Things in Los Angeles got just a wee bit heated late last week, something that came about in no small part because of the revmaped waiver rules NHL's new collective bargaining agreement.
The Kings have been facing an issue with their goaltenders all season - the issue being that one has been good (Mathieu Garon) and the other, to put it mildly, has not (Dan Cloutier).
Garon went down with a sore groin last Wednesday during practice, so it fell to the struggling Cloutier to tend the goal the next night against Phoenix. But what ended up drawing just a little bit of angst from Kings coach Marc Crawford (and presumably the team's brass) was the player who the team recalled to backup Cloutier that night.
Rather than bring up Jason LaBarbera, the Kings' backup last season and a former AHL goaltender of the year, the club went with minor-league backup Barry Brust to replace Garon.
Due to the fact that LaBarbera has a one-way contract, he would have had to clear waivers in order to join the NHL team, and after having watched the Anaheim Ducks lose their minor-league 'tender Michael Leighton earlier in the week, the Kings were understandably leery over the fact they could give up LaBarbera over what was going to likely be a short-term call-up.
Had Brust simply warmed the bench for the Kings' game against Phoenix, none of this would have been a problem. But when Cloutier got off to yet another poor start and allowed three goals on the first five shots he faced, Crawford gave him the hook in favour of Brust.
The rookie would allow four more goals against one of the league's weakest teams, and when Crawford was asked why LaBarbera wasn't called up the next day, he nearly blew a gasket.
"That is something that is not an option," Crawford said to the L.A. Times on Friday. "… The way the rules are, if we call him up it adds to our [salary]cap. Someone will claim him and we pay half the salary."
As the line of questioning continued, the coach grew considerably more upset.
"Phrase it right. It's not going to change. Look around the league. Who are half the players getting hurt? Goaltenders. Who are half the players picked up [on waivers] Goaltenders…. The Ducks tried and lost their guy. I'm sure they're happy about that up in Portland…. Jason is having a good season and he is also helping our young players. He is still a value to this organization."
The whole saga highlights an unfortunate side effect of the new CBA, where sometimes - and especially in the case of netminders - the best player isn't recalled because of waiver considerations.
It's understandable that Crawford himself would be the most frustrated out of all of this. After all, the same thing happened to the coach with the Vancouver Canucks' last season, when veteran goalie Wade Flaherty was banished to the AHL full-time even as the team failed to find an decent backup for Alex Auld. ( Maxime Ouellet, anyone?)