Ever since Cam Ward became the incumbent starter for the Hurricanes, the team has had a lot of trouble finding a reliable back-up for him. For the most part, they have been using guys called up from the AHL (see Leighton, Michael; Peters, Justin) or career journeymen like Manny Legace and John Grahame to spell Cam Ward and none of them have been that good in a back-up role. Because of this, Ward has started at least 80% of the Hurricanes games when healthy and it has definitely led to him being fatigued as the season goes on.
There were a lot of people who thought that Ward would get a few extra nights off this season because the team signed veteran Brian Boucher to back him up. In fact, this signing was praised by quite a few people including Jonathan Willis of Hockey Prospectus who had this to say about it.
In 2010-11, the Hruricanes used Justin Peters in the [back-up] role and he was a train wreck, costin gthe Hurricanes 11 more goals than a league-average goalie would have. This contrasts with his replacement, Brian Boucher, who stopped five more goals than an average goaltender would have for the Flyers in 2010-11. While Boucher's ability to have a positive impact will be limited because a) he will play in fewer games this season and b) his career track record suggests that he is a pretty average goalie, he should be able to stem the bleeding that happened every time Peters skated off the bench. If the former Flyers backup netminder can provide an average or even just below-average performance for the Hurricanes, they'll make up all the ground that they'll lose if Ward's save percentage dips next season. The addition of Boucher alone means tht things are much better than they were one year ago.
At the time this piece was written (summer of 2011), it seemed like a fair assessment but things didn't turn out the way most predicted at all. Brian Boucher was injured for most of the season and played in only 10 games. However, when he was healthy, he performed at below replacement level and Ward was ridden like a pack-mule for most of the season. If that wasn't enough, the goalie who Boucher was supposed to replace, Justin Peters, played six games with the Hurricanes and was terrific in all of them, stopping .945 of the even strength shots he faced so the Boucher signing might look like a bust to some.
One thing that a lot of people fail to realize is that goaltender performance is hard to predict and Carolina has struggled with this since the lockout. What we saw from Boucher and Peters in a combined 17 games probably isn't anywhere near their true talent level. Thus, it is unfair to judge the Boucher signing now and it also too early to say that Peters should be the back-up next season. After the jump, we will take a look at how Ward's back-ups have performed over the years and how Boucher might perform next season.