When the Ottawa Senators signed Ray Emery to a three-year, $9.5-million (all terms US) contract in July, they knew it would involve risks rarely associated with most NHL goaltenders.
Now amid a firestorm of Ray-being-Ray drama, you have to wonder what each party was truly expecting from the deal. From Emery's end, it doesn't seem difficult to figure out.
Ray Emery remains anointed as one of the best goaltenders the Sens have ever boasted. He was the premier netminder during the team's most successful playoff run to date. While his play during the Anaheim series didn't display the consistency shown through the first three rounds, he couldn't be solely blamed for Ottawa's eventual downfall.
Few people were willing to blame Emery for anything last season. He was viewed as the catalyst behind the Sens' regular-season turnaround. Many also knew that he was playing hurt, and would likely require some rehabilitation and repair on his wrist during the summer.
When the season kicked off with the Sens' so-called No. 1 goalie still healing on the bench, many assumed that the 25-year-old was simply keeping the seat warm for Martin Gerber.
No one realized that Emery was also apparently making the same assumption.
(You know the old saying about what happens when you assume.)
Now he appears determined to maintain that viewpoint, despite the change in circumstances.
HAS TO EARN IT AGAIN
The fiery netminder currently behaves as if his play from the previous year has earned him top billing, no questions asked. Well, that was then, this is now.
Emery has rarely shown flashes of last season's success. His record stands at 5-3-3 with a 2.88 GAA and .891 save percentage. And while coach John Paddock didn't overly chastise Emery for his most recent performance vs. Chicago on Dec. 22, the current backup displayed suspect positioning and poor lateral movement throughout the eventual 4-3 overtime loss.
The young goaltender -- and at 25, he's not that young -- would likely be given additional opportunities to gain back his form if he showed some enthusiasm in practice. This subject has come up time and again via John Paddock since October. Apparently Emery felt the constant demands were open to interpretation when he decided to throw a diva-like fit (which included tossing his stick into the stands) during Thursday's practice.
Paddock may continue to claim that effort takes precedence over time spent in practice. Emery has been observed arriving late and leaving the ice quickly on many occasions. Perhaps this is the coach's way of going easy on someone who's already been placed under the gun.
However, it's safe to say that not a single NHL player overcame the odds by putting their nose to the grindstone for a mere 10 minutes per day.
Would it really make a difference if Emery only worked hard in short spurts? It'd be a start, but are we expected to be pacified with a backstopper's baby steps when he should know better?
It shouldn't have to be this hard.
Emery is making it hard on himself and his teammates by refusing to put in the work necessary to earn back the No. 1 spot. Meantime, the testy tender has continued to act as if such efforts are unwarranted and aggravating.
Very few players are privileged enough to stand on the merits of previous achievements, because yesterday's NHL history is rarely today's reality.
All that's left to ask is, "What have you done for us lately, Ray?"
Right now, Sens observers would be hard pressed to find a positive answer.