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What To Do With Marc-Andre Fleury While He’s Not At His Best

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Something’s not quite right with Marc-Andre Fleury. Over the past 20 games or so it’s impossible to argue anything other.

He’s allowed four or more goals in three straight and 10 of his last 19 starts. His save percentage in the last 20 games is .894, a mark he’s never hit for an entire season. He’s posted just one shutout in his last 22 games, and maybe most importantly he’s allowing at least one goal pretty much every night that we say “he should have stopped that one.”

The passing of Fleury’s father undoubtedly has something to do with the decline in recent performance, but no one, including Fleury himself, would be able to explain how long it will affect him. Clearly, based on early-season performance (he was selected as an All Star), age is not the issue, which leads most to believe that this rut is temporary.

The question now is how long will it last and what should the Golden Knights do while it’s going on.

This is one that no one has a correct answer for as it’s uncharted waters for everyone involved. So, instead of making a suggestion, here are the pros and cons of a few of the potential options the Golden Knights have.

Stick to the original plan
Continue playing Fleury 4 of every 5 or so and rest him on back-to-backs

Pro: Often times the best way to overcome something is to attempt to return to normalcy. To this point, it hasn’t quite happened for Fleury, but with a player as talented as him, it’s fair to expect him to bounce back to form at some point. Staying with the original plan shows confidence in him and sends the message that there’s full belief from the organization that he’ll bounce back.

Con: How long can you stick with normalcy before admitting to a problem? Since returning on December 10th, Fleury has allowed 37 goals in 11 games and posted a save percentage of .887. 20 games? 30 games? Any time a change is made, it’s easier to compare results. If no change is made and the results continue, the issue becomes wasted time. Maybe things will work themselves out without any drastic measures being taken, but if they don’t, games and days will be lost.

Fight it head-on
Keeping playing Fleury every game

Pro: Every goalie says the same thing when it comes to playing their best, “the more I play the more comfortable I get.” So, the idea would be to completely ignore the results and simply believe that he’ll eventually overcome it and get back to his normal dominant self. Playing him every night is the fastest solution and it’s likely the one with the highest probability of success.

Con: There could be a lot of pucks in the Golden Knights net while he works through it. Letting him battle through is admitting to not putting your team in the best position to win on any given night. Short term be damned, long term is the most important. Also, this would likely have a negative impact on Malcolm Subban. He’s proven to be at his best when he gets regular starts. Forcing Fleury out there until he re-finds his game could hinder Subban when he does eventually get back in.

Go to 50/50
Swap starts back and forth between the two

Pro: A balance between the two would seem to benefit everybody.  Fleury would be getting consistent game action to overcome the problem but not too much that the losses stack up if he continues to struggle. Subban would also be getting consistent starts as well which would likely help him play at his best. It’s the least invasive solution.

Con: Is this just a band-aid? Trying to cover up a problem is usually not the best way to actually correct it. It’s the slowest option. Taking a few games off Fleury’s plate would probably lead to him taking even longer to right the ship if he ever does.

Make Subban the starter temporarily
Use the opposite of the normal plan, Subban for 4 of every 5 and rest him on back-to-backs

Pro: At the moment, it’s probably the best solution for the team to keep winning games. Subban has been better than Fleury for about a month according to every measure. This will take a lot of the pressure off Fleury and would allow him to work through some of the issues in practice. He’d get starts here and there and if he’s good they can continue riding him.

Con: When Fleury has been at his worst in his career it’s been when he is not the undisputed starter. He’s admitted on several occasions that he doesn’t feel his best when he’s not getting regular starts. If he’s struggling with regular time in the net, taking it away from him has a strong chance to make it even worse.

Give Fleury a true month off
Send him away from the team through the All Star Break and go with Subban and Dansk/Sparks

Pro: The Golden Knights play just six games in the next 22 days. There are no back-to-backs and five of the six teams are out of the playoff picture. If this is truly a mental issue, the best thing for him may just be to be completely away from the game of hockey for a little while longer. There’s no better time on the schedule to do it. Also, Subban has performed his best in both the first season and this season when Fleury has not been with the team at all (whether that’s coincidence or not, it’s true).

