Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Clouston Throws Open Door For Lehner

In a very significant quote (scored by the Sun's Don Brennan), Sens coach Cory Clouston layed it right on the table by saying if rookie goalie Robin Lehner keeps playing as well as he has, it could force the organization to keep him in the NHL at the expense of one of their established goalies (ie; Brian Elliott).

Here's the quote from Brennan's article:

"If he keeps playing the way he did (Tuesday) night, it would be pretty hard to not have him here... That obviously gives us opportunities to do different things, but that's a question to (GM) Bryan (Murray), that's not a question to me. ... I mean, he can't do anything more than he did last night. So we'll play it game by game, and if he forces us to do something we never maybe envisioned at the start of camp, then that's a positive thing for us and the organization. That gives us a lot more depth in a position that obviously is very, very important."

Sure, writers and talk-radio hosts have danced around the subject but I don't think anyone really suggested that Lehner had a realistic chance at staying in the NHL this year.

Yet there it is in black and white, straight from the coach's mouth.

Lehner supplanting Brian Elliott is now a possibility. Queue the goaltending controversy.

And that controversy won't be doused by Elliott's tepid performance tonight in Toronto in his first action of the season (rebounds continue to haunt him). But... insert cliche here: "it's only the pre-season". Yadda yadda yadda. You know the routine. You can't bury Elliott because of one bad game in training camp. Anyone who does so is really jumping the gun.

But if Clouston is liking what he sees in Lehner (and who wouldn't, with his second stellar training camp in a row despite still being a teenager), you know that the heat is going to be on Elliott big time. They're not going to toss Pascal Leclaire and his contract aside and go with two really young goalies.

Sure, it's a small fire, but Clouston just threw a little more gas on it. Get out the marshmallows.


As for the loss against the Leafs, not many fighting for a roster spot overly distinguished themselves for the Senators.

The exception would be Cody Bass, who played a helluva game tonight and firmly put himself back on the radar for this season. After going through some injury problems which kind of made him the forgotten man last year, Bass stepped on the ice tonight on a search and destroy mission, and reminded everyone what kind of wrecking ball he can be. It's going to be very hard to crack the lineup for Bass (he'd have to surpass Zack Smith somehow, an unlikely proposition) but he let everyone know that he's going to be an option for a call-up if someone on the bottom two lines goes down.

Jared Cowen had a solid night and looked much better than he did during the first game in Toronto on Tuesday. Maybe he's just starting to get comfortable now. You can see glimpses of what he can do, but it's like a wavering radio signal that keeps going in and out. If he can put it together quickly, maybe he still has a chance to stick. When he's cruising out there, his head is like a shark fin, poking out above everyone else (5 bonus points if you got that LL Cool J reference).

As for pure entertainment, the chaos was provided by 230 pound enforcer Francis Lessard who had a jaw dropping 324 penalty minutes in only 59 games for the San Antonio Rampage last year. And Lessard went on a rampage of his own in the first period. He was fighting, bleeding, hitting, spitting, falling, flying over the boards into TSN analyst Pierre McGuire and basically acting like a complete maniac with nothing to lose but a few more teeth. It was like watching Eddie Shack in a Senators uniform. Fantastic.

And speaking of entertainers, I forgot how much I enjoy seeing Jarkko Ruutu flying across the ice and coming late into a  scrum, grabbing someone in a bear hug and yapping in their face, even making the refs want to take a swing at him.


Michael said...

The only way Cowen will improve is by patience in the bigs. He's too big to develop any more in Junior and the AHL is too slow to have him develop speed.

Anonymous said...

Cowen ain't ready for prime time.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Michael. What has to be considered is whether Cowan, playing all year in the NHL will be a top 6 on this team by April (a la Karlsson last year). Could he improve enough to be a guy you want during the playoffs? That is the issue. He may not be top 6 now, but in the spring he may be top 6.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that this year's team has no margin for error. With Cowen on the team, learning on the job, we might not make the playoffs.

At that point, you can be sure that many people will lose their jobs.

Michael said...

It all depends on whose errors you are willing to tolerate: a young up and comer with huge potential or somebody who hasn't made the grade despite multiple chances.

GelatinousMutantCoconut said...

I believe Bass always plays right wing.

Didn't Smith also play wing last year?

Bass could also always be a 13th forward. So he's in competition with Smith, Winchester and Shannon for a spot. Zach and Jessie are playing well enough, but Shannon is inconsistent as a scoring forward and too small and light to grind it out, so I'd rather see Bass in his spot anyway.

GelatinousMutantCoconut said...

I meant that Bass ALSO plays right wing, not ALWAYS