Wolves have big shoes to fill without Jake Allen
BY BRIAN SANDALOW For Sun-Times Media May 20, 2014 12:00AM
One season after being named to the NHL’s all-rookie team, goalie Jake Allen made the most of his time in Chicago.
Blocked in St. Louis, he won the AHL’s goalie triple crown by leading the league in wins (33), save percentage (.928) and goals-against average (2.03) while leading the Wolves to the Midwest Division title and the second spot in the Western Conference.
“I just wanted to come back to the American league and play as much as I could. I think I did that,” Allen said. “I played over 60 games this year, which is huge for my development. Just come back and improve as much as I can and be ready come September for the NHL camp again.”
But after that camp, Allen won’t be returning to the Wolves.
Last month, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Allen would have a job in the NHL and a legitimate chance to start for the Blues. That became even clearer Monday, when the Blues signed Brian Elliott to a three-year deal while saying goodbye to Ryan Miller, opening a competition for the main spot in the crease.
While that clears up the Blues’ goaltending situation, it leaves a big hole for the Wolves, who had perhaps the best season for a goalie in franchise history. That could mean backup Matt Climie gets a chance to start after playing 23 games, or perhaps 20-year-old prospect Jordan Binnington will get more opportunities after spending most of the season in the ECHL.
Regardless, Allen will be tough to replace.
“Let’s talk about realism here. No matter who we bring in, those are big shoes to fill,” Wolves coach John Anderson said. “Can we replace him? Probably not, but we can fix things in certain other areas that won’t make it as crucial as it was for this year.”
Allen was a big part of the Wolves’ resurgence, one that saw them win 25 of their last 38 games to pass the Grand Rapids Griffins on the last night of the season to win the division title. They carried that momentum into the playoffs, where they survived the Rochester Americans to win their first-round series in five games before getting swept by the Toronto Marlies.
They’ll try to better that next season without Allen.
“We re-established ourselves as an elite team in the league after not making the playoffs the year before,” Anderson said. “In that sense, I believe we made a stride forward.”