Battles loom just to make Ottawa Senators' training camp

Robin Lehner has arguably been the Binghamton Senators' best player this season. (CHUCK...

Robin Lehner has arguably been the Binghamton Senators' best player this season. (CHUCK HAUPT/SPECIAL TO THE SUN)

Don Brennan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

OTTAWA - At the risk of once again tapping keys prematurely, it states here the flicker of light in CBA negotiations on the weekend suggests it’s ALMOST safe to start THINKING about the actual game again.

Assuming you still care about it at all, that is.

Realizing the NHL and NHLPA could very easily break hearts yet one more time by acting like spoiled children (apologies to spoiled children everywhere), the marathon discussion between representatives from both sides Saturday COULD be the beginning of the end to the insanity. There is a chance, better now than at the end of October, the season could be saved.

Therefore, let us venture out on to the limb and think about what Paul MacLean might be thinking.

On hand to celebrate Brad Fritsch Day in Ottawa at Rideau View Country Club Friday night, the Senators coach proved the extra long off-season did not rust his wit.

“The amount of dedication it takes to be a golfer, and to be on the PGA Tour ... I have great admiration for that,” MacLean said of Fritsch. “Because nobody three-putts better than I do.”

MacLean also revealed that, with a training camp expected to be less than a week long, his team will bring only 23 players to Scotiabank Place when the doors finally open. Currently, the Senators have 21 on the roster, including Mika Zibanejad, who may not quite yet belong. Sticking by the book, that would leave two open spots available for Jakob Silfverberg, Mark Stone, Mark Borowiecki, Patrick Wiercioch and Andre Benoit.

Silfverberg would seem to be a lock, given that there were some in the organization pencilling him on the first line at summer development camp. Except that there are already 13 forwards — four lines plus one — among the group of 21. So two defencemen?

Either way, pencils do have erasers, and one should be poised over the list of goalies.

Ben Bishop has a one-way contract, but he’s not as good as Robin Lehner, and with a shortened season teams can’t afford to go with anything less than their best.

On Saturday, Bishop was Binghamton’s goalie of record in a 4-2 loss. He is now 0-2 with a 4.04 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. To this point, Lehner has probably been the B-Sens’ top player. He is 4-2 with a 1.99 GAA and .933 save percentage.

Lehner, of course, is also second on the team in the penalty minutes department. But those who think his much-publicized fight with another goalie in a game a couple of weeks ago is a sign the 21-year-old Swede still has some maturing to do, well, they should think again.

“I don’t see that,” said MacLean. “Now I’ve only seen Robin play six or seven times, but I felt that in that situation I witnessed that night, I would have done the same thing.

“He got run a few times and he got absolutely shish-kabobed, in my opinion they shish-kabobed him, and then they fell on him, and then they gave him the rabbit punches when he was down. I have no problem with what he did. His reaction was what I would have expected.

“The fact he stood up for himself and got tossed out of the game, I saw nothing wrong with that. I thought he was demanding his share of the ice, being competitive. It was a situation that I wasn’t surprised by his reaction. I thought he did the right thing.”

MacLean also liked other things he saw in Bingo.

“I was there for the training camp and exhibition games, and fourth and fifth games of the season,” he said. “I thought everybody was still playing real good, nobody really separated themselves. I think that up front, Zibanejad was probably the better forward in one game, Silfverberg was the better forward in the other game. Mark Stone was real consistent in the two games, and the practices I saw.

“On the back end, Jared Cowen was the best defenceman the first game, didn’t play the second. He picked up a hip flexor injury. Borowiecki was very competitive and did what he does. Patrick Wiercioch moved the puck ... all of them gave a good account of themselves. Even Andre Benoit, who, when you look at a shortened training camp and potentially shortened season, (is) an experienced player also might have got himself into the mix as well.”

The Benoit thing makes sense. So does taking Lehner into the season ahead of Bishop. Lehner is the goalie of the future. He also appears ready to take the next step now.

He’s had more than two full terms in Binghamton. He has experienced the highs and the lows. He’s done enough seasoning.

“I saw him play the two games, and I thought he was very good,” said MacLean.

More opinions will be forthcoming once the NHL and NHLPA throw some fuel on the flicker and prove they are, in fact, reasonable adults. But for those thinking of using Twitter as a way to get their message to MacLean, well, think again.

“Twitter? I don’t read Twitter,” he said. “I have a hard time reading my phone.”

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/sundonib


Videos

Photos