Thursday Afternoon Comment

Here’s a fantastic comment that was too good to bury in the previous podcast comment section and warrants being put on the main page…

Great broadcast overall guys. I especially enjoyed you singling out Cheechoo fans for their inexplicable and misplaced love for a guy who played a total of 61 games for the team, and played them badly.

I don’t agree with your views on Leclaire, however, at least as you present them. When not wasting time posting on Sens blogs, I’m a finance professor at one of Canada’s lesser universities. So, with that in mind, you’ve missed a key point from microeconomics 101 – sunk costs don’t affect your decisions going forward.

Really simply, let’s abstract from the ability to trade or buy out either of Leclaire or Elliott. The situation you’re faced with is then the following: you’re paying these two goalies a total of $5.65M in 2010-11 ($4.8M for Leclaire, 850K for Elliott I think, with Leclaire’s cap hit at less). So, that money’s gone no matter who starts, i.e. your goalie contracts for next year are at this point a sunk cost.

Now – ignoring who we’re paying what, you’re faced with a coaching decision each game – who do you start? The answer has to be “whichever one is more likely to stop the puck”. If that’s Leclaire, great. But if that’s Elliott, is your situation now somehow worse than it was before you decided to put Elliott in that day? Not at all – I agree it’s not desirable to have a $4.8M goalie sitting, so a mistake has been made somewhere, but let’s really think about when we made that mistake. Was it:

(a) Today, when we decided to start the goalie who’s playing better, who we’re paying less than $4.8M?

or

(b) Back when we decided to acquire a guy scheduled to make $4.8M in 2010-11, who turned about to be made of glass and so far has not been very good at getting pucks to hit him without a Hitchcock team in front of him?

Your argument, which I’ll paraphrase as “We have to get the $4.8M guy going”, is essentially saying the mistake is (a), not (b). This isn’t right.

Interestingly, if we put the ability to trade or buy out one of these guys, the decision tilts even more to Elliott. If you could somehow do something to “get one of these guys really going”, who would you want it to be? If it’s Leclaire, you’ll get a good performance out of a $4.8M goalie. If it’s Elliott, you’ll get a good performance out of an $850K goalie. You can then trade your expensive guy, and you’d be better off.

Of course, you can’t magically “get guys going”. They perform, or they don’t. I absolutely agree that Elliott remains unproven. However, he’s proved a lot more than Leclaire ever has in their time with the team. As long as management’s understanding is that Leclaire’s ceiling is high, yes, by all means, try to help him reach it. But as more time passes, and Leclaire fails to meet expectations, and he gets injured in the silliest of ways, and the projection of his capabilities in the future is increasingly diminished, management has to adjust to that reality as well.

Anyway – very much enjoy the website!

I’ll have to re-listen to the podcast to catch how we phrased our thoughts on Leclaire. I believe all I said was that my only gripe with the Senators winning streak was that it came without Pascal Leclaire starting in nets. Granted, it’s fantastic that Brian Elliott seems to have taken a step forward in his development as a National Hockey League goaltender, however, I would have preferred to see Leclaire play well in his stead.

And I say that not just because of Leclaire’s salary but because of his pedigree. Regardless of whether you think his career season was inflated because of Ken Hitchcock’s system, one cannot ignore the fact that he was a top ten draft pick who is probably the most athletic goaltender that this team has ever had. Simply put, if I had to get a good performance out of Elliott or Leclaire, I’d prefer to get it from Leclaire – the player whose ceiling is higher. Keep in mind, this is a guy who has also only played in 39 games in the last year and a half because of some incredibly ridiculous circumstances. I’m not ready to write him off yet and it’s not like his injuries have hampered his career like Cheechoo.

If Leclaire can’t find can’t his game, he’ll literally be a sunk cost. It’s money that could have been spent on a backup goalie and to improve the talent that plays in front of the goaltenders.

Also, I think it’s important to note that I’m in agreement with your opinion that the coaching staff has to play the goaltender who does the best job stopping the puck. In 2007 and under some similar circumstances, I thought it was in the team’s best interest to start Gerber than Emery. Even though Emery had the history and better talent, his attitude and ability to consistently stop the puck were both terrible. Had he not been such a distracting figure and showed some of his ability, I would have supported giving Ray every opportunity to reclaim the starter’s job down the stretch.

The coaching staff has to select the goalie who gives them the best opportunity to win. It just shouldn’t preclude them from giving Leclaire an opportunity to reclaim his job. Hopefully, that clarifies my perspective a bit and thank you for leaving this comment. It’s this educated/informed passion that makes writing for this website enjoyable.

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