Too bad signing the veteran goaltender won't do the same for theirs.
|New Senators goalie Dominik Hasek has not been known to be a great teammate. (AP)|
That's not a bad gamble, just a very long shot at best to pay off. Ottawa is a deep and talented team, one that could and maybe should have earned a title or two by now considering that most of the pieces have been there for a while. What has been missing is the knowledge of how to win when it counts.
Unfortunately, Hasek isn't the one to teach team, even if he has made Ottawa believe otherwise. Credit him with showing enough salesmanship skills to get a chance at proving his miserable comeback attempt last season was more the result of unfortunate circumstances than age having caught up with him.
It was a task made easier by Senators general manager John Muckler, who has a close relationship with Hasek from their Buffalo days together, and is more than willing to take a chance since he was among the many who blamed Ottawa's aborted championship aspirations in the past two years on inadequate goaltending.
But it still remains a marriage of convenience rather than substance, one that ultimately won't work. Maybe four or five years ago, when Hasek was still on top of his game, but the future Hall of Famer is less than six months away from his 40th birthday and an impeccable resumé isn't what Ottawa needs to get the job done now.
Leadership is and that's not what Hasek is all about. He proved that last year when he returned to Detroit after sitting out a year. Never the most likeable guy in the locker room, Hasek created a season-long distraction for the Red Wings when he ended his retirement and made a pariah of Curtis Joseph. More importantly, he failed to live up to expectations even when he was healthy.
And Hasek was only able to play 14 games, during which time he looked extremely ordinary and un-intimidating -- not particularly surprising since any athlete who had taken a year off in his late 30s would. And there's no reason to believe that he will improve with age even if his ego is driving him to try.
The reality is that Hasek is no longer first-rate merchandise, physically or emotionally. He began talking about looking forward to the day he returned to his native Czech Republic several seasons ago when he was still with the Sabres, and in fact announced he was quitting after the 2000 season before changing his mind. At least he stayed away for a season after his retirement from Detroit.
But the time off couldn't repair the physical problems, particularly in the groin, that have been hampering him for the past half-decade. He had surgery to repair the injury that shut down his season, and you have to question just how effective he can still be.
If it is enough to help fans recall the days when he was winning Vezina and Hart trophies, the Senators will be delighted. Ottawa has a great lineup with some of the league's most explosive scoring power, very good defense and depth, much of it drafted and developed by the organization. And Hasek, if he can still provide reliable goaltending, will give the team a psychological boost at the very least.
That's what he did when the Red Wings won two years ago. Hasek did not have a brilliant season for Detroit, but he was solid enough to give a very good team a chance to win. The Senators are looking for the same.
"Games are so close that when you give up a bad goal, it becomes really hard to win," said new coach Bryan Murray. "It's a mental thing, but it's an important part of the game and you have to deal with it."
The Senators did by giving up on Patrick Lalime, whose weak play during a first-round playoff lost to Toronto in April made him a convenient scapegoat. Both Muckler and Murray said it would have been nearly impossible for the team to move forward with their former goaltender, who was a victim of the postseason purge that saw longtime coach Jacques Martin and center Radek Bonk sent away in an effort to change the team's chemistry.
The irony is that Ottawa sent Bonk to Los Angeles at the draft, where the Kings flipped the center to Montreal for young goaltender Mathieu Garon, who has spent the past two seasons as Jose Theodore's understudy and is considered by most scouts to be ready for prime time in the NHL. He's someone with a lot of upside, something the Senators can't say about Hasek.
But at least Hasek came cheap. And as a new economic era dawns in the NHL, that at least makes him worth the risk.