Matt O’Connor Is An Important Piece For The Ottawa Senators


After the Ottawa Senators traded their former “goalie of the future” Robin Lehner, all of a sudden their goalie situation came quite fragile, and here’s why. Craig Anderson is a proven goaltender obviously, but he’s 34 years old and netminders don’t age very gracefully. The saviour from last season, Andrew Hammond, may end up being a solid backup, but I’m not going to put much faith in him just because of a 24 game stretch.

He’s also 27 years old, so there isn’t exactly room to grow. This tandem may prove to be fine for next season, but there will come a time where Anderson isn’t effective and Hammond will lose some magic. That means a lot of pressure will be on recent free agent signing Matt O’Connor, as he’s third on the Senators depth chart.

I’d argue that the pressure is already on O’Connor, because if both goalies struggle out of the gate then he will probably get a shot after a few months in the AHL. And if he’s incapable of playing well too, then Ottawa’s problem in net is just as bad as it was in the pre-Anderson era.

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Now in order for O’Connor to get a chance in the first place Ottawa would need two goalies to fail early on, but the thing is it isn’t far-fetched to see that happen. As I mentioned earlier, Anderson is 34 in 2015 and goaltenders over the age of 35 tend to take a big drop off in their play. We can praise Anderson for all the seasons he has played very well as an Ottawa Senator, but to expect him to keep up his play as he ages is ludicrous.

The next season or two might be fine, but it could also take a turn for the worst. Then there’s Hammond, who isn’t a young player. At 27, he won’t be getting better. Considering he had a .941 save percentage it would be almost impossible to get better anyway.

And while his run last year was simply amazing to watch, I don’t think he’ll be that great of a goalie. In 48 games in 2013-14 in the AHL, he posted a .910 save percentage which is still below average. And then this year in 25 games he had an .898 save percentage. The Binghamton Senators weren’t exactly a good team, but you can’t say Hammond’s poor stats were only due to that. So there’s a chance that Hammond is a much better goalie in the NHL and that he can be a fine backup, but I wouldn’t expect much more than a .910-.915 save percentage each season.

Even that might be a bit optimistic considering his past play in the AHL and University. Let’s just say that with Anderson being an old goalie and Hammond being unproven, Ottawa’s situation in net could be troublesome. That’s why O’Connor is an important piece for the organization, as he might have to be someone to step in next year and perform.

At 23 years of age, I think he still needs one solid season in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL but he could be called up before he’s truly ready. The best case scenario is that Anderson stays at his usual solid levels and Hammond regresses a bit but is playable while O’Connor can develop in the minors.

A few years ago, Anderson was still a slightly older goalie in his early 30’s but that wasn’t too much of an issue. Plus they had Lehner who was supposed to overtake Anderson in any season so they weren’t too worried about the situation. Now though, if Ottawa wants to contend they need Anderson to be an above average goalie. Furthermore, if he regresses like the odds say he will, O’Connor needs to become a top-tier prospect that can take one of the goalies spot at some point.

The Senators goalie situation is a lot more fragile than people think

O’Connor is a solid prospect, but there are a lot of people who are cautiously optimistic about him. He was never that great of a goalie except for the past two seasons when Boston University was a powerhouse team. So it’s hard to call him a blue-chip prospect without seeing him perform in the AHL.

He’s nowhere near the level that Lehner was at, because O’Connor’s only one year younger than him. Furthermore, Lehner was the top goalie prospect in the league while he was in the AHL just at the age of 19. It’s a bit unfair to compare the two because O’Connor clearly isn’t the same prospect.

The Senators goalie situation is a lot more fragile than people think, because I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the year neither of their NHLers are performing above average. O’Connor is the only prospect that has starting potential that’s close to the NHL so his importance will be magnified once someone starts to underperform.

If he does end up being a quality goaltender, it will be a sneaky good signing by Bryan Murray and co. But as of now, he’s still unproven.

Next: Will Bobby Ryan Return To Form?

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