Next Start Crucial For Anderson's Future?

It would have been hard to fathom two weeks ago, but Craig Anderson‘s future with the Senators might already hang in the balance, as early as his next start.  After a stellar beginning to his Ottawa career, he was the toast of the city.  In his first start, (Feb 23) he was thrown into the Battle of Ontario, and pitched a shutout in a 1-0 shootout win against the hated rival Maple Leafs, which endeared him to the Sens faithful.  The follow-up to that start was a 5-1 win against the Florida Panthers and many fans were willing to open the vault and declare Anderson the Saviour, and the goalie of the future.  Although it was a small sample size, Anderson seemed to possess the confidence and cool that hadn’t been seen in an Ottawa net since the days when Ray Emery was at his best.

Fast forward to March 17th, and after 11 starts, Anderson is 6-4-0 with 1 no decision.  His GAA in the 6 wins is about 0.98, but in the other 5 games (incl the no decision) is 4.18.  Three of his last 5 starts have seen him post a save percentage of under .900.  Overall his numbers are pretty respectable:  2.11 GAA  and .938 SP as an Ottawa Senator.  By comparison, Tim Thomas leads the NHL with a 2.03 GAA and a .938 SP, so Anderson’s numbers are very respectable.

There are a number of questions on my mind, now that we have seen the ups and downs of Craig Anderson.

  • Do you think Craig Anderson is the Ottawa Senators’ long term goalie of the future?
  • Does the results of the last 5 games worry you, or are they simply a result of the youth and inexperience in front of him?
  • If you were in favor of it before, would you still support seeing Anderson as the number one in the Ottawa net next season?
  • Is it too much of a burden to expect Anderson to bring this club to a competitive level every night?
  • Is Ottawa ever going to have a dominant #1 goalie?
  • Am I going overboard in my criticism and questioning?

It is still early on in his tenure (or tryout, depending on your perspective), and there have to be some concerns.  However, with only 12 games remaining in the season, the decision will have to be made fairly soon.  The team in front of him (injuries aside) is pretty much the team you will see in front of him (or whoever gets the job) next year.  In fact, the defense will probably be younger and even more inexperienced than it is now, with the expected addition of at least 2 rookies next season.  Adding two top six forwards to this lineup (Alfredsson and Michalek) will help, but how much a 38 year old Daniel Alfredsson has left in the tank next season remains to be seen.  Bryan Murray has already stated that the plan includes adding one player through free agency, but the club will not be free spenders this July.

Anderson missed practice Wednesday with an undisclosed injury, and will back up Curtis McElhiney Thursday night.  However, his next start, whenever that may be, could be a tipping point for him and his future in Ottawa.  Two weeks ago he could have written himself a blank cheque, but the recent bumps in the road may have had an effect on the hoopla that surrounded him in his first weeks as a Senator.  Another mediocre start and I anticipate that many questions will be raised by fans in a market starving for stability between the pipes.

By the way, MY answers to the above questions are as follows:

  • I don’t think he is the goalie of the future.  He COULD be the goalie of the rebuild, at least for the next year or two.
  • The players in front of him haven’t been very good lately, and that has contributed somewhat to his off nights.  Veterans and kids alike have made some brutal mistakes, but Anderson also hasn’t been able to bail them out either. It goes both ways.
  • I would support signing Anderson to a 1 or 2 year deal, if the money is right.
  • Anderson isn’t Roberto Luongo or Martin Brodeur, and it would be foolish to expect him to steal every game.
  • Eventually Ottawa will have a dominant goalie, but that goalie may have to be home-grown, drafted and developed internally.  Maybe that goalie is Robin Lehner, maybe it isn’t.  But eventually someone will have to step up and take the bull by the horns.  They have to, don’t they?
  • The answer of the last one is up to you.

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Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.

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