Monday, March 5, 2012

Bruins Sign Veteran Goaltender Marty Turco as Tuukka Rask is out 4-6 Weeks; Turco subsequently spelled name Tuurcco

What a whirlwind of a day for the Bruins! Fans waiting for several hours after they were promised a statement on the extent of Tuukka Rask's injury sustained against the Islanders on Saturday. Seemingly moments later, the Bruins announced the signing of former Dallas Star and Chicago Blackhawk and current wanderer Marty Turco. Chiarelli seemingly wasted no time in searching for a new back-up for Tim Thomas, a difficult situation to resolve when the trade deadline is long gone and the team's minor league goaltenders are not quite ready for or trusted with the responsibility of giving the team a chance to win while still allowing Tim Thomas to stop and catch his breath after expanses of 5 games in 7 days or something equally ridiculous that the Bruins currently face on the schedule (because the NHL schedule-makers are the most incompetent entity in the league - including referees.)

Only a few hours after the Bruins released this statement regarding Tuukka Rask's injury, Peter Chiarelli then announced the signing of veteran goaltender Marty Turco, to a one year contract. The contract has a few significant stipulations due to the nature of the situation: (1) Because Turco is a UFA returning to the NHL after playing in another pro league during the season, he must clear waivers first after the contract is signed (think of Nabokov last year when he tried to sign with Detroit and got snapped up by the Islanders); and (2) Because Turco was signed after the trade deadline, he may not participate in the playoffs this season should he clear waivers. Although an annoying policy, it is certainly justifiable to keep teams honest and, as I will explain below, this particular circumstance may be perfect for strictly regular season play from Turco.

Tuukka is said to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks, at which point the Bruins will be in the final games of the regular season, or already in the first or second round of the playoffs. Turco's ineligability to play in the postseason is irrelevant because Tuukka should be back by then. In the next month or so before we get there, however, the Bruins definitely needed more reinforcements in net. AHL goaltenders Khudobin (injured) and Hutchinson (sucks or something) were not adequate enough to provide any relief to Tim Thomas over the course of the final stretch leading into April where the Bruins have several back-to-back games, a West Coast road trip, and a span of no more than one day off between games for a few weeks. 

While Thomas is clearly the Bruins starting goaltender by now, he cannot be expected to play in every single game for the rest of the season. This poses two significant risks: (1) over exhaustion from playing that many games in such a short span of time will make him vulnerable to injury, and (2) will certainly drain some very important long-term rest to prepare for the brutality of the playoffs (especially if he is going to perform the way he did last year).

Turco is considered one of the best puck-handlers
among goaltenders as well as responsible for the
widely-used strategy in playing the puck today.
Turco as a back-up in place of Tuukka for the rest of the regular season is a great move by Chiarelli, in my opinion. Despite recent struggles that left  him homeless in the NHL, Turco is a veteran of the NHL with 10 years of experience under his belt and many notable achievements. Interestingly, he and Thomas have a few similarities in areas such as age (Turco is 36), playing professional hockey in Europe in lieu of finding a job in North America (Turco most recently in Austria, and Thomas famously for several years in Finland), as well as roots in Michigan and in College Hockey. Both Turco and Thomas have roots in Michigan. Turco was born in Ontario but played four full spectacular seasons with the University of Michigan. Thomas also had a successful college hockey career. The dynamic between the two as starter and back-up but similar in experience, age, and obstacles faced should be interesting and may serve as a very helpful way to Turco to find his A-game.

How did a "good" goalie end up jobless in the NHL after 10 years? Many factors contributed.  Turco, born on August 13, 1975, is from Ste. Marie, ON, drafted 124th overall in the 6th round by the Dallas Stars in 1994. Although very successful for the most part in regular season games, he was not a playoff goaltender. When his contract was up and he became a UFA in the summer before the 2010-11 season, the Stars made it clear they would not make an offer to re-sign him.
The divisive goaltender spent years trying to answer questions about early exits from the playoffs, even while setting franchise records in the process. He finally answered his playoff critics, shutting the Canucks out three times in the first round in 2007, then brilliantly backstopping them to Game 6 of the 2008 WCF against Detroit, only to lose defensive veterans Zubov, Norstrum and Boucher the following season. Those losses, coupled with a new crop of young defensemen greatly changed Turco's circumstances, inducing a two year slide that led to the Kari Lethonen trade, and Marty's official exit today.
If playoff performance is the problem, and regular season success is more likely attainable, then this is the perfect anecdote for the Bruins.

