Monday, November 27, 2006

White Elephant? C'mon now.

Absolutely not. Say what you want about the performance of Martin Gerber as a Senator this season and what John Muckler and Bryan Murray should do with the embattled goaltender, but I assure you that Ottawa's goaltending tandem will be envied by the All-Star Break. We wouldn't have fiinished atop the Eastern Conference with 113 points last year if we didn't have two serviceable goalies and you will see that this very same situation will get us back in the top half of the playoff picture soon, as well. While Gerber's performance to date has been sub-par, it is far too soon to write off his career in Ottawa. In fact, I still predict that we will be singing his praises before the end of this season and the majority of Hockey Country will eat the words they are muttering while they read this.

Again, I do not argue that Gerber has been a small touch above awful so far this season. But Martin Gerber won 38 games last year, a lot of them by standing on his head and actually stealing wins. He certainly drove our forwards crazy when Carolina won the first two matchups. The same was the case over in Italy when he led the Swiss team to a startling shutout of the supposed powerful Canadians. While one may argue that the expectations for him in both environments was rock bottom, the fact of the matter is that he has the ability to win games and win games when they count. He hasn't done it yet since Opening Night in Toronto, but you will see that Gerber will pull his socks up and steal some games for us soon.

I will also not argue that salaries are irrelevant. I'm completely aware of the amount of money that is sitting on our bench right now as we ride the hot hand oh our 'backup', Ray Emery. Johm Muckler knew we needed a bona fide number one goaltender and he paid what he had to in order to secure the guy we wanted. Our playoff shortcomings have always been in between the iron and Gerber was our solution - our most expensive solution to date. But Bryan Murray does not look at our payroll when he sets the starting lineup for each game. When Ottawa fell into a deep slump, the coach used the guy that had the confidence of his teammates and had the ability to make the big save. As of this moment, that man is Ray Emery. But guess what - at some point in the future, that man will be Martin Gerber. Don't think for a second that Gerber won't fight for his job back.

What I will argue, though, is that I am betting on Martin Gerber to come into his next start hungrier than ever. I hope it is Tuesday night against his old team in Carolina and he shows his coach, his teammates, and his fans that he may still be our goaltending solution after all. If he comes in there and plays lights out hcokey, then we know we have the right guy. If he starts letting in the Nieuwendyks again like he did in his most recent string of games, then I'll join you in calling for his head! In other words, I am calling Martin Gerber's next start THE MOST IMPORTANT GAME OF HIS CAREER! Sound the scary intense music.

I guess my whole point is that I am just a little dismayed at so many fans and even some media that are crying out that Muckler made a terrible move and Gerber is the white elephant on our books. By my count, he still has about 223 games left as an Ottawa Senator, so people can get busy rooting for him to step up his game, or can sit back and complain for the next three years. I choose to drive his bandwagon and will consider letting some of you on when Gerber becomes the number one goalie in Ottawa again.


PS - sorry for the missing game reports over the past few days - I was recovering from my first ever deep fried turkey and WebMD recommends that you sit still for 72 hours in order to come to terms with what you've just put in your body. I'll make up for it this week.


hockeydan said...

I'm afraid I'm with Hockey Country because I just don't see the huge turnaround you see. If you think that Gerber will improve, then I would agree because there is no where to go but up. If you think that he will revert to the way he has played in the past, I think you are just being optimistic.

I would love it if Gerber suddenly played like the guy we thought we were getting, but I have not seen any signs to indicate the transition. To me, the thought that Gerber could begin playing like an AllStar is simply based on name recognition.

Geoff Cheek said...

I know that I stand alone on this one, hockeydan, but not only do I think Gerber would approve (as you point out, there is nowhere to go but up), but I think that he will be among the top goalies in the Eastern Conference going forward. It isn't just name recognition and making assumptions based on his salary. I had the opportunity to watch a lot of Carolina games last year and when Gerber has his positioning in order, he is a lights-out goalie.

He fell into a rut early and received a lot of attention for the first time in his career. I think he will adjust to his new environment and feed off the energy of the city. It sounds like he has been much better in practice and gotten out of the net and is covering more of the net lately, too.

While I don't have much evidence to back up my claim, it is then just my opinion and belief that Gerber will be our go-to guy sometime soon.

On the other hand, and I absolutely hate playing the what-if game, but consider that Muckler initally said that they'd consider bringing Hasek back. Hasek at 500K and Emery at 900K sure would have left a lot of money for one of those two players that people are going crazy over losing, eh? Its far easier to question a GM's decisions four months after they've been made, though, and I still think Muckler took some risks and addressed a need, which is what you need your GM to do.