Guys, we need to talk about Marc-Andre Fleury. Specifically, we need to talk about the unrelentingly stupid conversation that’s persisted around Fleury for the better part of the last five years.
Half of Pens fans think Fleury is the greatest thing since Cinnamon Toast Crunch. They put him in the same class as guys like Henrik Lundqvist, Tukka Rask, Zeus and Kurt Vonnegut.
The other half of Pens fans seem to think that Fleury is the biggest goaltending disaster hockey has seen since the Washington Capitals decided to stick a sumo wrestler back there based on the notion that he’d just take up a ton of space.*
These are the people who, whenever the Pens give up a goal, storm Twitter, sports talk radio and presumably their own family dinners with shouts of “TRADE FLEURY.”
To everyone who’s taken one or both of these positions, I offer the following plea: Please stop. You’re coming off as incredibly dumb and you’re making everyone else dumber. Please, shut the fuck up forever.
The fact of the matter is the Marc-Andre Fleury is the league’s most average goalie; nothing more, nothing less. He’s paid like one of the league’s elite goalies, but he’s not that.
When the Pens signed Fleury to a seven-year, $35 million contract which kicked in for the 2008-09 season, Fleury was nigh on 23 years old. The Penguins had every reason to think that based on his scouting, physical tools and pedigree, he still had time to evolve into the kind of elite goaltender they likely thought they were getting when they drafted him first overall in 2003.
Now, the Flower is 29 years old and a fully known quantity. All meaningful numbers bare this out. We could come at you all day with charts, graphs and numbers which demonstrate that Fleury oscillates between slightly below average and slightly above average, but let’s just use this one, which charts goalies who’ve played at least 350 games between 2005 and today.
What does this tell us?
One, that Fleury is a completely mediocre goalie. He’s not a world-beater, but he’s not actively hurting you. He’s a guy with whom you can win, so long as your defense is acceptable.
The other thing is that Thomas Vokun, who’s missed the entire season after suffering a blood clot in his brain, has the highest save percentage of any goalie since the 2005 lockout. That’s madness. The Penguins got him for nothing, but he’s still been better than almost any other goalie in the league.
Nobody should be opposed to the Pens bringing Fleury back if he’s willing to take a salary more commensurate with his ability, but if he’s going to command any kind of a raise, the Pens simply shouldn't bother.
This argument ends now. Fleury isn’t god’s gift to goaltending, nor is he its Josef Stalin. Everyone shut the hell up.
*Author’s note: this never actually happened, but was suggested during an episode of “The West Wing.”