Can Craig Anderson Avoid The Sens’ “Goalie Graveyard”?


The City of Ottawa is all abuzz about the prospects of finally having a true “number 1” goaltender.  This is a result of newly acquired Craig Anderson‘s remarkable shutout victory on Saturday night in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. The post-game shows were lit up, with glowing reviews of Anderson, and one person even suggested Bryan Murray should  have a long-term contract with his name on it before the plane touched the ground back home in Ottawa.

I was as happy as anyone to see a goalie steal a game, and to do it with so few moments of “uh-oh”, that we have seen ad nauseum this season from Anderson’s predecessors.  I don’t remember the last time a goalie outright stole a game for this club.  It has to be at least a year, perhaps during the 11 game winning streak.

However, I must caution you, Sens fans,  about going overboard in your gushing over Mr. Anderson.  We have seen this story so many times before, had our hopes raised only to be disappointed time and again.  The Sens’ “Goalie Graveyard” is littered with headstones of failed “first great goalies” in Senators’ history.

Look at the past 12 years (just in case you need a reminder):

Patrick Lalime (1999-2004): Lalime was celebrated in Ottawa until the fateful game 7 against the Maple Leafs in 2004.  I remember earlier in that very season when an issue of The Hockey News came out and Lalime was not ranked among the top 5 NHL goalies.  This city’s fans were in an uproar about him not getting enough respect.   Two Joe Nieuwendyk shots that went through him and he was finsihed in Ottawa, and the respect was gone.  Status: RIP

Dominik Hasek (2005-06): The Dominator was putting together an elite season coming out of the lockout, but suffered from a torn adducter muscle (who had ever heard of that muscle before Hasek) during the Olympic Break. and he was never heard from in a Senators’ uniform again, despite pleas from teammates for him to suit up in the playoffs.  Status: RIP

Ray Emery (2005-08): Emery was thrown into the playoff fire after Hasek’s injury in 2006, and became a rock star in Ottawa the following season leading the Senators to the Finals.  Then his head got too big to fit in the dressing room door, and his play failed to live up to his hype.  The Senators bought out the last two years of his contract, and they are still feeling the cap hit today.  Status: RIP

Martin Gerber (2006-09): After a 38 win season in Carolina, Gerber was the prized acquisition for GM John Muckler in the summer of 2006.  He was slated  to be the starting goaltender while Ray Emery further refined his skills.  He struggled early and forced Emery to carry the load in the first year, while in the second year the roles reversed.  Gerber never firmly grasped the #1 role, and eventually  was sent to the minors, put on waivers and picked up by the Maple Leafs at the 2009 trade deadline.  Status: RIP

Alex Auld (2008-09): Primaily signed as  a backup for Martin Gerber after Emery’s departure, but due to Gerber’s struggles, played more than half of the games in his one season in Ottawa.  He finished two games below .500.  Status: RIP

Brian Elliott (2008-2011): Came into the Senators’ system with some pedigree after winning an NCAA championship with Wisconsin.  Replaced Martin Gerber on the roster in 2009, primarily backing up Alex Auld, but went 16-8-3 that season.  Was supposed to be the backup to Pascal Leclaire for the 2009-10 season but Leclaire’s injury woes forced Elliott into 55 games, 28 of which he won.  Inconsistency plagued him in 2010-11, and he was dealt to Colorado for Craig Anderson.  Status: RIP

Pascal Leclaire (2009-present): Acquired at the 2009 trade deadline as an injured player.  Anointed as perhaps the best goaltender ever in a Senators jersey.  Didn’t see action until the next season, and even then injuries plagued him again and he was limited to 34 games.  A dynamic playoff return showed some promise for this season, but the injury bug bit once again and he has been limited to 14 games in 2010-11.  The UFA at the end of the season is not expected back in Ottawa.  Status:  Currently On Senators Life Support, but the last rites have been read.

So there you have it.  Seven goalies, most with high hopes and great expectations, all cut down in the line of duty.  The reasons are numerous for their failure to fulfill expectations.  The bottom line is this city and its team, for whatever reason(s), eat goaltenders alive.

Which brings us to the current crop, Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner.  Lehner has been tagged as the Senators’ “Goalie of the Future”, but at 19 years old,  obvoiusly needs a year or two of solid conditioning in the minors.  Anderson, who is an UFA at season’s end, joins the team having followed much the same path as Gerber did:  Career backup who essentially comes out of nowhere and has a great season as a first time starter in a new city.  Then the move to Ottawa and the starting role with the Senators.  We all know how it worked out for Gerber.

It is up to Anderson to prove that he is not just a one season wonder, and that his struggles of this season is been the aberration.  Or to prove that his one great year was the exception and he is really in his element as a backup.

Anderson likely has about 15-18 starts left in this season to prove his wares.  This past Saturday he got himself off to a great start, getting the fans on his side.

With the franchise in the state that it is in, the Senators can ill afford yet another funeral and visit to the Goalie Graveyard.


Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.

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