Feb 25, 2012; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Alex Auld (35) makes a save in the second period against the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Place. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-US PRESSWIRE

The Ex-Panther Factor: Alex Auld

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The Ottawa Senators roll into town on Sunday in a matchup with two of the surprise teams of the NHL this season.  What’s even more surprising about the Senators season is that they’ve been doing it with two former Florida Panther goaltenders, Craig Anderson and Alex Auld.  Andy as he was and is known to many, has carried the bulk of the load this year for Ottawa.  However a recent accident at home which saw him cut a tendon in his hand, has him on the shelf for a bit.  The backup for the Sens Alex Auld, may or may not get a chance to redeem his career which we’ll take a look back on today.

Auld an original second round draft pick of the Florida Panthers in 1999 was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in 2001 for two draft picks that turned into two players that never saw NHL ice (Tuomas Pihlman and John Adams).    Auld put up some very adequate numbers while with the Manitoba Moose and in the 2005-2006 season was thrust into the number one job for the Canucks as Dan Cloutier missed 60 games with a knee injury .  Auld played 67 games for Vancouver, won 33 of them and had a respectable 2.94 GAA and a .902 save percentage.  Numbers that weren’t great, but he wasn’t the reason that the Canucks failed to make the playoffs.

In the summer of 2006 Auld came to the Florida Panthers in “The Trade”, and was looking forward to a fresh start with his new team, and the chance to be the number one goaltender.  The problem for Alex was that everyone (except me) wanted him to help make us forget about Roberto Luongo.  Auld had big skates to fill and a gargantuan amount of pressure on him to be almost perfect every night he played.  His season started off with a bang as the Florida Panthers beat the Boston Bruins 5-3 on opening night, and you had the feeling that he was on his way.  Unfortunately that was probably the highpoint of Auld’s career for Florida and things spun downhill for the young netminder.

He would miss 22 games that season with a knee injury as the Panthers had to rely on the wonky back of veteran Ed Belfour.  Belfour at one point in the season would start 27 games in a row, and more than proved his value.  Craig Anderson was Belfour’s backup while Auld was on injured reserve.  Auld would play a total of 27 games in his one season for the Panthers winning only seven while losing 13, plus another five losses in overtime.  His GAA was a hefty 3.34 and his save percentage was a forgettable .888.  There are some who said that Auld was rushed back from his knee injury and may not have been fully healed when he did return.  He did look awkward on many nights, and Jacques Martin pulled Auld frequently at the first sign of struggle.

Auld after a very decent season in Vancouver, came to Florida and had to replace a local “hero”, hurt himself, and lost the confidence of his coach and most likely his team.  He found himself in Martin’s dungeon, and was not resigned over the summer becoming a free agent.  I firmly believe that Martin “broke” Auld, ruined his confidence, and his career has been mediocre to poor since he left town.

Auld would travel to six different cities to try and find his game again.  Boston, Phoenix, Ottawa, Dallas, the New York Rangers, Montreal and Ottawa again.  His most productive season since leaving Florida was in 2007-2008 with the Bruins when he went 9-7-5 in purely a back up role.  In the past two seasons he has played a combined 30 games winning only six.

A very tough road for the 31 year old netminder who has never been the same since leaving Vancouver.  I was listening to an analyst on Tuesday talk about Ottawa and their goaltending situation.  They had Robin Lehner in the minors who has been recalled, and recently traded for Ben Bishop whom they acquired from the St. Louis Blues.  Not a huge vote of confidence for Auld, but in his defence, he has to play.  There is no way that Auld can be in game shape with such minimal playing time not only this year, but in the previous seasons as well.  He’s rusty.  His teammates don’t know if they can trust him, and his coaching staff probably has little faith in him as well.

A tough spot for anyone to be in, and even though he’s still in the NHL you get the feeling that at 31 years old, his days may be numbered.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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Tags: Alex Auld Ben Bishop Craig Anderson Ed Belfour Florida Panthers Jacques Martin Panthers Trade Roberto Luongo

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