Monday, August 16, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Pasi Nurminen

The thing with goalies in the late-90s and early-00s is that some of them are becoming more and more absurd by being one-hit-wonders or retiring early due to injury. The latter is the subject of this week's AGM. He was a promising goalie coming up through the ranks in Finland, then bursting onto the scene in the AHL, but due to a clog in the system and then a severe injury playing overseas during the lockout; his playing days are now a memory. This week I'll take a look at Pasi Nurminen.

Nurminen started his career out in his native Finland with his hometown organization in Lahti, bouncing between the junior ranks and the Tier II league in Finland for the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons. It wasn't until the 1995-96 season where Nurminen got plenty of playing time with Kettera Imatra of the Tier II Division in Finland, playing 36 games, only going 8-21-8 with a 3.97 GAA for the year. Nurminen went back to the Lahti Pelicans for the 1996-97 season, playing 30 games that year with a 2.40 GAA. Nurminen had a breakout season in the 1997-98 campaign with the Pelicans going 16-7-4 with a 1.65 GAA and seven shutouts.

Nurminen was able to get a good look in the Finnish Elite League with HPK Hameenlinna in the 1998-99 season, where he would play 48 games and compile a 24-17-6 record with a 2.71 GAA. With the constant movement in Finland, Nurminen went to Jokerit Helsinki in the 1999-2000; again playing 48 games with a 24-14-9 record, a 2.25 GAA, and six shutouts and got him the Urpo Ylönen Trophy as top goaltender award for the year. Nurminen returned to Jokerit for the 2000-01 season and did even better, going 30-11-6 in 52 games with five shutouts and a 2.16 GAA. Nurminen went on to play for Finland in the World Championships, helping Sumoi get a silver medal. That season was enough for Nurminen to get noticed by NHL teams, which got him drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in the sixth round in the 2001 Draft.

After getting drafted, Nurminen went over to North America immediately for the 2001-02 season, playing with the Thrashers AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. He had to fight for time, only playing 20 games in the regular season, going 9-9-1 behind Norm Maracle. Nurminen got a call-up for nine games, going 2-5-0 with the Thrashers. Also, Nurminen got a call to the Olympics, playing one game and winning it, as the Finns finished 6th. The AHL playoffs, however, were a different story, as Nurminen had the hot hand. He would play in 21 games for the Wolves in the playoffs, going 15-5 and helping the Wolves to the Calder Cup championship. He was awarded the Jack Butterfield Trophy for playoff MVP.

After that display, Nurminen got the call in the 2002-03 season for the lowly Thrashers and did well for his first starting tenure in the NHL, after former AGM Byron Dafoe faltered for the Thrashers. In his first year, Nurminen played in 52 games going 21-19-5 as the starter and looked to build off that for the 2003-04 season. That season saw Nurminen getting more time in, playing 64 games and went 25-30-7, but with a 2.78 GAA to show. One moment in the season was during a February 2004 game where he and Ty Conklin got into a fight at center ice during a line-brawl. While it was fun for him, he filled in for Dafoe after Dafoe pulled his groin and left the game; thus the Thrashers had to play the last 1:49 without a goalie.

During the lockout of 2004-05, Nurminen went back to Finland to play for the Lahti Pelicans, playing 16 games and going 2-7-6. Nurminen got a better chance to go to Sweden to play with the IF Malmo Redhawks, playing 30 games there with a 2.94 GAA and three shutouts. However, during that season-- Nurminen suffered a serious knee injury, serious enough for him to retire from pro hockey after that season, especially considering that fellow countryman Kari Lehtonen was the next big thing for the Thrashers.

Currently, Nurminen is a partial owner of the Lahti Pelicans in order to stay close to home and is the goaltending consultant for the team.

For many who called him "Nothing Saw" Pasi Nurminen, he did have a nice resume before getting to the NHL and because of someone younger and better coming up through the ranks, coupled with a serious injury for a goalie, made him fall by the wayside before anyone could see his full potential in his play. Even so, you could say he was one of the first to start the movement of solid Finnish goaltenders, even though he was only in the NHL for two seasons. Even so, he's now forever enshrined as part of the AGM family.

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