by Ron Spence
Vancouver will be playing the Blues tomorrow night, but won’t be facing a familiar adversary.
Manny Legace has played against the Canucks 12 times throughout the years, compiling a 7-5 record. He played with the Red Wings for most of 6 seasons and the Blues for two and a half years.
In his most recent game against the ‘Nucks, he beat the boys 6-4 three weeks ago.
Legace was placed on waivers by the Blues and should be starting in the American Hockey League this week.
Legace isn’t happy with his demotion.
“It’s extremely tough,” Legace said. “You play your heart out for a team, and the minute you hit a little bit of a rough patch, they dump on you … It was very hard to hear.”
Legace was drafted by the Whalers and spent four seasons in the minors before Hartford traded him to L.A. He played 17 games for the Kings, spending most of the 1998-99 season in the IHL.
Legace signed with Detroit that summer – as a free agent – and after a poor playoff in 2006, wasn’t re-signed. St. Louis’ new President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson – a former goalie himself – signed Legace and he played well for two plus campaigns.
“We know that Manny has played better,” Davidson added. “He’s a guy who has had some great times here with the Blues, some other times that weren’t so good. He has not had a good season. We just need him to find his game.”
This season, Legace’s goals against average has risen to 3.18 and his save percentage has fallen to .885 (Note that Detroit let him go with a better G.A.A. and the same save percentage.).
Chris Mason, St. Louis’ other goalie, has a.254 goals against average and a .917 save percentage.
“This is about performance, that’s what it’s about,” Davidson added. “If Manny had a better season stopping the puck, he wouldn’t be going to Peoria — if he clears waivers -– to get back to stopping the puck there.”
“Concerned over Legace’s knee surgery,” wrote St. Louis columnist Bernie Miklasz, “the Blues weren’t about to go into another season with a display of cardboard cutouts serving as the No. 2 goaltender. So they acquired Chris Mason from Nashville. Mason makes more money this season ($3 million) than Legace ($2.5 million), and that put Legace in a season-long pout. He wanted more money. He wanted a contract extension. And he let everyone know it.”
“This is a beat-up hockey team,” John Davidson explained. “Our players continue to work their tails off, and it doesn’t help when you have a person who is disgruntled by a contract situation … Manny has his own opinions. I’m not going to speak to Manny’s opinions. We provided Manny an opportunity to revive his career with the St. Louis Blues….”
Manny Legace was making $.5 million less than the Blues’ other goalie and wasn’t happy.
Kevin Bieksa is earning $4,250,000 this season and Sami Salo $3,750,000, and Willie Mitchell and Mattias Ohlund only $3,500,000 and neither Mattias or Willie have complained.
Everyone in professional sports – besides Manny Legace it seems – knows that when it’s your turn to go to the trough, you can command more money – if you deserve it.
You just have to shut up – eat macaroni – and wait your turn.
THE LOYALTY ISSUE
Legace reached the big time when he made it to the OHL’s Niagara Falls Thunder during the 1990-91 season – Brad May and Steve Staios were teammates. He replaced three goalies from the previous season – Joe Boote, Steve Udvari and Todd Reynolds.
After three years in junior, he went to the AHL’s Springfield Falcons for the 1994-95 season. His co-goalies were Stephane Beauregard and Nikolai Khabibulin.
The goalies who they replaced – from the previous season – were Frank Pietrangelo, George Maneluk, Danny Lorenz and Mike Lenarduzzi.
Neither Niagara Falls nor Springfield, it seems, were pinnacles of loyalty.
The Whalers had never called him up, even though he was the AHL’s best goalie in 1996 (Their two goalies – at that time – were Sean Burke and Jason Muzzatti.).
They did have this prospect, however, who they would bring up the following season – Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Legace wasn’t treated well in L.A. He shared duties with Jamie Storr and Stephane Fiset. They all had similar save percentages – .911 to .917 – and Legace and Fiset – who played 42 games – had a 2.6 G.A.A., while Storr was 2.4. Legace’s problem was that he wasn’t getting much help. Storr was an even 12 and 12, Fislet was 18 and 21, while Legace was 2 wins against 9 losses.
Then he was signed by Detroit, where he played for Scottie Bowman.
Now, that man wouldn’t recognize the word “loyalty” if he tripped over it – towards his players or a franchise – he left Detroit for Chicago.
During Legace’s Detroit days, there was a treadmill of netminders.
In 1999-00, he played alongside Chris Osgood and Ken Wregget. The following season, he backed Osgood, who lost to the Kings and was placed on waivers. In 2001-02, Legace backed Hasek and in 2002-03 Curtis Joseph. In 2003-04, he played 41 games for Detroit – when Joseph and Hasek were injured – and in 1/3 of the playoffs, when Detroit lost to Calgary.
The following 2005-06 campaign, Legace went 37 wins and only 8 losses, while Chris Osgood was his backup. But, he would learn what Osgood had learned – in the playoffs he went 2-4, his goals against average was 2.65, and he had a .884 save percentage.
So, he wasn’t re-signed and was replaced by Hasek and Osgood.
So, how can Legace complain about Davidson’s or St. Louis’ loyalty?
THE MAN HE WAS POINTING HIS FINGER AT
John Davidson had it a lot harder than Legace.
He was the first goalie to go directly from junior to the NHL, and spent most of two seasons with St. Louis – who had drafted him 5th overall in 1973.
He was then traded to the Rangers where he was the number one goalie for 5 seasons.
Davidson had a number of injuries, however, during the 1980-81 season, and play only 3 games over the next two years.
John Davidson’s career had effectively ended at the age of 28.
“I’m hoping if [Manny] clears waivers,” Davidson said, “he will go to Peoria and really play well – and I sincerely mean that. And if he does play well, he’ll have a chance at playing here or somewhere else, and the other thing is that if he doesn’t clear waivers and somebody picks him up, I hope he goes and plays well for his own future and his own life.”
Manny Legace will be joining Jeff Cowan in Peoria.
Cowan spent two years fighting guys twice his size when he was with the Canucks. Then, he was replaced with younger, tougher and faster players.
Legace set a Peoria record even before he arrived in Illinois. He is the highest paid player in Riverman’s history (Blues goaltender Patrick Lalime was on a $2.4 million contract when he came to Peoria in 2005-06 and resurrected his career.).
And, there’s something that Manny Legace should be really grateful for.
Legace had been signed as a free agent by Detroit on August 9th, 1999 and was later claimed off of waivers by Vancouver on September 30th. But, Vancouver couldn’t justify three goalies, so they put him back on waivers and Detroit reclaimed him on October 13, 1999.
Then, a few hours later, Garth Snow told the Canucks that his pinkie had been broken, and he went on disability.
Had the Islanders’ current GM reported his injury a little sooner, Legace would have remained a Canuck and been stuck in that abysmal Marc Crawford/Brian Burke goalie graveyard – a hellhole beyond hellholes.
As it was, Legace won a Stanley Cup in 2002 – while backing Dominique Hasek – and even got to play in one game.
Why is he singing the Peoria blues?