Backup Emery won't back down to Gerber

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

What's the difference between $3.7 million and $925,000?

Don't let your cerebral cortex begin to smoke over a little light arithmetic -- I was actually referring to Martin Gerber and Ray Emery.

In the midst of Ottawa's training camp, among battered defencemen, a justifiable Denis Hamel bandwagon and fearful reminders of Petr Schastlivy (albeit from a different Russian), a battle is brewing. It's a battle that will be fought and won between the pipes.

Yeah, yeah -- I know. What battle? Gerber was brought in from Carolina as an unrestricted free agent to fill the team's need for a legitimate No. 1 goalie. His salary reflected the commitment made by John Muckler: Gerber signed for three years and $11.1 million (all terms US).

If that's the case, why is Emery doing everything possible to ensure that he deserves the spotlight as well? Why do the goaltending roles in Ottawa suddenly seem murky, when this summer's signing should have made the situation perfectly clear?

All roles were clearly defined last season when Dominik Hasek suited up for the Senators. You had your probable Hall of Famer and your promising rookie. Yin and Yang. No muss, no fuss (at least in respect to knowing one's role).

It should have been that simple with the inclusion of Gerber. His play during last year's regular season helped to establish the Hurricanes as an elite team. In the 60 games he played, Gerber tallied 38 wins and a .906 save percentage. And surely the Senators themselves can attest to the fits he gave them between October and April.

Then there was that little incident at the Olympics that saw Gerber post a 49-save shutout as the backstopper for the Swiss team, against the highly favoured Canadians.

Combine all of these revelations and you have what seems to be an obvious choice for your No. 1 goalie.

The thing is, it hasn't been that easy to differentiate between Emery and Gerber at training camp. Both have improved as the pre-season has progressed, but given the circumstances, shouldn't one have stood out -- that one being Gerber?

As of right now, the pair comes off as an effective tandem, with neither one blatantly outshining the other.

Did Ottawa want this? Probably not, but they'll likely be willing to roll with whatever works.

And in a perfect world, this would be a feasible option if both were pulling down a similar salary.

But what happens if, for example, Gerber was to go on a bit of a skid, and was replaced with Emery for a number of games? What if Emery went on a tear? What would be the over/under allowed before the fans and media began to point out that a $3.7-million Swiss native was riding the pine?

It's only speculation, but this is what happens when goaltender tandems -- intended or otherwise -- are created.

You have to begin thinking about which player fits each scenario and who possesses the experience in the respective situations. But ultimately, being hot is paramount.

(Aside -- it's interesting to point out that when it comes to the second season, Emery actually possesses more experience, with 10 playoff games played to Gerber's eight. Remember Gerber was held back at the beginning of last year's playoffs, with a stomach virus that caused him to lose the equivalent of Kate Bosworth -- or approximately 20 lbs.)

On paper, Ottawa possesses clear No. 1 and No. 2 goaltenders. But after watching Gerber and Emery perform during the pre-season, you get the sense that the load will be shared more than previously assumed. And if that's the case, Senators fans had better hope these two have some chemistry. Because in order for them to be successful, they'll need to be a lot closer than their salaries are.


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