Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ottawa Senators: Not a Bad Situation

Sens logoBut a situation nonetheless.

It's been nice to see Martin Gerber step up and play well with Ray Emery recovering from his wrist injury and surgery. Nice because of the fact that Gerber has patiently waited his turn without any whining, sulking or demands to be traded. He is number one NHL netminder material and he has been mature and confident enough to wait his turn, knowing that his chance would come again. Yes, the opportunity has arisen before with Ottawa and he disappointed. Which makes this impressive beginning to the season all the more valuable for Gerber personally and to the Sens as an organization.

Emery is back with the club after a reconditioning stint with Binghamton of the American Hockey League. The standard wisdom on a situation like this, is that the Senators will play the loyalty card, dance with the one who brought them etc., etc. It's pretty good logic. Emery was the go-to goalie in the second half of last season and throughout the playoffs until Ottawa lost in the finals.

But with the Senators' juggernaut set to roll on this week, John Paddock has announced that Gerber will start the game against the Montreal Canadiens in Ottawa on Thursday night. A signal to Emery that once he gets his chance, and no doubt he will within the next week or so, he will have to play as well or better than Gerber to retain the number one spot.

Having two solid goal tenders is a good situation for Ottawa to be in. The options are to trade one, unloading a sizable salary and getting draft picks or another player or two in return while opening up space for another move down the road. Or, hold on to both and reap the benefits of having two reliable players at the most important position on the team if they hope to return to the finals this year. A 1a-1b type situation with both tenders sharing duties (relatively) equally would leave both with more in the tank come playoff time.

Not making a trade too early also leaves the option of dealing one at the deadline to shore up any weaknesses due to injuries or to bring in a veteran or "missing piece to the puzzle" that may have emerged during the season.

If the trade situation comes to fruition, it well may be Emery who is the goalie shipped out to another team. While younger than Gerber and already having had the experience of playing in a Cup final, he still demonstrates flaws in his playing style at times and has an off-ice persona that won't age well.

Emery craves the spotlight, is a loose cannon and has not yet seen the light regarding the potential danger of lawsuit-hungry wackos baiting him into confrontations. When things are ticking along nicely and Emery is playing well, it's tolerable to a degree. But it's a potential distraction and the kind of unpredictability that could even increase with more success.

It will be an interesting story that plays out regarding the Ottawa Sentaors and their goal tenders. If Emery is relegated to back-up as Gerber was last season, will he handle it with as much class?

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