Goaltending Sens' missing link

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

Remember when it looked like the Senators had one of those "good" problems? Y'know, two No. 1 goalies?

Well, far too often since those days it has appeared they have none.

Methinks neither Ray Emery nor Martin Gerber have distinguished themselves as a guy who could be holding the Cup over his head in June. Not the way they've played this side of November, that's for sure.

Like so many other Senators, both have been terribly inconsistent. Thing is, when it's a few players, the problem can be covered up by giving more ice time to Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Mike Fisher, Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov. Unfortunately, none of those guys play goal.

GM Bryan Murray was quick to answer the "is your goaltending good enough to bring you back to the final this season" question yesterday.

"Yeah," he said.

Murray did not expound, almost as though he hoped the conversation would change directions.

So what is a team to do? Make a trade for a better goalie? That's unlikely to happen.

"I think there's a couple of guys that are really good that are pretty much entrenched where they are," said Murray. "I can't imagine that there's going to be an elite goaltender that's going to be moved."

There is, however, one goalie the Senators are hopeful of landing: Ray Emery, the 2006-07 version.

He could be a major trade deadline arrival. And the sooner he shows up, the better.

"Everybody knows how talented he is and how good he is in the big games, and how valuable he is to this team when he's at the top of his game," said Spezza. "I think he realizes that and I think it's going to be a challenge for him personally to get his game back on track."

Said Fisher: "We know what kind of goaltender he can be. We've seen him compete. He went to battle for us last season and we just want him to get to that form. As a team, we believe he can."

If he doesn't, it's difficult to imagine the Senators going anywhere in the playoffs.

DEFENDING THE GOALIE: To a man, Senators disputed suggestions Emery has become a distraction. "He had a mess-up, wrong arena. I guess he got a different itinerary," Fisher said with a chuckle. "We're not going to let it affect us." Heatley told reporters: "It's your distraction more than anything. Obviously, he's missed some practices and things the last month. We don't want that to happen, but at the same time I don't think it's been a distraction for us. We're just worried about winning games and worried about when he is in there just for him to play well." Said Chris Phillips: "Unfortunately it's something we've seen before, but we're dealing with it. He was late. Obviously, you don't want that to happen, but it hasn't been a more serious issue. Aside from answering questions today, it hasn't been a distraction at all. To his defence, just about every guy in this room can say they've been late for a meeting, late for something. I missed a plane ride once. In just about every case, it's accidental. Unfortunately for Ray, it's happened a couple of times, so it's made a bigger deal of. But it does happen."

MONEY MATTERS: Murray says he has no regrets giving Emery the new contract that pays the goalie $9.5 million (all terms US) over three years. "He deserved that contract," said the GM. "This is the thing about our business. You have big decisions to make all the time. We signed a few players in this organization, a couple last year and several this year, because of performance and a decision made, do you want this player to be in your organization or not? And this is the market for a particular player. Before we signed Ray, we were prepared for arbitration, we did all the stats, we did comparables, we did everything. At the end of the day, we took probably one year longer than we would have been awarded in arbitration, but the numbers were at least what he was going to get in arbitration. I talked to the arbitrator afterward. There was no question that he felt the award on a two-year deal might have been a little bit more, just based on everything that happened with Ray a year ago. So the decision, as I tell other people all the time, you don't have to pay a guy $7 million. You don't. He's just going to go play for another team and get it. Ray Emery was going to get his money. If we didn't do it for him, we would have had to go get another goaltender and he would have got it elsewhere. So I don't regret it at all."

KIBBLES AND BITS: Spezza enjoyed playing on the SOS line in the all-star game with Alexander Ovechkin and Martin St. Louis. "St. Louis was pretty fun to play with," said Spezza. "I think on a regular basis I'd probably enjoy playing with him more. He's a little more give-and-go, but Ovechkin was good. Shoots the puck." ... As for the souvenirs he brought back from the extravaganza, Spezza listed some signed jerseys, St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier sticks, a few items for his parents and "T-shirts for the boys."


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