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Ty Curtis Conklin (born March 30, 1976) is an Americanmarker professional ice hockey goaltender with the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League.

Raised – although not born – in Anchoragemarker, Alaskamarker and an early recruit and graduate of the now-famed Minnesotamarker hockey prep school Shattuck-St. Mary'smarker, he later played in the United States Hockey League (USHL) for the Green Bay Gamblers, under Don Granato, and then in the NCAA for long-tenured coach Dick Umile as a member of the University of New Hampshire – or UNH – Wildcats.

A self-described "late-bloomer", and "shorter kid" at age 18, while spending his draft-eligible years (to age 20) remaining off the radar of professional scouts – first as a post-graduate at Shattuck, and then in his first year in Green Bay – Conklin went unclaimed by any team in the NHL's Entry Draft.

Subsequently, he went on to earn numerous goaltending awards and accolades in both the USHL and NCAA, however, Conklin claims he never thought of becoming a professional until his junior year (his second playing) at UNHmarker.

Professional career

Edmonton Oilers (2001–2006)

With the completion of his career at the University of New Hampshire in the spring of 2001, Conklin signed a professional contract as an undrafted free agent with the Edmonton Oilers. He spent the bulk of his first two seasons with the Hamilton Bulldogs, the then-shared American Hockey League affiliate for the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens, and led the Bulldogs to within one win of a Calder Cup championship in 2003. He set an AHL record for most saves in a game with 83 (in a quadruple overtime, 134:56 minute 2–1 win over the Houston Aeros in Game 2 of the 2003 Calder Cup Final) in what was then the longest game in AHL history. In the 2003–04 season, he played as back-up to Tommy Salo, effectively becoming the starter when Salo was lost to injury, and then as the joint starter with Jussi Markkanen following Salo's trade to the Colorado Avalanche. During the NHL lockout he played for Wolfsburg in the DEL, the Germanmarker elite league.

He also played for the United States national team at the IIHF World Championships in the spring of 2004 and 2005. In the 2004 Championships, the US won a surprising bronze medal. Following an upset of the host Czechs and a shutout, 1–0 shootout victory over Slovakia in the bronze-medal game, Conklin was selected as the tournament's best goaltender.

With the conclusion of the lockout, Conklin entered the new season as Edmonton's probable starting goaltender, backed up by Markkanen. Given the prevalent idea that either goaltender could assume the starting job, local media began using the nickname "Conkkanen" to describe Edmonton's starting goaltender. However, during the 2005–06 season, both goaltenders proved to be inconsistent, with Conklin's performance additionally hampered by injury and no longer considered NHL-caliber, prompting the Oilers to waive Conklin in early February and general manager Kevin Lowe to acquire a new starter, Dwayne Roloson, from the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline.

2006 Stanley Cup Final

Despite having played one game for the Oilers between March and June, Conklin was on the bench in Game 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final in Raleighmarker, against the Carolina Hurricanes. Roloson then suffered what would prove to be a series-ending knee injury late in the third period with the game tied 4–4, and Conklin was suddenly called into play. Edmonton had led by three goals at one point before allowing Carolina to then score four unanswered and take the lead before the Oilers managed to tie the game. With just over 30 seconds of time remaining in regulation, he and teammate Jason Smith committed a blunder that allowed Hurricanes forward Rod Brind'Amour to score the winning goal unopposed, into an empty net.

It also served as his first and at the time, only, experience in the NHL post-season; Jussi Markkanen played all subsequent six games of the series at head coach Craig MacTavish's discretion; not meant as a punishment or a reflection of Conklin's play, MacTavish explained, but, "...I can't be in a situation that I was in during the course of the year where you are going back between 1 and 1-A, and never give them the opportunity to get confident in the net. If he struggles, he will continue to play. If he plays well, he will continue to play." Canadian national television analyst and former NHL goaltender Kelly Hrudey was less diplomatic than MacTavish: "Not even a question – Markkanen. And I gain no satisfaction in saying that."

"Let's not turn that play into some monumental thing," Conklin said at the time. However, the extraordinarily bad timing and subsequent massive public focus on the indelible miscue did nothing to improve his reputation, already severely diminished by a poor regular season.

Conklin did not return to the ice again as an Oiler, as the team option on his contract for the 2006–07 NHL season was subsequently declined. "Obviously I needed a change of scenery," he said. "I kicked myself a lot after it happened, but you can't change things, so you just have to deal with it and move on."