Con: Aside from hope, is there really anything that points to this actually having a likelihood of success? How is Fleury supposed to get better at stopping pucks if he’s not trying playing in games or participating in practice? Also, missing Fleury from the locker room is never good for a team that consistently calls him their undisputed leader. Finally, there’s a major waste of time aspect here. If this doesn’t work, you can’t get those games back.

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24 Comments

  1. Mike G

    I like the last option, except rather than sending him away just make up the preverbal “upper body injury”, week to week diagnosis. He can still be around the team and practice as he wants to. Bring him back sometime late February/March for the stretch run and hope he’s his old self. If we start taking on water with Subban then the upper body injury can heal itself sooner. I actually think this is the best option for both Subban and Fleury.

  2. Foley

    No, the answer is to instruct the players, particularly the dmen, to be mindful to play safe, cautious, defensive minded hockey to cut down the high danger chances, to win low scoring games, and to restore the goalies confidence in themselves, and the team’s confidence in their play.

    for example, Schmidt passes that puck off the boards, not into the middle of 3 Penguin forwards in the neutral zone, goal #1 prevented…..and Hague is not caught flatfooted and out of position giving up a breakaway, goal #4 prevented. Final score VGK 3, Pitt 2

    you don’t win playoff games by giving up 4 or 5 goals every night, so this crap has to stop.

    also, of course, the VGK goalie coach has to work with Fleury to cut down on his acrobatics, to be less frantic in the net, to better play the angles, to remain more in position and control, and to better control his rebounds.

    bottom line is that the VGK goalies should have a save % in the .920 range from here on in, otherwise the team won’t get very far this season

    • Not sure you can turn gun slingers into safe, cautious, defensive minded individuals over night regardless how they are instructed. That has not and is not their style as they have been, when the mood strikes them all about speed, swarming all over the opposition in their zone and making things happen. They score when they are screening the goalies which for some reason they neglect a lot of the time. Watch the opposition they screen most of the time. Schmidt needs to concentrate on hockey not commercials (he’s not in Vegas to hawk automobiles) there is no questions there are many stupid plays he is responsible for and unfortunately not alone but he does stick out. Your remarks concerning Fluery while true at the moment are correctable – give the guy a break he is hurting and unfortunately that hurting is affecting his play and consequently the team – you don’t have a lot of flaws and win Stanley Cups like he has. Just maybe he is trying to hard to compensate for how he is feeling.

    • Erik d

      They gave up 16 shots against the pens and he gave up 4 goals. Reality is in the course of a hockey game mistakes will happen and the other team will get scoring chances. This isn’t about unrealistic defensive expectations, this is about fleury struggling, which he is.

      • don

        You noticed, however, 3 of those were from the blue paint, no? This is a regular occurrence on the VGK when it should be the exception. No one should be regularly shooting from your blue paint and every opponent is. This needs to be a huge focus on the coaching staff and I’m baffled why it isn’t at yet. The other thing, the rebounds. Their rebound clearing, like all teams, should be a priority. Watch other teams. Clearing that rebound away is the number one priority for the D. That should have been driven home under no uncertain terms by now on the VGK. After 3 years, it isn’t resolved one bit. These goals and losses are not on Fleury, by any stretch. This defense absolutely stinks where it matters on a regular basis. Someone needs to wake up the defensive coach.

