Thursday, September 4, 2008

Are the Sens that bad? Part three: Goaltending

After reading about Ottawa's forwards and defence being (on paper) better than people seem to be giving them credit for, there is still the (arguably) most important position on the team: the goaltender.


Perhaps the most contentious issue of the last three years has been goaltending. Dominik Hasek made way to Ray Emery, who made way (unwillingly) to Martin Gerber, who lost his job to Emery, who then lost his job (through unjury) to Gerber, who lost his job to Emery, who didn't appear to want it and gave it back to Gerber, and so on. Gerber played well at the start of 2007-08, and then--under pressure from Emery and uncertainty from then-head coach John Paddock--lost his consistency and couldn't regain it until, one could (and I would) argue, the 2008 playoffs.

In order to answer all question, Gerber could simply return to the form he had at the start of the 2007-08 season, and maintain it through the season into the playoffs and, ultimately, the 2009 Stanley Cup finals. That would be great if you could do it, Marty. But since there are no guarantees of that (although I think he certainly is able to return to that form), there are viable alternatives.

Alex Auld was brought in to replace Emery after he was bought out and went to Russia to re-start his career, and his strength of character and ability to bounce back has been extolled by many as one of his greatest attributes. His stats, though, are nothing to scoff at. On his career he's got a 2.85 GAA and a .903 SV%. Stints with the Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes are bringing down those stats, and some of his best hockey was last season with the Boston Bruins (9W, 7L, 5OTL, 2.32GAA, .919SV%). After Auld, minor-leaguers Brian Elliott and Jeff Glass are hoping to make an impression during training camp, but GM Bryan Murray seems to be of the opinion that they will need at least one more season in the AHL before stepping into the big leagues.

There are questions surrounding the abilities of Gerber and Auld, no doubt about it. Both have demonstrated an ability to win games. Gerber has in the past--for the Senators, Hurricanes, and the Swiss National Team in international play--been able to steal games. If he regains his confidence and plays like he can, and the team develops a more responsible defensive style, there is no reason to think this team won't be able to win 2-1 and 3-2 games.
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