Columbus Blue Jackets / Buffalo Sabres (2006–2007)

Following the start of free agency on July 1, Conklin was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Columbus Blue Jackets, on July 6. He was expected to compete for the Blue Jackets' backup goaltending position, however coach Gerard Gallant opted to go with internationally-experienced Fredrik Norrena. Conklin was subsequently waived and sent to the Jackets' AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. An injury to Blue Jackets' starter Pascal Leclaire prompted the team to recall him to the NHL on December 11, 2006.

On February 27, 2007, Conklin was acquired by the Buffalo Sabres in a trade for a 5th round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. In his first start with the Sabres, Conklin made a then-career high 42 saves in a win over the Florida Panthers.

Pittsburgh Penguins (2007–2008)

On July 19, 2007, Conklin was signed as a UFA by the Pittsburgh Penguins to a $500,000, one-year, two-way contract (that would pay him $100,000 in the AHL, exempting him from re-entry waivers). After being assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL on September 22, he was recalled by Pittsburgh on an emergency basis on December 6, when starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a high ankle sprain. His first appearance on December 11 in Philadelphiamarker was noted and extremely unprepossessing, as he relieved Dany Sabourin in the third period of an ugly game with the division rival Flyers and promptly earned a 9.00 GAA by allowing the final three goals in an 8–2 blowout loss.

(from ESPN.com Weekly NHL Power Rankings)

Although initially expected to remain Sabourin's backup, Conklin instead became a sensation as Pittsburgh's de facto starting goaltender, winning his first nine starts from December 20, playing all but one game in the month of January. (Coincidentally, he was the first person to wear #35 for the Penguins since franchise goaltender Tom Barrasso, whose twelve-year tenure with the team ended in 2000.)

Before Fleury's return as a starter on March 2, 2008, Conklin compiled a record of 17–6–5, earning the nickname "Conkblock" (derived by keeping a person away from a goal, or preventing someone from scoring) by posting career numbers (such as a 50-save win over the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseummarker on February 26, despite being outshot 52-21) and leading the NHL in save percentage.

Despite Conklin's later protests that "[t]he kid has way too much talent, athleticism, and ability to not be a great goalie," and "I had nothing to do with it," Fleury's noticeably improved play upon return was also partially attributed to the competition and mentoring his presence provided, as Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche attested in May, Conklin helped the team to not only sustain, but advance their position in the standings during Fleury's extended injury. He was considered by his teammates to have played a role equal to that of Hart Trophy nominee Evgeni Malkin in the success of the 2007-08 Pittsburgh Penguins season, and was the team's candidate for the Masterton Trophy, "given annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey."

He played in 33 games for the Penguins, finishing with a personal record of 18–8–5 and a save percentage of .923, 2nd overall in the NHL, and a single-season franchise record. Though he did not play, he served as Fleury's backup in all twenty of the team's post-season games, as Pittsburgh reached the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Detroit Red Wings four games to two.

Due to the existence of the salary cap, the fact that Pittsburgh had both Fleury and Sabourin under one-way contracts for 2008–09, and the likelihood of his ability to earn a major increase in both playing time and salary (the 150% raise that eventually came from the Red Wings, who guaranteed him 30 games, was seen as a bargain) with his 2007–08 performance, despite Conklin's significant and memorable contribution to the team, the Penguins did not renew his contract, and decided to allow him to reach unrestricted free agency once more on July 1.

Detroit Red Wings (2008–2009)

On July 1, 2008, Conklin signed a one-year, one-way deal as a UFA with the Detroit Red Wings, worth $750,000. In order to meet his new teammates and familiarize himself, he was one of only six Red Wings to participate in the first optional skate before training camp.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock expressed a desire to play Conklin in every third game in order to relieve starter Chris Osgood. Conklin made his first start with Detroit on the road, against the Carolina Hurricanes on October 13, where he made 27 saves in a 3–1 Red Wings victory and was named the first star of the game. On November 17, 2008, Conklin made his debut at Detroit's Joe Louis Arenamarker against Edmonton, posting his fifth career shutout as the Red Wings defeated the Oilers, 4-0.

Due to a remarkably poor regular-season performance from Osgood, Conklin essentially served in an equal-time platoon situation, playing in 40 games and winning 25 to Osgood's 26, his best NHL season, in that regard, to date. Despite significantly outplaying Osgood for the vast majority of the regular season, being credited by his fellow netminder and others for stabilizing the team's goaltending situation, allowing Detroit to capture another Central Division title and the 2nd playoff seed in the Western Conference, Osgood played all but 20 minutes in the post-season, on the strength of his playoff resumé.

Conklin received his second taste of NHL playoff experience in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, where he substituted for a dehydrated Osgood in the third period and played 20 scoreless minutes. The Red Wings reached the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, losing a rematch to Conklin's former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in seven games.

