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;

  1. The Sens have enough points in the bank to make the post season.
  2. Pascal is signed, at 4.8M, an impending UFA (2011).
  3. Elliott is signed, at 0.850M, an impending RFA (2011).
  4. Elliott has not played well enough to be untouchable.
  5. Pascal has not played enough to be considered unacceptable (or acceptable).
  6. Not playing Pascal, the expected #1, will alienate him.
  7. 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.



16 Responses to “Sens Smoke Deslauriers & Burn Pascal.”

  1. GN it’s too close to the playoffs. IMO Leclaire is _very_ tradable. Just ask Brian Burke. Also check with Columbus how they feel Leclaire is no longer there.

  2. I hope you’re right Sam…but I have to disagree.

  3. I agree. Great analysis. Although I am not confidant in Leclaire’s ability to outplay Elliot. And this scenario wasn’t addressed above I don’t think: What if Leclaire gets the nod, gets his ten games, stinks it up. Elliot takes over. Next year we have an untradable 4.8m golie, and a hot commodity who is an RFA. Elliot walks for nothing. We are stuck with a 4.8m backup for whatever 1m guy we can get to replace Elliot. I think that’s the actual worst case scenario. Here’s the trick for me though: I think Leclaire will be fine but not quite as good as Elliot if he gets his chance – assuming the team plays well in front of him. That’s good for next year – we could trade L and sign E reasonably. But would we get less deep into the playoffs? That’s the risk I guess.

    • Tim, your scenario is not the worst case seeing as an RFA, if he were to be signed to a lucrative contract by another team, there would be a bunch a high end picks headed our way. Lerhner would come in to challenge Leclaire the following season. GN is right. This is Emery Syndrome all over again. This time the right choice needs to be made. Elevate Elliot’s status as an RFA goalie, but give Leclaire a chance to prove himself (when healthy) is the best thing that can be done both long and short term. Too many people get caught up in a goalie’s success when the team in front of him is playing great. Remove those games from Elliot’s record, and he’s average at best.

  4. anonymous Says:

    i believe brian elliott is signed through next year as well. Last summer he signed a two year contract,

    • Yes Anon, Elliott is signed thru the 2010 season, sorry for the confusion, I’ve reworded to try to be more clear. But, if he plays as a #1 now, at the expense of Leclaire, he will be expecting solid money (3M+) and leave Ottawa without a back-up next season (assuming Leclaire is mentally out of the line-up.
      Leclaire must (IMO) be given his shot, even if only to keep him from feeling “screwed” and thus a viable option going into next season.
      If Leclaire fails, so be it, then let Elliott play, no problem with me.
      There are 15 games remaining, I say let Pascal start the next 6, leaving Pascal & Elliott to split the back to backs at the end of the month, give Pascal the WSH game to close out the month. The final 5 games get played by “the chosen 1”.

      • Lee Zamparo Says:

        Absolutely. If the organization has learned anything from the Gerber/Emery days, it is that you can’t leave your once number 1 on the bench after inconsistent performance while recovering from injury. Remember that before Leclaire’s injuries, he was playing relatively well in front of a group that had yet to start playing well as a team. Karlsson’s early season play was not good, Picard’s early season play was not good, Carkner’s early season play was not good. The coaches really, really need to consider that given the team is likely to make the playoffs even with an average record from here to the end of the regular season, winning each and every regular season game may not be as important as ensuring the Sens have two focused and motivated goaltenders for the duration of next season. Leclaire will only ever regain his focus by playing games. A team playing in front of a goaltender who they do not trust will never reach their potential.

  5. dave young Says:

    My only disagreements are these.

    1) even though elliott came into the year as number 2, he has a winning record and was in net for the stretch of games that helped secure a playoff spot. so why wouldnt he feel slighted if we went with leclaire?

    2) If they both come off the cap the same offseason (2011) who cares how much you have to raise elliott if he steps up?by then maybe lehner is ready to back up, or maybe we sign a veteren backup cheap. Either way it has no bearing on this stretch drive in my mind

    • The issue is about two things;
      1. The 4.8 to Leclaire which will basically go to waste, eventhough he may be capable of earning it…we don’t know.
      2. RFA is an opportunity to let a player develop before you have to pay them big money. Paying an RFA much beyond the minimum increase is only good if they are fantastic. The odds are Elliott will not be fantastic, but because of his playing as a number one he will have the right to claim such in arbitration.