  3. This is definitely a two edge sword and one that the Knights haven’t had to face previously and is uncharted waters. With any family loss (or any loss or problem as far as that is concerned) there is never a time limit formula for recovery. Reading your post Ken you sure understand that which borders on the “attitude” issue which is hard to address but even harder to ignore. Flower is hurting which makes concentration and focus difficult at best. He was selected for the All Star deal, he spoke to management, coaches and family and decided it was in everyone’s (his particularly) best interest if he declined – seems to me that was a pure signal that he understands probably more than the coaching staff he needs time to re-orient his life which definitely adds credence to Mike G post. We all feel for him that is for sure; however, which I am certain he understands better than anyone as he is a professional the team comes first which at the moment he isn’t helping all the time – this is difficult for him to witness and accept as being a leader failure isn’t an option. I hope someone is talking to him who understands loss and can get him through this – in his time only not someone else’s – he will know when he is BACK – this is not like healing a broken bone give him a break you don’t heal by running from it ( or playing thru it in his case – been there done that it doesn’t work). Sorry God just didn’t make us that way. Time will heal –

  4. Michelle Wilson

    This is something that only MAF can figure out. Everyone grieves differently and for him, he said he needs to keep busy. It has been a short time since the passing of his father. He will figure things out. He is a pretty smart player and i think he would take himself out of the picture if he feels he needs to. The organization, along with his friends and family will keep an eye on him. Let the man grieve on his terms, not what everyone else feels he should be doing

    • Michelle – the initial response to situations of this nature is to keep busy with the hope all will be well. Grief is a job that has to be worked it doesn’t go away keeping busy. When trying that approach you are kidding yourself and you must face the inevitable to heal. Yes it is up to flower but often in these situations you can’t see the forest for the trees. I believe with his withdrawal from the AllStar weekend he was sending a clear signal he needs some time to take care of healing. He needs time and the team needs him at 100% if they expect to succeed. He knows that better than all. Take some time get better and move forward with Subban for now.

  5. Christopher

    I second that motion

  6. DOC Williams

    The “feelings” you all have for Marc-Andre is evident in your posts. I of course feel the same as all of you. I just say this: There is NO set procedure or time period to deal with a loss like his. Right now it’s obvious his passion for the sport just isn’t there right now. How long till he gets it back? Will he EVER get it back? The Flower is the ONLY person who can decide when if ever this happened. Comments like how he should change his style of play, like being more “calm” in net! Well, that’s not him. His entire career he has “flopped” around like a fish. They politely call him an “athletic” goalie. Sometimes his frantic movements cause problems, other times unbelievable saves like earlier this season. But, none of this matters. He must recover emotionally & mentally from the loss of his father. It’s clear they were extremely close. So, WHO should choose how much to play or not play him? Marc-Andre that’s who. I would say that if after the long all-star break he has not regained his passion, he may need the rest of the season off! We need “our Flower” back. But only when he is 100% committed, period!!!!! Otherwise it will be a disaster for him and the team!

  7. This article kind of pisses me off. Yes, he is off and yes, he is obviously grieving but to put the loss of the games solely on his shoulder is totally unfair. What about the D-men? Why aren’t you taking issue with how crappy Schmidty has been playing? You can’t expect Fleury to stand on his head and not hold the rest of the team accountable! Turk himself has said they have to play 60 minutes, and they have not done that. Sending Flower away for a month is absurd but playing him one night and then Subby is fair to both goalies………….and let us recognize we have two goalies. When a team scores against us or we lose a game, the crowd goes Subby. Not fair to him. He’s a young talented player who Fleury has been mentoring so let’s stop analyzing what’s wrong with Flower and let’s analyze how we get the knights to play 60 minutes.

    • When did I put the losses only on him? This article is coming off the heels of 4 straight wins by him. To me, and most, he doesn’t look as dominant as he normally does and I think they need that back if they are going to win the Cup. I presented options as to how to attempt to get there (including one that is “do nothing”) and showed pros and cons to each. I did not select one I think is best. Not entirely sure where you are getting what you took from this article.

    • Erik d

      I’m sorry but the knights defense allowed 16 shots last night flower let in 4. Some people never want to blame the goalie and in doing so set up completely unrealistic defensive expectations. There is an opposing team and the defense will be beat some times. Good goalies make up for this more then bad ones. The difference between a good and bad goalie is minor it’s 1 or 2 goals every 100 shots. We don’t always need to blame the defense and honestly on a day after a 4 goals on 16 shots that position is patently absurd.