It was announced in the 2009 offseason that Conklin would not be offered a new contract for the 2009–10 season due to salary cap constraints, with the Wings instead opting to promote longtime prospect Jimmy Howard from the AHL.

St. Louis Blues (2009– )

On July 1, 2009, Conklin signed a two-year deal worth an average of US$1.3 million per year with the St. Louis Blues, who made him an immediate offer following the start of free agency at noon.

"It's a young team, a pretty exciting team, an up-and-coming team, and one that played as well as anyone in the second half of the [2008–09] season," Conklin said. "Obviously, financially it's a lot better, a step up from what I've made the last couple years...I know the great season [Blues goaltender Chris] Mason had last year. I don't think they're signing me to play 10 games. Hopefully, I'll challenge for some ice time."

Conklin made his debut with the Blues overseas, on October 3, facing his former team, the Red Wings, at Sweden's Globe Arenamarker, in the second game of the doubleheader of NHL Premiere 2009 Stockholmmarker; after letting in 2 goals in the first 2:08, he ended with 30 saves on 33 shots as the Blues won 5–3, with his performance publicly contrasted to the widely criticized one of Jimmy Howard, his replacement on Detroit's roster, at the other end.

His first North American game with the Blues, also his first win, and first shutout, came on the road October 17 against Anaheimmarker, a 5–0 blanking of the Ducks. Conklin made 26 saves to earn St. Louis's first win since returning from Sweden, the second star of the game, and his 11th career shutout.

Achievements

NHL outdoor games

Conklin is the only NHL player to have participated in all three of the NHL's regular-season outdoor games—even though on each occasion he was not his team's starting goaltender even a month prior to the game. “I count myself very lucky," he said of the opportunity. "There’s not a guy in this league who wouldn’t like to play in these games.”



Records

  • Left the University of New Hampshire holding eight goaltending records
  • Held the AHL record for most saves in a game with 83 on May 30–31, 2003 (broken by Michael Leighton, 98 saves, April 24–25, 2008)
  • Played and won the longest game in AHL history, May 30–31, 2003 (surpassed by Game 5, East Division Semifinals, Albany vs. Philadelphia, 5OT, April 24–25, 2008)
  • Holds the Penguins record for single season save percentage, .923 (2007-08) (surpassed Tom Barrasso, .922 (1997–98))


Awards

  • Nominee for the Masterton Trophy, Pittsburgh Penguins, 2008
  • Top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award (best male ice hockey player, U.S. college hockey) 2000, 2001
  • Co-winner of the Walter Brown Award (with Brian Gionta) (New England's outstanding American-born college player), 2001
  • Hockey East Goaltending Leader Award (lowest goals against average), 2001
  • Co-winner, Hockey East Player of the Year (with Mike Mottau), 2000


Honors

  • Best goaltender, 2004 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships (Directorate Award)
  • Named captain of the UNH Wildcats, October 5, 2000
  • Elected by his teammates, he was the first goaltender to captain the Wildcats since 1961
  • Hockey East First All-Star Team, 2000, 2001
  • NCAA East First All-American Team, 2001
  • Hockey East Second All-Star Team, 1999
  • NCAA East Second All-American Team, 2000
  • Hockey East All-Rookie Team, 1999
  • Two-time regular-season champion (Anderson Cup), USHL, 1996, 1997
  • USHL playoff championship (Clark Cup), 1996
  • USHL First All-Star Team, 1996


Personal

Ty is the son of Robert and Beth Conklin. In the view of fellow hockey player Jason Chimera: "I've met two normal goaltenders in all my years in hockey: Ty Conklin and Pascal Leclaire."

Although his Phoenixmarker birth possibly makes him the first Arizona-born ice hockey player to play regularly in the NHL, Conklin spent his entire childhood in Alaska, attending West Anchorage High Schoolmarker until he was recruited by Shattuck-St. Mary's, a boarding school in Faribaultmarker, Minnesotamarker. He is the first, and so far, only, Alaskan goaltender to reach the NHL. His younger brother Brice used him for shooting practice in their basement (a reversal of the usual positions for siblings) and went on to play defense for Shattuck and the Harvard University Crimsonmarker. His brother Sid is also a goaltender, currently at Shattuck.

Conklin and his wife Erika have a young daughter and son, and welcomed their second son, Nash, November 15, 2008. They live in central Mainemarker during the offseason.

