This past season, Robin Lehner led the Binghamton Senators to a Calder Cup victory and earned himself AHL playoff MVP along the way. But even after his stellar performance, GM Bryan Murray had no plans on bringing him up to the big league just yet.
Lehner believes he is ready for the NHL this season, but it seems as though that was never a part of Murray’s plan. Murray had spoken about developing Lehner further before bringing him to the NHL and he made that clear when he signed goal tender Alex Auld to a one year contract at the beginning of free agency this past July. Auld will fill the back-up role behind starter Craig Anderson in order to give Lehner a full year in the AHL to gain more experience and hone his skills while playing as the number one goalie in Bingo.
The reasoning behind this was that Murray doesn’t want a situation where Lehner gets stuck on the bench as a back-up and does not get the ice time to develop. Lehner acknowledges that many have shared similar opinions, however he doesn’t agree. He believes if he trains at an NHL level, and reaches a level of excellence there, then he will be ready to play in games.
Lehner is clearly talented, but that isn’t an issue. The concern comes from the organization not wanting to rush him. And especially with the Sens goaltending history, it’s no surprise they want to move slowly and carefully with Lehner’s development. They also want to ensure that Lehner has a smooth transition from the AHL to the NHL. In the limited NHL action he saw last season, he showed glimpses of promise, but there were also times when it was clear he needed to adjust more to the game style and pace. With the Sens predicted by many to finish as low as 15th in the east, there is really no need to bring Lehner in this season.
However, Lehner still believes he can be a difference maker now and won’t stop trying to prove himself. He did that well this weekend in the rookie tournament in Oshawa. He got a shutout in the first game on Saturday as he led the Sens rookies to a 4-0 victory over Pittsburgh. Lehner took Sunday off, but is set to start in the last (and definitely the biggest) game of the tournament tonight versus Toronto. But if his MVP performance leading to the Calder Cup wasn’t enough, it’s hard to imagine there’s anything he could do that would be.
With Auld only signed to a one-year deal, Lehner should be set to take his place in the nation’s capital in October 2012. And in my opinion, that seems like the perfect time for him to join the big league full-time, not any sooner.
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