After Dallas passed on Turco, he found a starting goaltender job in Chicago, who signed him to a one year contract for the 2010-11 season. Corey Crawford ended up taking control of the starting position, and Turco clearly was not going to be re-signed by Chicago in the off-season after they made trades for back-up goalies to Crawford.

Unable to find a team to sign with and unwilling to give up on his career just yet, he signed with a team in an Austrian league mid-season in December, binding him to a contract that kept him out of the NHL through the trade deadline.

The Bruins signing Turco as a UFA who is returning to the league after leaving for another professional league, and signing after the trade deadline, the aforementioned obstructions in legislature of NHL policy come into play. For the Bruins it seems the biggest concern is for him to first clear waivers, and then, when he is eligible to join the Bruins on Wednesday, become an effective back-up who can provide Thomas and the team with the necessary support to rest Thomas and win games. The risk is worth taking, and it's why I think Chiarelli did something potentially genius here.

Turco's career stats are actually quite impressive and demonstrated below:





Blank GP Record Save % GAA Shutouts
NHL Career, Regular Season 583 273-165-43 .910 2.35 41
NHL Career, Playoffs 47 21-26 .914 2.17 7
2010-11 w/Blackhawks 25 11-11-3 .897 3.02 N/A
Regular season w/Salzburg 4 - .933 2.64 N/A
Playoffs w/Salzburg 6 - .911 3.16 N/A


In the book "Hockey Goaltending: Proven techniques for dominating the net", released in 2008, author Brian Daccord says of Turco:
Having a goalie who can handle the puck is a huge benefit for teams. Finding the combination of having the strength and skill to handle the puck as well as the goalie sens sense to make the right decisions is a slam dunk. Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars is one of those goalies who have the ability to fire a puck up the ice and understand how important it is that their team retain possession of the puck after they play it. Turco was one of the first NHL goalies to turn his glove over to clear and pass the puck, and this technique has become very popular.
Marty Turco has been a star at every level of hockey he has played. In college he was the CCHA rookie of the year in 1995 and was named to the NCAA all-star tournament team in 1996 and 1998 when Michigan captures the national championship. In the NHL he apprenticed under Eddie Belfour before taking over the starting duties for the Stars in the 2002-2003 season. Tuco played in the NHL All-Star Game in 2003 and 2004 and tied te NHL record for most shutouts in one playoff series with 3 versus Vancouver in 2007. (p 223).

Much of the Bruins ability to succeed in the near future is up in the air because of all the injuries at every position, and the same applies to seeing how Turco will perform. Many are already laughing at the signing because he is supposedly so awful. But, players can bounce back, especially when motivated - like in this case, where this is clearly Turco's last shot at keeping his NHL career alive just he so desperately wanted all season. This is the same comparison I made earlier in defense of Brian Rolston and I believe it can be a very significant determinant of performance, but only time will tell. In the meanwhile, let's get to know Turco via youtube clips.

Mic'd up



Immediately earning my approval by showing his dislike of Pierre.



I don't like seeing something like that...it's just...terrible.
It's not like the awesome way Thomas just plows people to the ice.
We'll keep this in mind.

This, too, is a little underhanded, but not quite as distasteful as above.
Actually, this is hilarious. I expect shenanigans from him on the bench,
where he will spend most of his time anyway I'm sure.



This clip illustrates how good Turco is, or was, in the regular season.
And how far he fell.

Alright, there is an overwhelming majority of anti-Turco clips on youtube.
Much more than highlights. But here are some highlights.





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