      • I didn’t think all this batter back and forth was about blame as you appear to be focused on. Yes you are right good goalies do make a difference and his performance over the years confirms that in spades. Ken’s article was only pointing out the obvious- he needs some help right now whatever that might mean. He has bailed that team out more often than not this situation is not about pointing figures

  8. Rob

    I think that the team has already decided to go with the “month off” approach, though it will end up being more like 2 weeks or so. That’s why he declined to play in the All Star game. Have Subban book-end the 1-2 games before and after break and Flower gets Nearly 3 weeks off just to get his head straight.

  9. Joe

    Start with 5, then go to 3 the rest of the regular season. You will need a fresh goaltender going into the playoffs. This team is still inconsistent on offense and has been pretty much a disaster on the blue line. For a deep run, you will need a .930-.940 in April and May.
    I fully expect Gallant to run Fleury into the ground.

    • Harriet Kaufman

      MAF should decide when/if he plays. Sure, management can FORCE a sabbatical, which isn’t their style at all. I wasn’t surprised that he only took two weeks off after his father’s death, because most people are in shock and are trying to distract themselves at the beginning from the pain, with work and with keeping busy. However, anyone that knows about mourning and grief knows that you have to finish mourning, before you can slowly re-enter your “normal” routine. Grief remains, as we learn to live our lives without them. IMHO, he’s still mourning and trying to make the transition to grief in his own time, just as is normal. It’s silly to speculate how long it will take a person to progress from the mourning to the grieving stage, and every business deals with this issue eventually. You take the lead from the person mourning. If he wants to play, let him play. If he wants to sit out, let him sit out. Pretty easy, if you ask me.

      • Joe

        No. Players are going to want to play. They play through concussions. On top of that, they have overplayed him for two years and he has been bad for the last month. Oh and he is 35 with a ton of miles.

  10. DOC Williams

    We have an AHL all-star goalie in Chicago. Bring him up. Make Subban #1 for now and give the other guy a few starts mixed in. Eventually, hopefully, Flower will be mentally ready and beg to get back in. THEN we will know his fire burns again!!!!!! (Like everything else said here on this: WHO the heck really knows … we don’t). I’m an old man and after I take “my meds” I’m liable to say any damn thing!!!! ha ha 🙂

  11. Tim

    Did anyone watch Subban last night against the Kings he looked lost. We all know part of the problem is our D-Men but I don’t think Subban is the answer. The fact is as close as 5 teams are in the Pacific theirs a chance we won’t make the playoffs. Maybe there tuning out Gallant but I’m tired of hearing were not playing 60 minutes or we didn’t have jump in our legs. Every night we have close to 18,500 screaming fans to listen to these flimsy excuses. Let’s face it our D doesn’t score and then check out the goal production of Eakins, Glass, Tuch, Karlsson, Stantsy, Marchie and you wonder why we struggle. It’s our team and we love them but it’s not built to compete for a Stanley Cup not even close.

    • Well Tim you pretty well hit the nail on the head – yes we love them, the 18500 you referenced is only a fraction of the people who have adopted the Knights as their team. I am sure there are an equal number of people tired of the flimsy excuses you referenced which I believe Gallant even acknowledged last night in the post game interview which was a refreshing approach for a change. No worry about 18500 screaming fans for the next few weeks as they hit the road which is probably a good thing as all they will have to do is concentrate on what they are being paid to do – play hockey and not hawk autos for local dealers. That said they have some real soul searching to do – all of them – they are lacking the necessary winning attitude which is essential to being around come play-off time. What is sad they demonstrate they have the potential on occasion but obviously not often enough. What makes for a great team was the attitude they all had year one when they had something to prove – they were cast offs and probably not real happy about what happened to them so “we will show them” and show them they did. At this point they are a long way from earning what they are being paid. If they worked for a company they would probably be out on the street looking for a job.

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