’s. Seeing Gerber up close here in Ottawa, where fan and media pressure on goalies is brutal, I saw the same thing happen…losing the starting job more than once and then, the confidence of his teammates.

    Coincidentally, both Huet and Gerber share a lot of similar characteristics as goalies, in their career paths and in what we can see of their character.

    Nice guys, good teammates.

    At times, very good goalies. But inconsistent at best.

    Not tough enough to survive the pressure of being Number One.

    So, how does Stan Bowman divest himself of the financial burden in the off-season?

    And do they re-assign Huet to Rockford now, while bringing Corey Crawford up?

    • JP says:

      Good idea! At least by bringing Crawford up he can get some experience for next year. Huet should be traded or sent to Rockford as his heart is no longer in it. The rest of the team is also a disappointment. Everything has gone downhill since trading Cam Barker. All these guys were tight as a group and now they are being broken up. I think it may have to do with worrying about who is coming back next year. Get rid of Huet and it opens a lot of doors for others who deserve to be here.

  2. RJF says:

    Al,

    Jimmy Howard has played the last 20 games in a row for Detroit and there doesn’t seem to be any problem there. In fact, everyone says they are the team to be feared in the playoffs. Are we making too much of the rest factor especially for a young guy?

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Howard is playing because Babcock feels he has no other choice.

      Big difference is this is his second year…he played 49 games last season.

      Niemi played 49 games in Finland..and he only played 39 in AHL….not the same.

      Could he be a work horse…maybe someday.

      They will want him to have a lot of gas in the tank for the playoffs as his endurance will be strongly tested.

      They played him back to back to to test his endurance.

      I would think they would like to use him in not more than 6 out of the next nine..maybe seven…

      Maybe Q. won’t have a choice if Huet is as bad in his next start.

      But then they probably would like to find a way to get Crawford a game or two.

  3. Al Cimaglia says:

    Crawford could play…if need be in the playoffs.

    Well a buyout is not the best answer in my opinion given the tight cap situation.

    n my business when you are hung on a very bad trade there was a slang expression used.

    You wouuld be called a bag holder…no way out…not a matter of if you were going to lose but only a question of how much.

    Rocky realizes they were overly agressive in signing Huet and now the cap space is too valuable for his team to squander.

    It will hurt but he will eat the entire deal if need be…

    That way he shoulders the burden and doesn’t cripple Bowman with a huge burdensome salary.

  4. shruew says:

    There’s no way Huet goes to the minors now. Absolutely no reason to. It’s just pray he finds some confidence. No reason to bring up Crawford now for the garbage games – those have to go to Huet.

    I agree there’s no chance of a buy-out. It’s an offseason trade either in exchange for a bad contract or with draft picks going out. Or, it’s waiver wire and hope that someone claims him on re-entry… I doubt he sees a full season on Rockford.

    Nice to see Blunden play well though…

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      He won’t go to minors but he might not start at all in the playoffs if he continues this way.

      I was surprised to see Blunden has never scored an NHL goal until last night.

  5. Ken says:

    Al,

    Nice to finally locate where you are writing these days. As you know, I have never been a Huet fan. I am tired of people making excuses for a 34 year old veteran – he either has it at this point in his career or doesn’t. Time to ride Nemo like a rented mule. History has proven that rookies can take a team deep in the playofs or win the cup (Roy, Ward, etc.) Even a “hot Hand” will get you far (see Osgood last year).

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Hey Ken,

      Don’t be a stranger a lot of good stuff on this site and has grown nicely.

      I think the plan was to play Niemi about 6 more times but that may change.

      Although I don’t think Huet could be any worse…

      It will be a question of how bad Q. wants the #1 seed.

      • Ken says:

        Speaking of the #1 seed…

        It could certainly be an intersting last game of the season vs Detroit, with potential seeding on the line. Personally, the way both teams are playing, I would not want to face the Wing in round 1.

        • Al Cimaglia says:

          I still feel the way I did a few months ago.

