Antti Niemi - Is He Done?
By Patrick Hoffman
It is not very often that I go ahead and write articles/blogs bashing players. Rather, I always try to be objective and give well-informed opinions.
With all of that said, however, I must say that current Florida Panthers masked man Antti Niemi looks like he should no longer be an NHL goaltender. Yes, I know that I'm not an NHLer or anything even remotely close to that, but I am someone that has been an goaltender for close to 27 years and understands what it takes to play the most important position on the ice.
Simply put, Niemi no longer has it. He looks lost between the pipes and whenever he gets into a game, he does not perform well.
It was not always like this for Niemi. When Niemi burst onto the scene with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2009-10, he looked like a world beater.
That season, he went 26-7-0-4 with a 2.25 goals against average, a .912 save percentage and seven shutouts in the regular season. Niemi then promptly helped the team win the Stanley Cup that postseason and while his numbers were not exactly fantastic (16-6 with a 2.63 goals against average, a .910 save percentage and two shutouts), he was steady and was there when his team needed him the most.
The following season, the Finnish goaltender signed with the San Jose Sharks and had five product seasons. He posted goals against averages of 2.38, 2.42, 2.16, 2.39 and 2.59, while posting save percentages of .920, .915, .924, .913, and .914.
While with the Sharks, Niemi won a lot of hockey games and proved to be more than a capable starting goaltender. Sure, he did not lead them to a Cup or anything, but he did his part and made the Sharks a tough out in the postseason.
Fast forward to the 2015-16 season with the Dallas Stars and that is where things started to take a turn for the worse. While he posted a winning record that season, his goals against started climbing (2.67) and his save percentage started dropping at an alarming rate (.905).
Last season was absolutely awful for Niemi. He went 12-12-0-4 with a 3.30 goals against average and a .892 save percentage. Both him and Kari Lehtonen were the main culprits of the Stars missing the playoffs last year.
This year has also been dreadful for the 34-year-old puck stopper. In three games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he went 0-3 with a 7.50 goals against average and a .797 save percentage. In one outing with the Florida Panthers, he is 0-1 with a 4.29 goals against average and a .889 save percentage.
In looking at the numbers alone, it is clear that Niemi is not as capable a NHL goaltender as he once was. His goals against is not even close to the league average and his save percentage is well, well, below NHL netminding standards.
In watching him between the pipes, it looks like Niemi has lost a step. He is not as quick going post to post as he used to be and he is also having trouble picking up the play.
I think it' might be time, or at least getting close to it, for Niemi to hang up the pads. He had nice seasons with the Blackhawks and Sharks, is a Cup winner, has played in the postseason many times, and has really nothing left to prove in the league.
The time has come for Niemi to take a seat and enjoy the game from the comfort of his own home.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.