Is the goalie always greener on the other side?

Updated: July 20, 2006, 4:49 PM ET
By Terry Frei | Special to ESPN.com

This just in: Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood has retired to become special assistant to team owner Mike Ilitch and also run Little Caesars.

All right, this time, we really are kidding.

This was going to be about the NHL's goalie shuffle, even before the most bizarre move unfolded this week. Regardless of whether Garth Snow's style was stand-up or butterfly in the behind-the-scenes process that led to the sudden purging of general manager Neil Smith on Tuesday, there is no disputing that the choice of the veteran journeyman goaltender to succeed Smith was even stranger than the firing itself. Snow had to take off his mask and pads, so to speak, to make his first call.

Roberto Luongo
Jeff Vinnick/Getty ImagesTerry Frei believes the Canucks' acquisition of Roberto Luongo was the biggest upgrade of the offseason.

The next day, the Islanders re-signed Wade Dubielewicz, who has spent most of the past three seasons with their Bridgeport AHL affiliate, to most likely replace Snow as Rick DiPietro's backup.

Elsewhere around the league, the goaltending moves have been numerous and significant, and if you go back to the approach of the trading deadline last season, it's arguable that nearly one-fourth of the No. 1 jobs in the league have since undergone a change because of trades and signings (as opposed to a shuffling in the pecking order, which happened with Ilya Bryzgalov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Anaheim).

That's before the Red Wings, who didn't re-sign Manny Legace, make their expected move to land a veteran, either Evgeni Nabokov or Vesa Toskala, Giguere, David Aebischer or Martin Biron.

If they give up and stick with Osgood and Jimmy Howard heading into the season, the Wings still will be biding their time.

First, the two major moves made at the approach of the trading deadline will have considerable holdover impact this season and remain subject to long-term judgment. Until he suffered the knee injury in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, Dwayne Roloson was far better in the playoffs than he was down the stretch for the Oilers, and his signing of a new three-year deal means he will be sticking around. (Apparently, his wife, Melissa, liked Edmonton.)

Elsewhere in the Northwest Division, there are more questions about the wisdom of the Avalanche's commitment to Jose Theodore than you might hear in 15 minutes if you understood French, plopped down in the middle of the Paris Hilton lobby and listened carefully.

Colorado felt forced to trade Alex Tanguay to Calgary, which has a track record of fleecing the Avalanche, because of his salary demands and the problems they would cause in staying under the cap. It was especially puzzling because of the intradivisional implications. Rob Blake, who didn't like Colorado's offers, but still will count $2.3 million against the cap this season because of a bonus due him, returned to Los Angeles.

Both moves put even more pressure on Theodore to prove that -- with a cap figure of $5.3 million in each of the two seasons, far more than it would have cost Colorado to retain Aebischer -- he won't go down as something resembling a bad reality show actor incapable of regaining his form in goal because of his lack of dedication. (Or perhaps because he never was as good as that Hart Trophy season would lead you to believe.)

With a full offseason of rehabilitation on the heel that was fractured last February, perhaps he can pull it off.

The offseason goaltending moves around the league all seem to make more sense, at least at this point.

I still think much of the Canucks' collapse last season could be attributed to bad karma, a hangover from Todd Bertuzzi's actions and suspension. No, it wasn't some sort of curse, and it had to do more with Bertuzzi's heightened moodiness and the factional nature of the Canucks' dressing room that it all exacerbated. That tied only indirectly to the Steve Moore mess, but it was an issue. And amid that, Alex Auld's goaltending in the wake of Dan Cloutier's early season injury wasn't the major problem. Not even close. Auld was surprisingly competent, in fact.

But part of the housecleaning and the freshening of the Vancouver atmosphere included the deal that sent Bertuzzi and Auld to Florida, in return for Roberto Luongo, and that represents the biggest offseason upgrade in goal in the league. Yes, I've wondered sometimes if we weren't getting a bit carried away with portraying Luongo as some sort of tragic and heroic figure amid the South Florida hockey rubble. But that doesn't change the reality that his acquisition is a huge step forward for a team that, despite the loss of Ed Jovanovski, will be back in the mix at the top of the division this season.

I'm on record that Tampa Bay's trade for and subsequent signing of Marc Denis will work as GM Jay Feaster hopes, representing an upgrade over John Grahame and enabling the Lightning to be significant Stanley Cup threats again. Grahame has moved on to Carolina to serve as Cam Ward's backup, leading us to how that opening was created. This is easy to forget now in the wake of Ward's Conn Smythe performance, but Martin Gerber had a terrific regular season for the Hurricanes and he and Ray Emery give the Senators a solid and, more important, resilient tandem in the net. Despite Zdeno Chara's departure to Boston, the Senators still are good enough to tantalize. And Gerber, the quiet Swiss who signed a three-year deal with the Senators, will be part of that.

The Maple Leafs' acquisition of Andrew Raycroft from Boston also was a shoring-up in the net, again because of a veteran's precarious health. The Leafs simply couldn't count on Ed Belfour, and it was no shock when they didn't pick up his option, setting off his tour to visit teams (e.g., Detroit and Florida) and, more important, their medical staffs. Toronto's three-year, $6 million commitment to Raycroft after the trade represented a bargain in the new cap game.

A lot of this has to do with one of the game's traditions: The other goalie tends to look better to you than your own. Whether he is or not.

Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of "Third Down and a War to Go" and "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming."

Terry Frei

Special to ESPN.com
Terry Frei is a columnist for the Denver Post. He is also the author of "Third Down and a War to Go" and "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming."