A Quick Reminder That Robin Lehner Still Exists


In the last 14 games, Ottawa is 12-1-1, and Andrew Hammond is a record-setting 11-0-1 in that span. The funny thing is that right before this 12-1-1 stretch, the last game was against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Senators lost 6-3. In that game Clarke MacArthur and Robin Lehner both left injured on the same play, and neither have played since.

At the time, both Craig Anderson and Lehner were injured, and “Team Tank” was in full force amongst Ottawa fans. Putting Hammond and Chris Driedger on the NHL team didn’t exactly inspire confidence. But somehow ever since Lehner got injured the team has played their way back into playoff contention.

While everyone is (rightfully) going crazy over how well Hammond has played, people seem to forget that Lehner is still actually on this team. In fact, he’s still the goalie of the future for this team. Let’s not focus on this season right now. As it stands, I’m actually not sure who would start a playoff game if they were to get in. Anderson seems like the obvious choice given his track record, but Hammond has some sort of black magic going on.

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While Lehner probably won’t get any playoff games under his belt this year, that doesn’t mean he isn’t an important part of the teams core going forward. There’s three things to consider here with Lehner. Firstly, let’s take a look at Hammond. Has his story been incredible? Of course it has, as he’s completely turned Ottawa’s fortunes around and made them a threat to make the playoffs.

But also, we have to be realistic. He’s a 27 year old goalie who has never really had success above the college level. Even at Bowling Green University, his best season out of his four years was a .917 save percentage, but he also had two years with sub .903 save percentages. Perhaps he has evolved his game, and that is possible. Furthermore, goalies are extremely volatile so maybe he has had the skill all along.

But you can use the same previous point for the other side of the argument: goalies are extremely volatile, and we know that sometimes they can go on amazing streaks and also look like the worst goalie in professional hockey at times. We can look at Anderson as an example, as in 2012-13 he was on his way to win the Vezina if he was not hurt, but then the following season he looked more like a backup. Now he’s back to his old levels of course.

Mar 8, 2015; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) makes a blocker save on a shot from Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan (23). The Senators defeated the Flames 5-4 in a shootout at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

An even more recent example is Devan Dubnyk, who had one poor season in Edmonton, but now is a possible Vezina candidate after playing lights out for the Minnesota Wild for 2 months straight. It’s obvious that goaltenders can be amazing one minute, and awful the next.

He has played 13 games in his NHL career, and to be honest that means nothing. If he is able to sustain quality play for another 50 games or so, then I will believe that he’s a capable NHL goalie. But for now, he should be third on Ottawa’s goalie depth chart, and I can’t believe that that could even be considered a controversial statement.

The second thing to consider is Anderson. By all accounts, Anderson is the Senators best goalie of all time (besides the half-season of Dominik Hasek), and that can never be forgotten. He probably still has a few good years left in him, but he’s much more of a risk then Lehner in my opinion. He’s turning 34 years old in May, and goalies to not age gracefully. He’s played at an all-star level while in Ottawa, posting a .921 save percentage across five seasons, but I would be hesitant to predict that for another year or two.

He obviously has plenty of trade value, and Ottawa could be able to get a quality return back, and help either their prospect pool or their defense. As of now, he’s Ottawa’s best goalie. But in the long term, he may slip quite rapidly. That’s what leads me to the third and final thing to consider: Lehner himself.

For now, [Hammond] should be third on Ottawa’s goalie depth chart, and I can’t believe that that could even be considered a controversial statement

Ever since he was drafted in 2009 by Ottawa, he has been touted as the goalie of the future. I still think that stands, as he’s only 23 years old which is young for a goaltender. He has not been very good the last two years, but he has only played 61 games over that time frame, and 86 games in his career.

Despite his poor showings recently, he still has a .914 career save percentage, which is around league average. Also, he’s proven that when given the reigns, he thrives. If he starts sporadically, he tends to struggle. I really do feel that if he was given the starters job, he would play much better.

I don’t think you can give up on a goaltender this early. Look at the star goalies around the league and when they became “stars:” Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist were both 23, Cory Schneider was between 24-27 (depending on your interpretation), Ben Bishop was 27, Pekka Rinne was 26, and Tuukka Rask was 22. So while some goalies turn into great goalies at around 22/23, most don’t hit that stage until their mid-twenties.

And even Rask and Price who had good season while they were young, experienced some inconsistencies after that. I thought I should look into this further. I went to hockey reference, and sorted all goalies by save percentage between the ages of 18-23 from the last 20 years who have played more than 50 games in that time frame. Here are the results:

The list actually goes on until number 35, so there are plenty of qualifiers. Look at number 9, and there’s Lehner. He’s ahead of guys like Martin Brodeur, Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Chris Osgood, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Of course for some of these players, they were playing in a different era where scoring was more abundant. But still, Lehner compares quite well with these other goalies. He’s only .002% off of Price’s save percentage, which is quite impressive.

I still think Lehner can be an All-Star level goalie, and his play the past few seasons shouldn’t make people as bearish as they have been on him. He has the track record and the skills to become Ottawa’s goalie for years to come. Trading him now would be a colossal mistake, and similar to the handling of Ben Bishop.

With this run that Hammond has been on, don’t forget about Lehner. He should be here for a while.

Next: Senators win fourth straight in Carolina