          The Wings don’t seak in by the skin of their teeth…I don’t see them as an 8 seed.

  6. Dave Morris says:

    Al, I assume you mean Huet’s deal will be ‘Nylandered’: where they waive him, and/or try to move him to Europe or Russia.

    It’s difficult to imagine any other GM taking on Huet even at half-price on re-entry waivers, given the fact he has two years to go.

    Similarly to Nylander, it looks like, in a sense, Huet put himself in a position to fail. Taking the big money/term and not being able to deliver, especially in a high profile market with an upcoming team, is a career-killer.

    At the same time, that deal, following on the heels of Khabibulin’s elephantine contract and the subsequent mess it created, probably sealed Dale Tallon’s fate as well.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Dave,

      Not sure it will happen exactly that way but there are measures which can be taken.

      Huet gets paid and the Hawks won’t have his salary as a cap consequence…one way or the other.

      The problem with a buyout is you have to add his reduced salary to the player replacing him…still too much these days.

      • Dave Morris says:

        Al, I suppose it’s also possible Huet could decide to retire, as, for example, Marc Denis did.

        He’ll be 35 in September, so his NHL options are, one would think, severely limited.

        • Al Cimaglia says:

          It also depends on how receptive he would be to playing acroos the pond as you mentioned.

          The European economy isn’t so bad and there is money there and in Russia.

          • Dave Morris says:

            Al, Huet did well in the Swiss League. The players there are well treated and very well paid.

            That would be a gracious and expedient exit for Cristobal.

  7. djd says:

    The ‘hawks need to look at some other aspects of their game too, as the playoffs loom. Never mind where they’ll finish, they’re not going to beat anyone if this keeps up.

    Evidently, Mr. Campbell is a huge part of this team and his absence is obviously affecting their game big time.

    What have Burrish and Bolland brought to the team since they have returned? Yeah, cut them some slack for missing most of the season but … and Eager too?

    The fourth line works, IMO, because of Fraser, and I cannot understand why Q has such a hate on for him. At least when he plays he plays all out.

    I’ve said many times, too much perimeter play and no net presence at either end of the ice. They’re PP is so easy to defend and they miss the net or try that shot-pass play looking for the tip which no-one ever seems to tip. Pressure the point men and let them play with themselves along the boards and you kill the PP. How about a good old fashioned wrist shot and a rebound once in a while … oh, I forgot, you need someone in front of the net for that.

    They’re a puck possession team alright, but they’re terrible without the puck.

    Both goalies play too passive and too deep in the net. Niemi is bigger than CH so he gets away with it more often. Coaching?

    Q is constantly juggling the lines? It can’t help with chemistry, yes Bolland was out last night but … can anyone play with Hossa on that second line … I haven’t seen it yet?

    There’s still lots of hockey to be played before the playoffs start and a good chance that the ‘hawks will capture the top seed but what difference will it make if they don’t survive the first round? Who cares where they finish with their play of late …

    We’re getting a good look at how the team deals with adversity now and at least we know who the go-to goalie will be when the playoffs start. So we can put that to bed once and for all. Something good to come out of last nights game.

    As for Cristobal, I wish him well. If he’s not finished with the ‘hawks yet, he will be as soon as the season ends …

    Sure glad, I have a PVR, after games like that one …

    • MJC says:

      ’05 White Sox —-

      I’ll never forget an SI “expert” commenting on the playoff teams before they started:

      “The Sox don’t belong in the playoffs.”

      • Al Cimaglia says:

        MJC,

        You are correct…you never know.

        The Sox weren’t great leading up to the post season but their starting pitching in the Series was the best ever.

        The team who many picked to win the Stanley Cup, the Flames, are basically out of the playoffs already.

        The uncertainty is what makes sports great.

  8. Al Cimaglia says:

    I have a PVR…enlighten me?

    A lot of good points…time to get a set top six forwards.

    The 4th line hasn’t strung together good games all season.

    Q. has put Kopecky with Hossa…I don’t see it…actually I don’t think he should play in front of Frasor…he was around the puck last night but…

    Big problem if Bolland can’t contribute close to last year.

    I don’t like to point fingers at the opinions of others.

    But the same people who wanted to trade Brian Campbell said Kane should be dealt becasue he is only a perimeter player..

    • djd says:

      Al,
      I record all the ‘hawk games with my PVR. On days when the other half wants my attention, like yesterday (chinese food), I have no worries because I have it on disk. So after 32 seconds of Huet in net I can fast forward as much as I like or hit the delete button and move on to more interesting games like Yotes/Preds which is what I did do. I went back later and watched until I could bear no more, lol. You know the gig, Al.

      Kane is the most improved player this year, IMO and we all know Campbell and Huet were more PR signings with inflated salaries just to make ChiTown an attractive market for a team with everything on the upswing.

      Why is Sopel a healthy scratch? Heard anything on Johnsson lately?

      • Al Cimaglia says:

        As for Johnsson my suspicion is he has a concussion.

        Sopel could be dinged up and they are giving him a breather but… he did have a poor game in Phoenix and Boynton has been playing well.

        The “PVR” threw me off… around here reference is to a Tivo or DVR.

        Yes I know what you mean…only so much time in the day.

        I still have the elimination game from the Canuck series on my DVR..Three times a week my wife tells me to delete it….I am on borrowed time.

        • djd says:

          LOL, I bought another PVR for my wife and that keeps her away from my set-up. In Canada we call them PVRs—Personal Video Recorders— I think.

          Funny about Johnsson, how no one has seen the play so we don’t even have an inkling. Could also be one of those tears in the abdominal area. That’s bad too. You’re probably right, Al, as I’m sure if it was long-term they’d have said so by now.

          I’m actually shocked Seabrook is playing again …

          • Al Cimaglia says:

            Very lucky Seabrook is back so fast.

            As far as Johnsson…just an educated guess based on the fact he isn’t skating and guys around the team have spoken to him and he basically says he doesn’t “feel right”…that’s usually a concussion.

            You can’t get any info about injuries.

        • HawkFanDave says:

          Al,

          I beg you… DO NOT DELETE that elimination game vs. Vancouver!

          In my haste of leaving the house to get down to the UC, I forgot to record it live, but set the TiVo to catch the replay on CSN on their overnight rebroadcast. Foolishly, I set the recording to end on time instead of adding some extra time. I figured, it’s a rebroadcast; they’ll edit it down to the time allotted. Why bother adding extra time to the end of the recording?

          WRONG!

          Sure, I got all the goals, but I missed the very end of the game and the handshakes. The roar of the crowd. The game recap. The satisfaction of seeing a despondent Luongo. The abrupt ending of the recording kinda leaves ya hangin’.

          Al, surely you can reason with her! She’s GOTTA understand…

          • Al Cimaglia says:

            A cool thing to see was a despondent Luongo giving his stick to a young fan as he left the ice.

            The wife tolerates a lot…at some point it will be gone hopefully replaced by something better.

  9. shruew says:

    PVR for the fast forward…

  10. Dave Morris says:

    This is slightly on the perimeter of the Huet discussion, but I see a positive in the Hawks’ getting blown out last night.

    Q has been trying to get the guys to tighten up their game…with the personnel losses on defense, it is now a critical situation.

    Also, it has appeared at times the team has let Niemi bail them out.

    With Campbell, Johnsson and Sopel missing from the blueline there was/is little or no margin left for sloppy play.

    Putting Huet in for a meaningless contest against the Jackets not only showed Q conclusively that Cristo isn’t playoff-ready (which justifies a Crawford call-up and closes the book on Huet’s future), it also can be used as a major wake up call by the coaching staff.

    It is said “sometimes you need to lose in order to learn how to win”. The corollary to that could be, “sometimes you have to be really bad to know how good you need to be.”

