The state of the goaltending for the Ottawa Senators enjoyed a brief respite from being the bane of the club’s existence in the lockout shortened 2013 season. Everything that was put on the Ottawa net seemed to be turned away by the trio of Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner.
Anderson in particular was stellar until Chris Kreider rolled over his leg and put him on the DL. Anderson was in the midst of an all-world season and was not only a Vezina Candidate but a Hart Trophy candidate as league MVP. Bishop was good, but was traded and then Lehner (anointed the heir apparent) proved to be ready to be a capable backup.
Fast forward one year, and there is turmoil in the Ottawa crease once again. Anderson had a roller-coaster year, and his inconsistency was a major contributing factor to the Senators missing the playoffs. Granted, he faced more rubber than the previous season, but it wasn’t the number, but how the goals went in that was the problem. Not being able to make the timely saves at important times really deflated the team in front of him and snuffed rallies on more than a couple of occasions.
So, with one year left on his deal and still a memory of how good he can be from a year ago, is now the time to trade Anderson and hand the mantle over to Lehner. Lehner, who also had an up and down season in a backup role, needs to get the net and get the experience to lead the Senators into competitiveness.
Lehner’s best stretch of the season was a stretch where he was the starter because Anderson was out with injury. After winning 3 straight games, Anderson was given the net back when he returned because he was the “#1 guy”. That had to have demoralized Lehner, so it is no surprise he never really got untracked.
Lehner’s stats were nearly identical those of Anderson, and for Lehner to develop and not plateau, he needs to get a lion’s share of the starts without having Anderson in the background. There are a number of affordable backup goalies out there that could be called on for 15-20 starts, but not sulk about being the understudy.
If the Senators are going to disband their top line from the end of the season (or at least 2/3 of it), they might as well go all the way and set the franchise up for another youth movement, because the one they started three springs ago didn’t work.