Sorting out the Panthers' Goaltending: Scott Clemmensen

Still under contract for one more year, long time back-up Scott Clemmensen looks to become the Florida Panthers starting goaltender unless starter Tomas Vokoun or another proven starter signs with the Panthers this summer. A Panther for two years, Clemmensen has been a dependable back-up when a game gets out of control and has carried the team for short stretches when Vokoun has been unable to start. In the event that general manager Dale Tallon does not sign any other goaltenders this off-season, Clemmensen will undoubtedly be under the scrutiny of Panthers fans and coaches as he tries to transition to the workload of an often called upon Florida Panthers starting goalie. Much more after the jump.

2010 - Scott Clemmensen 31 1696 8 11 74 2.62 833 759 .911 1

Scott Clemmensen- Under contract until 2012-13, 1.2 million cap hit, 33 years old, 2 seasons with the Panthers

Clemmensen has seen action in 8 NHL seasons, 5 of which were with the New Jersey Devils where he saw limited action as the back-up to one of the league's best goalies Martin Brodeur. Though he has only played with the Panthers for 2 years, nearly half of his games played have come in a Panthers uniform (54 of 122) and has averaged a save percentage of .911 and a goals-against average of 2.77, numbers that are pretty usual for a back-up. Clemmensen has strung together starting quality stretches over his two years and has shown that he can carry the team during difficult stretches. Overall, Clemmensen's career seems to be on the upswing as he has gotten older and has been given a larger role in his team.

Why Clemmensen should be a starter:

Without anything more substantial than rumors from the Vokoun-Tallon negotiations, as it stands Clemmensen is the Panthers starting goaltender for next season. Fans must not assume that Vokoun will resign, Tallon will pursue a proven starter or that Markstrom will be promoted to the team. The only thing that is certain is that Clemmensen could find himself a starter come next season. All else is speculation.

Now whether Clemmensen should be a starting goalie is the question. Clemmensen has never played a full season, his closest being the 2008-09 season when he played 40 games filling in for an injured Marty Brodeur. In this role, Clemmensen put up the best numbers of his career; an encouraging sign that Clemmensen can be a successful starter. Now, to be fair, the 08-09 Devils and the 10-11 Panthers were different teams with different attributes, but defensively they had some similarities. The Devils allowed 2.52 goals per game and 29.5 shots against per game, while the Panthers allowed 2.71 GA/G and 31.8 SA/G. However, the Panthers had a better penalty killing unit (84.6) than New Jersey (79.9).

The defensive conditions in New Jersey where Clemmensen thrived may be a little different than those simulated for the Panthers next season, but good starting goalies adapt to their teams play. Clemmensen was able to adapt to his role in New Jersey, and in already having a much more substantial role in Florida it's quite possible he can make the transition to starter even smoother with the Panthers. Overall, Clemmensen still has a winning record of 50-39-14 despite two years with an unspectacular Florida club.

Why Clemmensen should not be a starter:

If Dale Tallon elects to move a number of the organizations promising prospects and AHL players on to the roster after training camp, it is crucial to their development to instill confidence into their play. If Scott Clemmensen was not a successful starting goaltender, a rookie forward might not play up to their offensive potential and a rookie defenseman might not join rushes if there is a shaky goalie in net. Not saying Clemmensen would be shaky, but it is a risky move on a team that already has offensive issues.

Although he did have a remarkable year in New Jersey, Clemmensen has never been able to replicate his success in Florida. With the Panthers, Clemmensen has a record of 17-19-9, not exactly a record spectacular enough that no one would think twice about promoting him to a starter. The possibility of Clemmensen facing the 1800 shots Vokoun saw last season is not exactly the way to ease into a starting role either. Panthers goalies are called upon early and often every game, Clemmensen may not be conditioned enough in his two years as the Panthers back-up to handle the workload ahead of him.

If it was not completely obvious before, allow me to remind everyone that the Panthers are a rebuilding organization. We as fans should not get caught up in the expectations of our team and the individual players that comprise it. As Tallon did last year, players who were never given the chance they deserved under previous general managers and coaches should be given the opportunity to show their worth. Look no further than Mike Santorelli and Evgeni Dadonov. The same is true for back-up goaltenders who played behind solid starters, its not that they couldn't thrive as a starter, they just never got the chance (see former Panther Craig Anderson who was a marvelous back-up to Vokoun). At this point in the rebuild, there isn't much to miss out on by having Clemmensen start the season if the opportunity opens for him.

Up next: Jacob Markstrom