  11. Jeff Benson says:

    Things are bad when Mike Blunden is scoring on you…

  12. [...] Richard Lawler wrote an interesting post today Here’s a quick excerpt The Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t a very good hockey team but they don’t get paid in beer and pizza. The Blackhawks are much better but not good enough to survive a terrible goal tending performance. Simply put Cristobal Huet was in goal … [...]

  13. shruew says:

    BTW – I don’t think Huet is done for his career. Just sayin’.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      I don’t know about done for his career either….but I would be shocked if he was here next year.

  14. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by hockey nutz, Eric Rabbers. Eric Rabbers said: Is Huet broken beyond repair? http://bit.ly/avA5M8 [...]

  15. Dave Morris says:

    Interesting item from Lyle Richardson on July 1st last year, had Tim Sassone suggesting Tallon was trying to retain Khabby while trying to trade Huet.

    http://www.spectorshockey.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=213:the-gaborik-watch-for-october-18-2008&catid=34:articles&Itemid=55

    “DAILYHERALD.COM’S Tim Sassone speculates Tallon’s interest in Khabibulin suggests he’s shopping Huet, possibly to Edmonton or Colorado as Sassone claims those two teams are at least listening to what Tallon is offering.”

    Interesting that Edmonton turned around and snagged Khabby for a much lower price–3 million less than Nik had made in Chicago–albeit at a longer term. So if Tallon was trying to sign Khabby, the rug got pulled out from under him.

    Those who claim Tallon got ‘moved laterally’ because of the alleged RFA offer snafus, might consider that the goalie mess DT created was probably the principal justification for his being ousted as GM.

    Huet being, from all appearances, un-moveable, Stan Bowman may have had no choice but to declare publicly from the beginning of the 2009-10 season that he was ‘comfortable’ with the goaltending.

    That facade only held up as long as Huet performed at a reasonable level.

    I would not be shocked to learn the Hawks shopped Huet to every GM who would listen.

    Had Rick DiPietro not been unsuccessful in his return, the Isles might have been persuaded (by a heavily incentivized package of talent) to take Huet, though it’s doubtful Charles Wang would have approved the deal when they have two serviceable ‘tenders for less than what Cristo makes.

    Similarly, the Vokoun speculation, while it excited a number of Hawk fans, seemed based on a proposition that would have required more than a little arm twisting of the normally shrewd Randy Sexton.

    Looking around the league, it’s hard to identify a team needing a goalie bad enough that they would be willing to assume Huet’s two year deal.

    For reasons Al has explained above, it would be very surprising to see Huet playing in the NHL next year.

    Huet in his own words : “Maybe it’s time to look back on what I’ve done in my career and focus on that and work hard, obviously. I think all I need is one good game to get back on track. I’ve had some good games, but not the end result, so one good game and a win to get back on track.”

  16. pricey says:

    Some great insight on this tough situation.

    I do think Huet will remain with the club for the rest of this season, however next year I think he’ll be in Rockford, most likely for the rest of his contract.

    Bowman will want to get some picks or prospects for the salary dumping. Putting Huet in Rockford would not only mean less salary dumping, but it was also allow him to get those picks/prospects for the rest of it.

    If Huet is traded, then Bowman is the one who has to give up the picks/prospects.

    To me, it seems like the best course of action.. Probably not as simple as it sounds

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Hi Pricey,

      He’s not going down this year that is almost a certainty.

      If he were to suffer a slight “groin pull or something”…Crawford could get another start or two.

      As soon as possible Crawford will be made available to help if needed in the playoffs.

      It will be very tough to trade Huet this summer, even with some others thrown in…there are lot of UFA goalies going to be available.

  17. Al Cimaglia says:

    I wasn’t kidding when I said Huet hasn’t ever fit in….I don’t want to rehash the whole drama now but the trouble strated right after he got here….

    I will have more this week.

  18. [...] • Is this is the end of the Cristobal Huet(notes) era in Chicago? [Hockey Independent] [...]