They know better than most what Ray Emery went through during his tumultuous stay here in Ottawa.
His former Senators teammates -- whom Emery faces tomorrow night in Philadelphia for the first time -- have run through a long list feelings and reactions about to Emery’s run with the club.
But they are not surprised at Emery’s rehabilitation of both his reputation and career (so far) with the Philadelphia Flyers after a year of exile in Russia.
“I’m really not surprised,” said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips, a teammate of Emery’s through his entire time with the club including the run to the 2007 Stanley Cup final. “It comes down to talent and Ray was one of the most athletic goaltenders I ever played with. I really believed it was just a matter of time until he came back. He’s done a great job of turning things around quickly.”
After that run to the Final, things degenerated quickly around Emery. He was frequently late for practices (it had happened even during the Senators’ playoff run, but when you’re winning...) and there were rumours of too much off-ice partying. There were the accusations of road rage and traffic violations. He slipped to a 12-13-4 record with a goals against average of 3.13 and a save percentage of .890.
It all ended when the Senators decided to buy Emery out of the last two years of his contract in the summer of 2008, a deal that had $6.75 million remaining.
“I don’t know if ‘wake up call’ is what you would call it, but in the end it might have been the best thing that happened to him,” said Phillips. “I think he learned some lessons. It’s good to see he’s back in the game.”
Senators centre Jason Spezza, who lived with Emery when they played in Binghamton of the American Hockey League, is Emery’s closest friend on the Senators. They speak frequently.
Emery is off to a great start with the Flyers. He’s the eighth-ranked goalie in the league with a 9-3-1 record, 2.27 goals against average and a .922 save percentage.
“He’s real happy. He’s winning games and enjoying Philly,” said Spezza.
Spezza is not far off the mark when he says Emery brought much of the situation on himself here in Ottawa, and that there was some piling on in the media.
“He created a little bit of it himself and it snowballed. It seemed like there were people who wanted to run him out of town near the end,” he said. “A lot of it was facilitated by outside sources, people who wanted to see him out of town. Ray never wanted to leave here. He was told to leave."
“It’s another game. I think everybody is happy for him that he has been able to turn himself and his career around,” said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. “He’s a good athlete and a great goalie and he’s worked hard to get where he is.”