The idealistic notion that an athlete shouldn’t lose his starting position to an injury has long been wishful thinking more than reality. Pro sports history, including the Detroit Red Wings, is full of stories about athletes replacing injured players and claiming the job.
The most famous injury replacement story in sports came in 1925 when New York Yankees starting first baseman Wally Pipp missed a game because of a headache. He was replaced by 21-year-old Lou Gehrig who ended up playing 2,130 consecutive games.
In the NHL, in 1938, future Hall of Fame goalie Tiny Thompson, a four-time Vezina trophy recipient, was injured in preseason. Frank Brimsek replaced for the start of the season. Thompson returned in the third game, but Brimsek had played so impressively well in his first two starts that the Bruins soon decided to trade Thompson to the Detroit Red Wings. Thompson had been the Bruins goalie for more than a decade.
That’s why NHL players, particularly goalies, are always concerned about where they fit when they come back from injuries. Ville Husso, considered the starter earlier, hasn’t played since Dec. 18. He is coming back now with Alex Lyon owning Detroit’s net.
Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said he hasn’t talked to Husso who probably already knows his situation. NHL coaches go with the hot hand. Right now, it’s T Lyon.
“It’s more about (Husso) just being healthy again,” Lalonde said. “He’s getting his game in order. He’ll get the net here sometime soon. I don’t know when. I don’t know that we’ve gone down that path of not losing his job or anything like that. It’s more about Ville getting his game back in order and when he gets that net be ready and be sharp.”
Goalie Rotations Are All Day-to-Day
Most NHL goalies understand that if a goalie falters, be it for injury or poor performance, the backup goalie will get his chance to play. If he continues to win, then he will get the net. Lyon started this season as the No. 3 goalie. He didn’t play a single game until Nov. 17.
Now, Lyon is a workhorse goalie. He played 12 of Detroit’s 13 games in January. He went 8-2-2. Lyon boasts a 2.51 goals-against average and a .922.
Husso does have a winning streak (9-5-2) this season, but he had a bloated 3.53 goals-against average and .893 save percentage when he was receiving the bulk of the starts.
“That goalie position can change instantly,” Lalonde said. “You’ve seen it through three goalies this year. We had two goalies go on IR ; I don’t know if anyone else in the league had had two goalies on IR for an extended period of time. Alex Lyon didn’t see the net for six weeks and all the sudden we need him for 13 out of 14 games. They’re mature and professional enough to know this can change rapidly.”
Don’t forget that James Reimer is also still on the roster. They will continue to carry three goalies.
Undoubtedly, all of them understand how this works: Lalonde is going to play the goalie who keeps winning. Right now, that’s Lyon. But they all know that can change.