Clouston Has a Goaltending Plan

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First of all, I just wanted to apologize to all of you readers who have come to this website for a steady flow of blogs and podcasts. The last few weeks have been mind numbingly hectic for me and the other guys so finding the time and energy to organize and write something just hasn’t been there lately. It hasn’t really helped matters that the Senators have substantially improved their play of late. When a team is winning, it’s not like it lends itself to interesting conversation. So thank you to those readers who have emailed in asking when the next podcast will occur, we will be back in studios this week.

So without further ado, let’s get on with this.

I think it was on the weekend that one of Ottawa’s beat reporters Tweeted that Cory Clouston had formulated a plan for how he’s going to get both goalies involved in the upcoming weeks. Frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed him had he said that he’s just going to ride the hot hand. For the past few weeks, Brian Elliott has been nothing short of fantastic. His rebound control has been good. He has eliminated his penchant for giving up the soft goal, he’s made some timely saves and he’s giving his team an opportunity to win every night.

Even after attending tonight’s game and noticing that the report is out on Elliott and teams are targetting his blocker side, I have this new found faith in him to make to the proper adjustments. You can call it the Sans Eli Wilson Effect.

Now that Leclaire is healthy, it’s not like there’s any impetus on the coaching staff to get him back between the pipes so long as the team is winning. According to today’s Don Brennan article, Leclaire’s competitive juices are flowing and he’s antsy to get back into the game. I don’t blame him. So long as he’s stapled to the bench, his days of “earning” a fat paycheck could be drawing to a close.

Considering that both goaltenders are impending free agents – Elliott is restricted, Leclaire is unrestricted – it’s for these same monetary purposes that I’m interested in seeing how the situation unfolds.

On Monday, when I met up with a friend for a drink, the subject of the Senators goaltending inevitably came up and I was asked what I would do as GM if Leclaire had an unbelievable end to the 2010-11 season.

My answer was simple: I’d let Leclaire walk.

His reaction was incredulous. He couldn’t believe that I would be completely comfortable in handing the reins over to Elliott and Robin Lehner next season.

So I ask you readers this, would it be significantly worse than the situation is already? For the past two seasons, Ottawa’s goaltenders have been statistically anemic. Last season the Senators had the third worst save percentage in the league (90.0%) and the 19th best goals against average (2.80). This season the team has the 16th best GAA (2.79) and the 14th best save percentage (91.1%). (Ed. note: I know that the goaltenders were not to blame for the Senators’ slow start. Porous play, injuries and personnel problems have played a significant role. )

Would any money spent on an injury-riddled Leclaire not be better served reallocating the payroll up front and improving the team’s talent up front? Obviously there will be questions as to whether or not Lehner is ready for the NHL-level but at last summer’s market shows, it’s not difficult to find a capable veteran backup for cheap in FA. Personally, I’d rather roll the dice on an Elliott/Lehner tandem than risk overpaying some veteran who will likely box the goaltender of the future out of a job for a few seasons. Could it possibly be that much worse than the current duo has performed for the past season or so?

Undoubtedly, some will suggest that signing a big name free agent goaltender is the route to take. But because of some recent trends, some sabermetric hockey analysts have questioned how worthwhile it is to sign allocate so much cap space to a franchise goalie.

Besides I hear that Ray Emery is available…

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