Pascal Leclaire hopes to rebound after two horrid seasons

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for leclaireagain.jpgWhile appearing on The Program Podcast Wednesday, I discussed the Northeast Division and made some (tentative) predictions. When the Ottawa Senators came up, we all agreed that one of the team’s biggest weaknesses will probably be in net.

There’s nothing especially wrong with Brian Elliott, but let’s face it, he’s average at best on most nights. The team might be able to scrape by with the decidedly average* goalie, but deep down, many Sens fans (and probably a few suits) hope that Pascal Leclaire will “figure it out.”

*People assume “average” is an insult, but it’s not meant to be … to a point. Elliott really is making the most of his career and talents, so I don’t begrudge him for being so-so. That just happens to be the only honest way to describe him.

Glass half-full types will point to Leclaire’s breakout season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, when he went 24-17-6 with a 2.25 GAA, a 91.9 save percentage and an outstanding nine shutouts during the 2007-08. They might also point to the fact that he helped the Senators win a ridiculous three-OT game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs. Negative Nancys, however, will call it the “One Year Ken Hitchock Effect,” pointing to Steve Mason’s flash-in-the-pan rookie year and also the fact that Leclaire has been atrocious since then (88.7 save percentage in 09-10 and 86.7 in only 12 games during 08-09).

However you slice it, Leclaire admits that he needs to improve next season. He spoke to the Canadian Press about how he feels about 10-11.

But after having a full off-season to prepare, the native of Repentigny, Que., is back and ready to take another run at proving that he’s capable of being that guy, or at least something close to it.

“I worked hard during the summer and we’ll see what happens,” Leclaire said Friday from Scotiabank Place, where the Senators opened their training camp with medicals and fitness testing. “The injuries — you guys are going to have new questions this year because it’s always the same stuff. I’m going to repeat the same thing all the time. Things happen and I can deal with them as best as possible. It’s a new season every year, you always have to start over and this year’s no different.”

Unlike a year ago, when he was coming off ankle surgery that had kept him out for the better part of eight months leading up to his Ottawa debut, he’s had a full off-season to prepare and is ready to work with Brian Elliott, the player who took over the Senators’ No. 1 role during last season.

“The big thing is to be feeling good on the ice and in the last month or so, speaking for myself, I felt good out there, even if it’s only summer hockey,” said Leclaire.

Well, he’s not exactly promising the world, but this season could be a pivotal one for the highly paid (and highly disappointing) former Blue Jacket. The Senators are banking on Leclaire and Elliott to help them grind their way into the playoffs, so a healthy and focused would increase their chances substantially.

And, really, he can’t be much worse than he was in the last two seasons, right?

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    After acquiring Phaneuf, are Sens now gunning for Drouin?

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin waits for play to resume in the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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    Plenty of smoke coming from the Canadian capital this week.

    After landing Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in a shock blockbuster on Tuesday, there are now reports that Ottawa’s in the mix for disgruntled Bolts forward Jonathan Drouin.

    Two separate TVA reports — one from Louis Jean, one from Renaud Lavoie — suggest that Sens GM Bryan Murray is working to get Drouin out of Tampa Bay. Drouin, the third overall pick in ’13, hasn’t played hockey at all since late January, when he was suspended without pay for failing to report to games for the club’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse.

    The Drouin-to-Ottawa move makes sense on a number of fronts:

    — As Lavoie notes, Murray is always looking to “find those players who quote-unquote ‘nobody wants anymore.'” Such was the case with Kyle Turris, who was acquired by the Sens after a falling out with the Coyotes in 2011. Recently, Turris was asked about the similarities between his situation and Drouin’s, saying the time after his trade request was made public was a “tough, tough go,” but that the opportunity he received with the Sens “saved” him.

    — The rumored asking price for Drouin is believed to be defenseman Cody Ceci, the former first-round pick that partnered with Phaneuf in last night’s loss to Detroit. This, too, would make sense — Ceci, 22, is in his third professional season and progressing nicely, having already matched his career-best in goals. In several ways, he’s like another rumored target in Drouin trade talks:

    Mathew Dumba.

    — Dumba, like Ceci, is a pending RFA still on his entry-level deal. That club controlled contract would be important for the Bolts’ financial situation. Ceci could also be a capable replacement for Lightning d-man Jason Garrison, who on Thursday was ruled out for 3-5 weeks with a lower-body injury.

    And remember, Murray isn’t afraid to make splashy deals. Prior to the Phaneuf trade, he orchestrated the Bobby Ryan move with Anaheim and, a year later, traded then-captain Jason Spezza to Dallas.

    Murray and Yzerman have also connected on a trade once before. In ’13, the Sens sent Ben Bishop to Tampa in exchange for Cory Conacher.

    Bolts lose ‘minute-munching defenseman’ Garrison for 3-5 weeks

    during Game Two of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 6, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.
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    The Tampa Bay Lightning expect defenseman Jason Garrison to miss 3-5 weeks with a lower-body injury.

    Garrison was hurt in Monday’s 5-1 loss to Ottawa. The 31-year-old played just 4:10 of that game, missing the final two periods.

    “That’s a tough one too, because he’s a big minute-munching defenseman for us,” coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “A big body and size.”

    Garrison has just four goals and three assists in 52 games, but he’s third on the Bolts in average ice time (18:23), second in blocked shots (76), and third in hits (69).

    Matt Carle replaced Garrison for Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in Montreal.

    Kadri fined $5K for throat slash gesture at Giordano

    Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs
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    Nazem Kadri‘s “inappropriate gestures” on Tuesday night have left him lighter in the wallet.

    On Thursday, the NHL announced that Kadri has been fined $5,000 — the maximum allowable under the CBA — for making a throat slash gesture at Mark Giordano during Calgary’s 4-3 win over the Leafs two nights ago.

    The incident occurred after Kadri took exception to a heavy Giordano check. While on the bench, the Leafs forward made the gesture, one the NHL has been cracking down on since 2000.

    Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.

    Report: Detroit interested in Columbus d-man Tyutin

    Fedor Tyutin, Ryan White
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    From the Columbus Dispatch:

    The Red Wings had much brass in the building on Tuesday to watch the Blue Jackets play the Islanders in Nationwide.

    GM Ken Holland was there, along with special assistant to the GM Kris Draper, and pro scout Kirk Maltby.

    It’s believed the Red Wings were taking a close look at Fedor Tyutin, who is likely to be dealt by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

    Tyutin, 32, has this and two more years remaining on a six-year, $27 million deal with a $4.5M average annual cap hit. One of the longest-tenured players in Columbus franchise history — he’s spent eight years with the Jackets, and played in both of the teams’ playoff appearances — Tyutin has fallen on hard times this year, and has been made a healthy scratch on a few occasions by head coach John Tortorella.

    Unsurprisingly, Tyutin’s numbers are way down. He’s goalless with just two points through 43 games, and is averaging just 17:47 TOI per night — the lowest total of his career.

    It’s not surprising Detroit’s kicking the tires on Tyutin. D-men Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green are both out of the lineup with knee and groin injuries and, last night versus Ottawa, Danny DeKeyser took a Dion Phaneuf shot to the knee.