February 18, 2011
Anderson was traded to the Ottawa Senators this morning for Brian Elliott(notes), who will join Peter Budaj(notes) in an attempt keep the Avs' faint playoff flame flickering. Anderson goes unrestricted this summer; Elliott is a restricted free agent.
In the span of a year, Anderson has gone from a revelation to a castoff in Colorado. Last season was his first as a starter, having excelled as an understudy with the Florida Panthers. The result: 38-25-7 in 71 starts with a 2.63 GAA and 7 shutouts, which should have earned him a Vezina nomination but didn't.
He led the Avs back to the playoffs, posting a 2.62 GAA while facing an average of 39.8 shots per game. His Game 3 51-save shutout performance against the San Jose Sharks stands as one of the best in recent NHL postseason history.
And then this season happened: 3.28 GAA, .897 save percentage, 13-15 record, and below standards play that saw him riding the pine behind Budaj. Earlier this month, he left the team for personal reasons. Now, he's an Ottawa Senators goalie.
Where did Anderson go wrong?
"When you get a few years in the league, you understand a little bit of the mental aspect of the game," Anderson said. "You can only focus on what you can control, and obviously contract matters are out of my control. It's a game; you have fun at it, and the paycheck is a bonus."
It seems as if Anderson is caught in the undertow of the Avs' suddenly dismal season. A man who could seemingly do no wrong most of last season - and who finished in the top 10 voting for the prestigious Hart and Vezina trophies - has been relegated to being the spare goalie at the end of the bench. ...
He refuses to use excuses for his play this season, though he's had knee and groin injuries that seemed to start his slide. "Those injuries are in the past. I'm not having surgery for anything," he said.
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Anderson's agent Justin Duberman said, "Craig is excited to be a part of Ottawa's organization and he's excited for a fresh start."
(And with that, we wonder how Pierre McGuire feels about Craig Anderson.)
With Anderson, the Senators have picked up a player with about twice the experience of Brian Elliott, and one who appears more suited to the role of a number one goaltender. It remains to be seen if last year's success was reflective of his potential or a guy playing over his head, but with Anderson heading to free agency, the Senators get the opportunity of auditioning him this season in order to find out whether or not there's any sense in re-signing him after the year's done.
Obviously, the Senators organization had soured on Elliott. After a large number of opportunities to do so, Elliott was never able to convince the team that he could handle massive playing time in the NHL. He could put together very impressive winning streaks, but then would follow them up with disappointingly poor performances. He was, in summary, unpredictable, and weak goals getting past him would visibly affect the team around him.
The Goalie Guild has a terrific breakdown of Budaj and Anderson that's worth your time. Last season, it looked like he was Steve Young; now, maybe he's the NHL's Scott Mitchell (or really, insert your favorite backup-gets-chance-dazzles-then-bombs example here).