Another year, another goaltender that didn't work out. Jason Labarbera had his chances to capture glory as the goaltender for the Los Angeles Kings, but once again it seemed forces beyond control made that goal impossible to attain. Like Mathieu Garon and Cristobal Huet, Labarbera now goes to a good situation with a Canadian team with hopes that he can turn it around.
It really is kind of frustrating to have this happen again. Look at Labarbera's career, it's filled with missed opportunities. In 2005, he was rookie of the month in October and had a golden opportunity to seize the Kings' #1 spot when both Garon and Cloutier went out, but he had to take a few weeks' off because of (I think) his girlfriend's health. He never really regained the magic that season. Then in 2006, he was forced to stay in Manchester for an entire season, leading to exile while guys like Barry Brust and Sean Burke got their shot with the Kings. Oddly enough, that was the one season where everything went right for him. Last year, Labarbera had a real nice stretch of games in December before Ryan Smyth broke Labarbera's ribs. He wasn't the same when he came back. Then, this year, Labarbera committed himself to getting in shape and had a golden opportunity to finally become the Kings' #1 goaltender. And he blew it. I don't know why, other than maybe he was putting too much pressure on himself, but he blew it. Two other goaltenders did not, and Labarbera became expendable. It happens.
There has been some comparison of Jason Labarbera and Dan Cloutier, but that's ridiculous. For one, Cloutier was far worse than Labarbera. Two, Labarbera really tried. I don't know, maybe it's because I played goal or maybe it's because I feel bad for Labs since he really did try to get in shape this off-season, but his story is a sad one, not one made for mockery. (Well, besides the joke in the title.) Unlike Cloutier, Labarbera was friendly to everyone in the locker room, never complained about playing time, and holy shit do you remember that one goal Cloutier let in? Disgusting.
I doubt Labarbera will follow in the footsteps of Garon and Huet and solve the Canucks' goaltending woes, but I also doubt this will be his last stop in the league. Despite what we saw this season, I still think Labarbera is an average goaltender. At least I hope so, otherwise he's going to make me look pretty stupid, huh?
With Labarbera gone, the Kings' goaltending situation is a little clearer, but not much. Just like at the beginning of the season, the Kings have 2 goaltenders that are relatively unproven and they will probably let them fight it out for the starting spot. Terry Murray is a simple guy and usually just goes with a goalie until he has a bad game and then switches it up, so we'll probably see that happen. Right now it's Quick, but if he sucks on Saturday then it'll be Ersberg. It's interesting that the Kings are going with 2 goaltenders that have a combined 41 games played in the NHL, but talent is talent, right? Besides, if one of them sucks the Kings can always give Bernier a shot.
I like the idea of Ersberg and Quick partnering up because they have different strengths and weaknesses. Ersberg is always calm on the ice and usually prevents things from getting out of hand. Quick is bigger and more talented, but he's also a little out of control. It will be good for him to work with Ersberg in practice every day and learn from him.
I'm out until the Kings' game on Saturday because I'm traveling to the snow, so you're going to have to rely on Earl and co. for all your updates. If you're wandering around Sequoia National Park in March and see a frozen corpse lying on the ground, stop and say hi.