Is Chet Pickard spiraling out of control?

As a 1st-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators in 2008 (18th overall, 11 picks after Colin Wilson), hopes for goaltending prospect Chet Pickard have been justifiably high. Pickard was dominant throughout his junior career, and started strongly with the Milwaukee Admirals. Expectations were such that he entered Predators training camp in September with an outside chance at backing up Pekka Rinne to begin the season. 

Sometime last season, though, something began to go wrong. As of this writing, Chet Pickard's last victory was on February 5, 2010, when he allowed 3 goals on 21 shots. He has started 16 times since then, without a single victory. On October 26th, he was demoted to the Cincinnati Cyclones, Nashville's ECHL affiliate. Last season, Mark Dekanich went through a slump with the Admirals, and while it wasn't as protracted or extreme as Pickard's, a quick demotion to Cincy cured everything. He dominated at the ECHL level and returned to the AHL after three games, a new man. 

In this case, however, the move may have backfired. Pickard is now 0-3 with the Cyclones, and lasted only 8 minutes last night against Trenton, giving up 3 goals before being pulled from the game.

Follow after the jump for some startling statistics, and thoughts from On the Forecheck contributors Seth Lake and Ryan Miller...

First, the stats, and as you can see, things are pretty ugly, and getting progressively worse:

Chet Pickard GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO

2009-10  AHL

2010-11  AHL

2010-11 ECHL

36

4

4

2024

407

186

14

0

0

16

4

3

96

12

14

2.85

3.47

4.51

887

104

84

791

92

70

.892

.885

.833

0

1

0

Next, these words from Seth, our resident hockey coach:

From what I've read and seen in clips, it's his five hole that's a major weakness, but then he overreacts to correct that and gets beat elsewhere. 

From what I saw in highlights from Chicago (his last game in Milwaukee - they're on YouTube), it looked like all the goals were low, including in the shootout. 

Chet has been working on footwork since he was drafted and right now seems to have zero confidence with it. 

Personally, I thought he wasn't the greatest at rookie camp this summer, but couldn't put my finger on it. In training camp he clearly wasn't ready for the NHL and at times was barely beating out Smith as the worst goalie in camp. 

I just don't get it. It's almost a mental issue at this point. Here is a guy that was at the top of his game in juniors, was told he needed to improve his footwork as a pro, struggled in his rookie year, but continued to work on his footwork, and is now still not getting results. 

I think there's frustration on everyone's part, but I might consider shutting him down and bringing him to work with Korn daily in Nashville for a couple weeks if this doesn't improve quickly. 

It's a textbook slippery slope. Nothing seems to be going right and it appears that he needs some type of radical change soon to turn things around.

Our man in Milwaukee, Ryan Miller, had this to offer:

To put it bluntly:  We're worried that Chet is the new Brian Finley. 

In most of the games I've seen him play, he has looked like a decent goalie for most of each game.  But here's the thing -- the goals he does let in are mostly softies.  Nobody remembers deflections and the great moves that lead to goals. against...but everyone remembers shots from the top of the circle that somehow beat goalies five-hole. 

Friday was the nine month anniversary of his last win.  16 straight decisions not in the win column.  He needs to get his head cleared, he needs to get back to basics, and he needs to get in touch with Mitch Korn.  Can he recover from this?  Gosh, I hope so... But some prospects never meet their potential.  As much as I'd like to see Chet get this worked out, I'm not so optimistic that he's going to be the caliber goalie that the Predators drafted him to be.     

While its not yet the end of the world, and Nashville is blessed with one of the best goaltending coaches in the business in Mitch Korn, Chet Pickard is playing with fire. This isn't one or two bad performances and then things get better. For an allegedly elite goalie prospect to lose 16 straight starts and have a save percentage well under .900 and plummeting, there's clearly a serious problem. 

All this underscores the risk a team takes on when drafting a goaltender in the 1st round. The development of goaltenders can be so long, and so uncertain relative to skaters, that it's usually more of a sure bet to use those high picks on forwards and defensemen.

Hopefully, it'll just take Pickard a little longer than three games to get things turned around. If there's no improvement, though, he could find himself behind not only Dekanich on the depth chart, but Jeremy Smith and Atte Engren, too, and an exit from the organization would likely be next. That fate is wished upon no one, least of all a player who was once felt to be the future of the Nashville Predators in goal.

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