Sens Smoke Deslauriers & Burn Pascal.
In a convincing victory, gutsy Olilers netminder Jeff Deslauriers did what he could to keep his beleaguered squad of misfits from utter embarrassment on home ice, and trust me, if you watched that game, 4-1 was very, very flattering to the skaters on the Oilers.
The fact of the matter is the Sens dominated the Oilers, making them look every bit the AHL defensive squad they are, and did to Edmonton what many hoped would have been done to the equally sad sack Leafs the game before. Luckily for the Leafs, the Sens were busier trying to win the Battle of the Bowels than the Battle of Ontario.
Once again Brian Elliott was awarded the win on another night he had to do little more than fill a roster spot. On the one solid scoring chance the Oilers generated, they scored. Now, that may sound like I’m being bitter about his starting, I’m not, I’m really just trying to write an edgy segway to the heart of this post, Senators goaltending.
Who is the number one? Some would have you believe it’s Elliott. And they may well be right. The fact Els got the nod, the game after Pascal stole a point vs. the teams arch (albeit pathetic) rival, seems to speak volumes in regards to Leclaire’s standing on this club. But, it could also be argued, fairly, getting the nod to start against Edmonton, and not one of either Calgary or Vancouver, much better teams, might be an indication Pascal is still going to be given an opportunity to re-acquire his number one status on this club. This of course is true only if Pascal gets a start on the road trip, as Clouston has indicated is the plan.
For me, the real question is not who is number one, but rather who gives this team the best chance to win. If it’s Ryan Shannon, hell, name him #1. I’ve always maintained, with the exception of Alfredsson, I’m a Sens fan, not a fan of any one particular player. This doesn’t mean I’m ambivalent towards those playing on the Sens roster, just that I put team success ahead of any one player. With Alfredsson, I believe his playing, and success, are synonymous. Yes, I have a man crush on Daniel Alfredsson…get over it.
So who, among this teams 2 main goaltenders, gives this team the greatest chance at victory on a nightly basis? I honestly have no clue, and here’s why. I believe, over the 14 in 16 winning streak, the Sens skaters played so well Elliott was rarely a factor in gaining victories. That’s not to say he played poorly, because he didn’t, but he didn’t have to be a game changer. Think Osgoode on the Red Wings. He played well enough to let the skaters win the game. I believe much the same can be said for Elliott. Elliott has been reliable and average, not spectacular. I’m not saying this to denigrate Elliott, I like Elliott, I want him to be spectacular, and believe, with more time, he may well prove to be above average, I’m just not convinced he is…yet.
Leclaire, on the other hand, has yet to prove he is even average, this year at least. Leclaire still has the benefit of “potential” around him. As I’ve asked in the past, is Pascal a great goaltender waiting for a chance to prove it, or is he an average goaltender, waiting for a chance to prove it? That my friends is the 4.8 million dollar question.
Because you see, next year, Pascal is under contract, and due to earn 4.8M. Elliott is an unsigned RFA in 2011. This presents a problem, beyond who to start in the post season.
Imagine this worst case scenario. Elliott gets the coaches confidence as number one. The decision proves to be a bad choice, the team goes out quickly in the first round. Now what? Elliott is not your guy, and Pascal is likely so disenfranchised he’s looking for a way out of Ottawa, not a way into the starters job. That, my friends, is the epitome of lose/lose.
So, how’s this instead. Elliott gets the nod, plays acceptably in the post season, but fails to be a difference maker, as has been the case throughout this season. Pascal, as in the above scenario, is alienated, and wanting out. Has Elliott proven to be ready to go it alone? Not really. Is Pascal, the guy you sat in the post season, a marketable commodity at 4.8M? Not at all. This scenario is, to me, the most likely outcome of making Elliott defacto number one, without giving Pascal a chance to prove otherwise.
Or, lastly, how about this. Elliott is made number one, raises his game considerably, is a difference maker in the post season, and, rightfully, expects to be rewarded for such come his next (2011) contract. Pascal remains signed, at 4.8M, and all but un-tradeable, while Elliott will be expecting Murray to pay him at or near the same amount, or risk losing him to an offer sheet. Do we really want to have Elliott “proven” as an impending RFA, but still not know what we have in Leclaire, while paying him as a #1?
None of these scenarios are good, long term.
To me, the fact is, like it or not, the Sens have a commitment to Pascal Leclaire, as a number one. If he proves unable to do it, then they’re no worse off by putting Elliott back in to be “the guy”…Elliott would no doubt understand, considering the circumstances. Not playing Pascal makes him just as un-tradeable as playing him, and his failing to fill the bill. But, if he does succeed, suddenly the “what about next year” problem disappears.
The facts are;
- The Sens have enough points in the bank to make the post season.
- Pascal is signed, at 4.8M, an impending UFA (2011).
- Elliott is signed, at 0.850M, an impending RFA (2011).
- Elliott has not played well enough to be untouchable.
- Pascal has not played enough to be considered unacceptable (or acceptable).
- Not playing Pascal, the expected #1, will alienate him.
- Not playing Elliott, the expected back-up, will not alienate him.
Yeah, it’s not a great scenario, but to me, why make a bad situation worse by not letting Pascal prove he’s not ready to be number one? Has Elliot really played so well as to be a proven #1? If Pascal fails, he will still be mentally available next season. If Pascal is passed over…he’s probably both un-tradeable, and un-playable.
No, to me, Pascal must be given 10 consecutive games to either prove he’s ready for the post season, or not. Doing so is the only way to avoid an on going “goaltending controversy”. Elliott’s proved serviceable, now let Pascal prove he’s better…or not.