By Rob Ficiur
On Friday the 13th, I had a flat tire. While this is annoying, it was not a major issue. When I got into the back of my truck my situation got more complicated. My spare tire was flat. Now what?
In professional team sports everyone claims that they win as a team or lose as a team. In reality there are key positions that are relied on in every sport. On paper every team has its roster filled out with every position covered. However, my spare tire looked just fine from the outside, until I found out that it did not have what it takes (air) on the inside to do the job.
If your number one player in that position goes out, teams hope that their spare (or backup) has what it takes to lead the team.
Hockey teams win and lose with their goalies.
In the first round of the 2006 NHL playoffs the Carolina Hurricanes lost Game #1 to the Montreal Canadiens at home. When Carolina fell behind 3-0 at home in Game #2, coach Peter Laviolette replaced starting goalie Martin Gerber with rookie Cam Ward. Gerber had won 38 games that year for Carolina. Cam Ward, a highly touted rookie, had only played 28 games all year. The Hurricanes stuck with their backup goalie throughout the rest of the playoffs. Two months later Cam Ward, the backup goalie won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP – and his Hurricanes won their only Stanley Cup.
That same year the Edmonton Oilers made it to the Stanley Cup finals on the MVP-like play of 36 year old Dwayne Roloson. Late in the first period of Game #1 Roloson suffered a season ending knee injury. That playoff run was the highlight of Roloson’s career. Unfortunately for Oilers’ fans the back up goalie, Jussi Markanen was not Roloson-like. The Hurricanes back up beat the Oilers back up in that final.
Quarterbacks are even more essential in football. This year only the Hamilton Tiger Cats Henri Burris started all 18 games for his team. Which teams had the best back ups? A look at the final team standings will tell you which teams had back up quarterbacks with “air in their tires.”
The Calgary Stampeders finished six points (27%) ahead of the next best team. Calgary’s three rank rather low in their individual passing stats: Kevin Glen was sixth in the eight-team league; Bo Levi Mitchell (a third string QB) was 13th and opening day starter Drew Tate ranked 17th in passing yards. The Stampeders won because all three QBs showed they could play.
Toronto and Montreal lost their Hall of Fame Quarterbacks to injuries for large parts of the season. Backups Zach Collaros (seventh in passing) and Josh Neiswander (11th in league passing) helped their respective teams make the playoffs. Toronto’s back-up quarterback played better than Montreal’s two back up quarterbacks which is why Toronto finished first and Montreal third.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers finished last in the league in part because they struggled all year to find a back up quarterback to establish momentum.
In 2012, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Sergio Santos to be their closer. Good move, Santos saved 30 games for the White Sox in 2011. However, six games into the 2012 season, Santos went on the long term injury list. Eventually Casey Jansen took over as the closure. Though Jansen had never been a closer, he saved 22 of 25 games in 2012. Jansen claimed the closer role as his own in 2013, saving 34 games in 36 save opportunities. The spare worked better than anyone could have imagined.
Friday the 13th there was no air in my spare tire. No big deal. Being lazy like I am, I had left my snow tires in the truck. Since I had quality spare tires I was soon back on the road.