Career statistics

Statistics are through the 2008–09 season

Regular season

Season Team League GP W L T OTL MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1995–96 Green Bay Gamblers USHL 30 -- -- -- -- 1727 82 1 2.85 --
1996–97 Green Bay Gamblers USHL 30 19 7 1 -- 1609 86 1 3.21 --
1997–98 Did not play, NCAA regulations -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
1998–99 University of New Hampshire Wildcats H-East 22 18 3 1 -- 1338 41 0 1.84 --
1999–00 University of New Hampshire Wildcats H-East 37 22 8 6 -- 2194 91 2 2.49 --
2000–01 University of New Hampshire Wildcats H-East 34 17 12 5 -- 2048 70 5 2.05 --
2001–02 Edmonton Oilers NHL 4 2 0 0 -- 148 4 0 1.62 .939
2001–02 Hamilton Bulldogs AHL 37 13 12 8 -- 2043 89 1 2.61 .916
2002–03 Hamilton Bulldogs AHL 38 19 13 3 -- 2140 91 4 2.55 .914
2003–04 Edmonton Oilers NHL 38 17 14 4 -- 2086 84 1 2.42 .912
2004–05 EHC Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams DEL 11 -- -- -- -- 623 31 0 2.99 .920
2005–06 Edmonton Oilers NHL 18 8 5 -- 1 922 43 1 2.80 .880
2005–06 Hamilton Bulldogs AHL 3 1 2 -- 0 152 8 0 3.17 .907
2005–06 Hartford Wolf Pack AHL 2 1 0 -- 1 130 5 0 2.31 .932
2006–07 Syracuse Crunch AHL 19 3 12 -- 3 1085 60 0 3.32 .902
2006–07 Columbus Blue Jackets NHL 11 2 3 -- 2 491 27 0 3.30 .871
2006–07 Buffalo Sabres NHL 5 1 2 -- 0 227 13 0 3.44 .892
2007–08 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins AHL 18 11 7 -- 0 1058 39 2 2.21 .919
2007–08 Pittsburgh Penguins NHL 33 18 8 -- 5 1866 78 2 2.51 .923
2008–09 Detroit Red Wings NHL 40 25 11 -- 2 2246 94 6 2.51 .909
NHL totals 149 73 43 4 10 7986 343 10 2.58 .909


Playoffs

Season Team League GP W L MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1996–97 Green Bay Gamblers USHL 17 8 9 980 56 1 3.43 --
2001–02 Hamilton Bulldogs AHL 7 4 2 416 18 0 2.60 .917
2002–03 Hamilton Bulldogs AHL 17 9 6 1024 38 1 2.23 .933
2004–05 EHC Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams DEL 7 -- -- 414 11 2 1.59 --
2005–06 Edmonton Oilers NHL 1 0 1 6 1 0 10.00 .667
2008–09 Detroit Red Wings NHL 1 0 0 20 0 0 0.00 1.000
NHL totals 2 0 1 26 1 0 2.31 .917


International

Year Team Event   GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA
2004 United States WC 5 4 0 1 280 10 1 2.14
2005 United States WC 3 1 0 2 180 6 0 2.00
Int'l Totals 8 5 0 3 460 16 1 2.09


References

  1. Dye, Dave (2009-01-10). "Wings' Conklin knows how to fly". The Detroit News.
  2. AHL Game Report Summary, 5/30/2003
  3. http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/playoffs2006/columns/story?id=2473229
  4. Sabres deal Biron to Flyers, get Conklin
  5. Penguins sign goaltender Ty Conklin
  6. Recap: Pittsburgh @ NY Islanders - 2/26/2008
  7. [1]
  8. Gilles Meloche, 'Live at the Stanley Cup Final from Cobo Hall' , May 23, 2008
  9. "Pittsburgh Penguins backup netminder Ty Conklin helped save season", Canadian Press; May 13, 2008
  10. Signing tracker
  11. http://redwings.nhl.com/
  12. http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081014/SPORTS0103/810140349/1004/SPORTS
  13. [2]
  14. http://www.freep.com/article/20081118/SPORTS05/811180404/?imw=Y
  15. http://www.freep.com/article/20090628/SPORTS05/90628028/1048/sports/Conklin+out++Howard+in+as+Red+Wings+backup+goalie
  16. [3]
  17. [4]
  18. Rick Stano: Red Wings 6, Blackhawks 4
  19. Yahoo! Sports: Conklin lifts Wings to 4–0 win over Blackhawks
  20. [5]
  21. best...of the tournament"
  22. "Leclaire discovers game in Columbus", Aaron Portzline, The Hockey News, March 4, 2008, pg.26
  23. [6]
  24. [7]
  25. [8]
  26. [9]
  27. [10]


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