Even Luke had to train a little bit.
I’ve never been anti-Ondrej Pavelec like some people are (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Watching him over the past two to three seasons when he’s either been called up as a temporary fix for a broken Kari or he’s been a replacement for the former starter full time, there have been some outstanding flashes of goaltending skills. He started off last season on a holy tear, and then sometime during late October or early November, it started to break down.
You could chalk that up to just being tired, but that lack of endurance comes from the fact that he’s 22. Goaltenders are notorious for being somewhat unique individuals – you have to be to have galvanized rubber shot at your face 50 times a night – and they’re also generally regarded as late bloomers. There are a few young goaltenders who amaze, but a good many of them don’t fully hit their stride until they’re in their mid to late 20s. There are quite a few who are in their 30s or even pushing 40 who are still out in the crease almost every night and performing in peak conditions. As a goaltender, you have plenty of time to develop, and should be given that time. Pavelec shined as goaltender for the Chicago Wolves, and was seen as a capable replacement for Kari Lehtonen when he went down during the doomed 2007-2008 season. He was, with a save & of .911. The GAA left a bit to be desired at 3.11, but as any Thrashers fan can tell you, that entire season was Futility on Ice. 2008-2009 was significantly worse for Pavs in the 12 games up with the big team, but last season a good many fans expected his development to be complete and for him to be the starter that he’d been hyped to be. Boy howdy, did he start out hot. By the middle of the season it was almost like he had a quota of 4GA a night to fill, and then by the end of the year he worked it all out.
Of course, reactionaries in the fanbase called for his head midyear through, with little thought to the kid’s development. To even show that talent at 22 is impressive, even if it isn’t constant. Not every young goaltender is Patrick Roy, and the Thrashers certainly weren’t the 1985-1986 Habs. The young goalie will have two more years to develop with the team, since he accepted his QO today to the tune of 2 years and $2.3 million dollars… a total for both years. If you were wondering about the state of the goaltending market before, this should confirm it for you – the Thrashers have Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason as a tandem for two seasons at a total cost of $5.7 million. The workhorse Mason should be able to be a good influence on Pavs, and if Pavelec falters the team has someone to go to that doesn’t mind playing, oh, 33 games straight to lead a team to the playoffs.
Calm down, non-proponents of Pavs. Give him some time.