August 22, 2013

Doug Soetart

When the New York Rangers used a high draft pick to claim Doug Soetaert, they had hoped he would be their long term solution to their goaltending puzzle. The selected him in the 2nd round of the 1975 entry draft (30th overall), ahead of such distinguished names as Mike O'Connell, Willi Plett, Paul Holmgren and fellow goaltender Don Edwards.

You certainly couldn't blame the Rangers for thinking like that. Soetaert had a brilliant junior career with his hometown Edmonton Oil Kings, and even represented Canada at the World Junior Championships.

However the man they dubbed "Soapy" never got much of a chance to play in New York. He played seasons with the Rangers, only one of which was anything close to a full season, and every one of those seasons he saw time in the minor leagues. His first two years he only played 52 games, some of those weren't even full games as he filled in on relief appearances as he was a backup goalie for the most part. He constantly had to battle the likes of John Davidson, Lindsay Middlebrook, and Wayne Thomas for playing time. None of them were bonafide NHL starters, so the job was always there for the taking, although Soapy never seemed to be given a full chance.

It wasn't until the 1980-81 season that Doug finally got a real chance to play for the Rangers. That season he posted a respectable 16-16-7 record in 39 games. However the Rangers weren't impressed enough, and dealt Doug to Winnipeg for a draft pick.

The Jets, who were really struggling in the early 1980s, were happy to acquire Doug. The Jets general manager at the time was John Ferguson, the former boss in New York. He knew Doug well and felt Doug was capable of doing the job.

"(The Rangers) considered Soetaert surplus. I knew he could play," said Ferguson.

Fergie was right, as Doug played the lion's share of the Jets games over the next three season, posting a better than .500 winning percentage even if his goals against average was very high. In those three season Doug's record was 50-48-21, which was a dramatic improvement from the Jets first two season in the NHL without Soetaert. They went 29-106-15 as they struggled to find a goaltender in those days.

While Soetaert did an admirable job, no one was calling him a bonafide NHL starter in an ideal situation. With Brian Hayward emerging in the prairie province, the Jets moved Doug to the Montreal Canadiens for prospect Mark Holden.

Soetaert enjoyed his best days in Montreal, even though he didn't play much. He was relegated to a back up role and leader, as he helped to guide two of the hottest young goalies in the league in the mid-1980s. First, in 1984-85, it was Steve Penney who was on fire. He quickly fizzled out, but the following season Doug backed up a rookie by the name of Patrick Roy. While Doug didn't get to play a lot, he was part of a Stanley Cup championship team in 1986.

Ironically enough, the Canadiens acquired Soetaert's replacement in Winnipeg to replace him once again in Montreal. Brian Hayward was brought into backup Patrick Roy, and Soetaert was allowed to sign as a free agent anywhere he wanted. He chose to go back to where his career all began - the New York Rangers.

Not much had changed in New York as far as Doug's playing time was concerned. He played in just 13 games as the Rangers carried three netminders - John Vanbiesbrouck, Bob Froese and Soetaert.

That proved to be Doug's last season as an active goalie. He retired with an all time record of a respectable 110-104-42 record and 6 career shutouts.

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