For many hockey fans and members of the media, last night's game changed the way that they have perceived the Senators. There's a definite 'holy shit these guys are for real' attitude that is starting to permeate the news and the social media reactions. Having said that, with Ottawa in the thick of the playoff hunt, the importance of each of this team's final 39 games cannot be understated. For the first time in a long time, it feels like every coaching decision and lineup decision has significant far reaching ramifications.
Keeping this in mind, it is going to be interesting watching Paul MacLean monitor Craig Anderson's workload moving forward. Having played in 40 of the team's 45 games this season, Anderson's on an unsustainable pace. Not only has Anderson only played in more than 70 games once, this season's 40 games already represent the second most number of games that he's played in during one season. Yet, with Ottawa in the thick of the playoff hunt, playing Anderson has become somewhat of a necessity thanks to presence of a backup goaltender who cannot be relied upon to win games.
In fairness to Alex Auld, he's had his moments this season. There was an inspired 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on October 15th and there was that thrilling 2-1 OT loss to the Vancouver Canucks on November 20th. Unfortunately for Alex, those moments have been few and far between. Despite a 1-0-1 record in his past four games, his peripheral numbers -- a 4.26 GAA and a save percentage of .873 -- look like something that you would have seen during the 1970's or 80's.
In an interview with Justin Goldman from The Goalie Guild on our podcast this past summer, we discussed what would be an appropriate size of games for Anderson to play in and he mentioned that a sample size of 60 to 65 games would be an appropriate number of games to keep him fresh, focused and ready for the postseason. Under the current setup, I cannot imagine the Senators are completely comfortable using Auld 8 to 12 more times in high leverage games.
While you can hardly blame the Senators for bringing in a veteran backup tendy during what was expected to be a rebuilding year, circumstances change. This season was designed to one of a transition, just another year to develop the team's younger skaters and peddle the team's veteran assets. Rather than expose a young goaltender to the ebbs and flows of a losing environment, the team elected to sign Auld; thereby allowing Lehner to suit up and hopefully play in 50 or more games at the AHL level.
Unfortunately for Lehner, like the rest of Binghamton teammates, his season has been hampered somewhat by injuries. Not only have they caused him to split the starts with veteran journeyman Mike McKenna, even when healthy, it's not like Lehner has been the benefactor of playing behind a good team. In fact, in light of the way Binghamton's season has gone, it's enough to wonder whether it'd be more prudent for his development to promote him in the midst of Ottawa's playoff run.
With Auld being an unrestricted free agent at the season, it's likely that Lehner would enter next as the backup goaltender anyways. However, with the added threat of a work stoppage looming over the NHL, why not add to Lehner to the mix now? What better time to add a hunter to the playoff hunt?
Count me among those who are all aboard the Lehn Train.
Auld gets two, maybe three more starts. If he doesnt look much more confident and sharp, get him outta here for whatever, if anything, and bring up Lehner. I actually kind of think its perfect timing. Bingo is junk, so dont waste his time or patience down there. Add his attitude, confidence, skill and chemistry with the other 2011 Calder Cup Champs to this team and locker room...when its coming down to crunch time....wow, would be fun to watch I bet. Its a no loose situation in my opinion - rest Anderson a bit all the while seeing if Lehner can take the next step.
Another couple of more arguments to call up Lehner. They might be paraphrased from ideas presented in the initial post, but I feel compelled to present my own.
This year's Bingo team been gutted of many NHL ready prospects that made a run last year. Lehner aside, the top 8 blue chip prospects (7 if you think it's dirty to say Wiercoch isn't currently developing, 9 if you're asking what Mark Stone has to achieve to be in that group) are developing outside of Bingo this year. I indulge in prospect porn as much as anyone, but I can't see Lehner adding much value to the development of the few key pieces left on this year's Bingo squad. I'm sure we all agree that next year's Bingo squad will be much more important for the Senators' future than - particularly if there's any kind of lockout.
I can only imaging the uncontrollable rage building in Lehner's psyche since Craig Andersen got a four year extension. We all heard about his Hextall moment along with bits and pieces portraying a complacent prospect who probably feels he's accomplished everything he can in the AHL. At worst, a few failed opportunities with the big club could remind him of the weaknesses he needs improve on to be a good NHL starter. I attended the Habs-Panther's game on new year's in Florida and did my best to retaliate for Habs fans making Sens home games unpleasant. I sat behind the Habs bench and shouted taunts like '2 minutes for speaking english" every time they got a penalty. I only bring it up to say most 'Cat fans are echoing the same sentiments about Markstrom.
Count my vote for a change of scenery.
But to your point the rules of engagement regarding RL have definitely changed based on the fortunes of both the big club and Bingo.
Who would have guessed this scenario playing out?
Is having Lehner taxi back and forth an option when they need to spell Andy? Gives him regular playing time and NHL experience while keeping Auld strictly for mop up duty.
Thoughts? Is that even an option?
@6thSens As much as I'd love to see Lehner play this season, I think it's best to leave him in Bingo until next year. Give Auld another go.
@GraemeNichols Lehner's actions have indicated that he isn't mature enough to handle high presure games.
I thought about this also, but at the end of the day I think we are better off leaving Lehner to finish his year in Bingo. Last year, Lehner got jerked back and forth relentlessly. For his development, he needs to fight through the adversity of the year in Bingo, and keep playing. Here, he is only going to play half a dozen games until the end of the regular season, then none in the playoffs. We are paying Anderson to be our starter - let him start, and let the future keep playing in Bingo.
As for Auld, I give him one, maybe two more starts to get it together. If he can't, waive him and bring in a veteran scrub to serve as Anderson's caddy. There are plenty of them out there, and we have the cap space to pay out Auld and bring in another goalie. We can't afford to miss the playoffs by two points because our backup goalie couldn't give us six serviceable starts between now and April.
@Don_inOakville Why not call him up so that he plays and experiences the playoff run with the rest of this team's young core?
@scotmccormack Mature? Like Ray Emery vs. Buffalo Sabres? Like Marty Brodeur's whacking of opponents between smokes?
@Dennis_Prouse Problem is that barring some miraculous ascent up the standings, Binghamton's not going anywhere this season either. I'd rather have Lehner with the parent club to learn and experience the NHL playoff hunt and hopefully the playoffs themselves.
@Nichols6thSens I don't have an issue just concern about playing time.
Yo-yos were pretty fun in the day, to be honest. I had a nice wooden one with a sweet bit of string and I'd toss it near people's faces and yaaaaaaaaaaaaaank it back! Eventually the yo-yo got tossed...into a tree. :(
Anyway, I'm in favour of unleashing the Lehner because though I love the team, they could be called the Ottawa Wonder Breads for the amount of fire and passion they exude. Yeah, I know you don't have to be a volcano to win games but it would be nice having THAT GUY that would actually say or do something off the wall, adding some excitement to this button-down town.
@slavitch Trade Auld for another 6th round pick!
You can't have three goalies here, though. The whole goalie triangle thing never works out. The best solution here is clearly for Auld to find his game and remain as the backup. Lehner, as evidenced by his recent AHL suspension, still has some maturing to do, in my view. To borrow a phrase from Top Gun, I think the kid's ego is writing cheques that his body can't cash right now.
@Dennis_Prouse Waive Auld or trade him for a conditional pick.