  6. I Think the problem in this town is people can’t come to terms with the fact that the guy is just not good, I watched for years as everyone said Emery was the man and look what he did, not only did he suck, he screwed up the teams chemistry/minds by being a 2year old baby (throwing tantrums on the ice and showing late or not showing up at all for practice) and was never punished cuz he like Leclaire was/is supposed to be “OUR GUY”

    Say whatever you want about B.E he is the goalie who has kept this team from edmonton/toronto type numbers (and btw you guys say look at Osgood and although I agree he was never the greatest of goalies, how many cups does he have? Exactly) Leclaire has had plenty of chances to take charge and regain the spot and he’s failed miserably time after time the latest being a beautiful 2 goals on 5 shots in 6 mins performance)

    Here’s the solution, B.E is the #1 guy and you go and make noise in the playoffs, Leclaire in return decides he’s not a baby and accepts that this year was not his year and gladly backs up Brian… if this does not happen and he wants to be a baby like Emery was, who cares you waive him and his horrendus 4.8m and you free space to get someone or someones to help the team be even better.

    And in return you get to stick with Elliot who will gladly try his best for you because you showed him that (you reward effort and skill not just “potential” skill) for another few years and if by then some Edmonton type gm comes in and offers him huge $$ well we have Lehner who in my opinion is our goalie of the future, lets just hope he works out better then Emery did.

    • Tony, with all due respect, I’ve yet to see Elliott steal games, especially during the 14 in 16. To point to him as the reason this team is not among the worst in the league immediately makes your argument best.
      Elliott has been very average, while the team in front of him has been above average to excellent. I’m not sure if Elliott is “your guy”, but he’s yet to prove to me he’s anything other than an average goaltender, and that, IMO, is not good enough to refuse Pascal a chance to prove he’s the #1 he was brought in to be.
      Pascal is not “my guy”, and I could care less if he is the #1 or not, I just think ignoring hispotential, in favour of an average goaltender, is a strategic error.

    • Lee Zamparo Says:

      Maybe we watched different people, because I don’t agree with you either Tony. I saw a goaltender with good ability get pushed out because he wasn’t healthy enough to play consistently, and the coach wanted short term results.

  7. Guys:

    The all perceiving “Petit General” has realized Saint-Pascal needs more time, just because you have clearance doesn’t mean you are “Ready”.

    #33 will be spotted (Vancouver maybe) for another 10 games and then given the acid test…

    Knowing Bryan and Eugene they will want the “Money” playing in the playoffs and they are right at least to start!

  8. Numbers speak for themselves Elliott is a winner Leclaire is not so hey if you wanna roll with Leclaire and continue to waste games, go ahead hope he finds his game quickly or the Sens will start falling down the standings real fast.

    All I was saying is regardless of his inability to make spectacular Brodeur type saves when he is in net, the team plays better/seems to have more confidence when is the one on the ice and not on the bench so why not roll with that.

    I am a diehard Sens fan have been since they came back into the league and of course I have season tickets I just want them to win, if for whatever reason they put Leclaire and he starts playing great then thats awesome, I just don’t see it happening not this year at least and am tired of year after year of goalie controversy, for now let’s just go with the one whose numbers are positive and not negative and see how far this great team can go when they dont have to deal with media type goalie controversy.

    • Lee Zamparo Says:

      The likely result is that the Sens will finish between 5th and 7th no matter which goaltender starts the majority of the remaining games. Ottawa would have to maintain a torrid pace to top the northeast division, and Ryan Miller Buffalo would have to play well below their level. On the other side, the Sens would have to lose the vast majority of their remaining games to fall out of the top 8 in the East, combined with a much stronger than usual showing by marginal teams like Atlanta (traded away Kovalchuk), Tampa Bay (inconsistent all year) and NYR. Thankfully, not every point matters from hereon in. More important is having a squad that is ready to play balls to the wall playoff hockey. To do that the squad has to be confident with whoever is in net. The squad has already shown that they are confident with Elliot in net. Therefore I think Leclaire should be given the chance to play as much as possible in an effort to regain his focus and achieve some consistency to his play, which will result in the team playing with confidence in front of him.

      So there is little to no near term disadvantage in Leclaire playing the majority of the remaining games. Let’s just hope he’s healthy enough to elevate his play and keep it there consistently.

  9. But you know what I like what you and Senschirp do/write on your blogs which is why I check both daily to see if there is any news… wouldn’t it be nice if we could sign Ron Tugnutt and Damien Rhodes what a combo that was back in the deal, Lets just say that no matter who starts in the playoffs at leats its not Embarrasso that was a terrible pickup/trade

    and Canucnik I don’t mind your blog either except for Picard he’s a bum

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