OTTAWA - Sergei Gonchar is hoping to get off the boos.
Leather lungs won’t get a chance to razz the Senators defenceman (ankle injury) Tuesday in a home date against the Flyers, but Gonchar’s agent, J.P. Barry, said his client is upset with the reaction he’s been getting on home ice.
Struggling through the early part of the season, Gonchar has been jeered relentlessly. He hasn’t spoken publicly, but Barry told the Ottawa Sun that Gonchar is “flabbergasted.”
“It’s just gotten a little absurd,” said Barry Monday.
“Does he have to play better? Yes, he can play better and he will. But nobody had a good season there last year.
“He shouldn’t be blamed for what happened there last year. Does he care? Yes, he does. He’s the kind of guy who cares a lot. Does he want to be better? He’s looking forward to this year and this has just made it more difficult for him.”
Signed to a three-year, $16.5-million deal, Gonchar didn’t make the impact he or the Senators expected last season — finishing with seven goals and 20 assists in 67 games.
The last Senators player who heard the catcalls at anywhere near this level was Alexei Yashin.
“(Gonchar) is looking forward to this year,” said Barry. “He’s getting a chance to play with some of the younger players who are a year older and he’s on the same page with the veterans. He’s excited about doing that.
“All of a sudden he has become the critical reason as why others didn’t perform? That’s ridiculous.”
Coach Paul MacLean said he’s not sure why Gonchar has become such a target.
“The whole group hasn’t been consistent,” said MacLean. “I don’t know why he’s the lightning rod. We haven’t played very well (as a team).
“To me, Sergei is a very accomplished player. He’s not a physical player, but he doesn’t need to be. The one thing we’ve talked to him about is making sure that he skates. As long as he’s skating and moving the puck, we like him.”
Told some people feel Gonchar’s play has been indifferent, Barry said nothing could be further from the truth.
“I know Sergei Gonchar and he cares a lot. He is not any different than he has been anywhere else,” said Barry. “Everywhere he has been, he cares about how the team is doing. I know personally that he wants that team to do well.
“He worked hard in the off-season. He attended training camps in Russia in the summer and he worked hard to come back to have a good year there. When he’s at his best, he’s the kind of player that can get on a roll.”