An Ode to Pascal Leclaire
With Monday's announcement that he is retiring from hockey, former Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire now officially cements his legacy in the NHL and his place in Ottawa Senators history. The following is a retrospective on the lore of Pascal Leclaire.
The saddest short story ever written for Sens fans can be found on page 179 of the team media guide. It's the list labelled "All-Time Roster: Goaltenders/Gardiens de But." [...] WARNING: if you're a weeper, grab a tissue. Or a towel.
It reads: Mike Bales, Tom Barrasso (10 years too late), Don Beaupre, Daniel Berthiaume, Craig Billington, [Ray] Emery, Mike Fountain, [Martin] Gerber, Dominik Hasek (wonky groin edition), Jani Hurme, Mark LaForest, Simon Lajeunesse, [Patrick] Lalime, Darrin Madely, Mike Morrison, Martin Prusek, Damian Rhodes, Peter Sidorkiewicz, [Ron] Tugnutt, Steve Weeks.
These were the words of James Duthie in an April 2008 article for TSN. After adding Alex Auld and Brian Elliott to the list, the Senators decided enough was enough (for the twentieth time) and made a move to end their goalie graveyard reputation by acquiring former sterling prospect and 8th-overall pick (2001) Pascal Leclaire from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Leclaire was supposed to be the answer to years of goaltending failures in the city of Ottawa.
Not that it was Pascal's fault. You could never question his effort. Save for Dominik Hasek, Pascal Leclaire was arguably the most talented goalie ever to grace the Senators organization. Only a season prior to the trade he had put up nine shutouts with a .919 save percentage and 2.25 goals-against average on a non-playoff team. He had incredible reflexes that were a treat to watch. The problem was that he could never stay healthy.
In two seasons, Leclaire played a grand total of 48 regular season games with the Ottawa Senators. For someone considered a surefire starter, this would not be very many games for one season, let alone two. It's a more telling statistic than his record (16-21-3), save percentage (.894), or shutouts (zero). When he played well he had very little run support. He lost his job to Brian Elliott. Twice. Despite being healthy at the time, he only started two of six playoff games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010. And he was injured. A lot.
If his hip/knee/groin/head/psyche could have ever stayed healthy, Pascal Leclaire might have had a far more noteworthy career. Instead, he'll likely be relegated to little more than a footnote ten years from now. Because, you see, the draft pick that came with Leclaire turned out to be some guy named Robin Lehner. Sadly, in the end that will probably be Leclaire's legacy.
Top 5 Pascal Leclaire Senators Moments:
March 4, 2009: The Ottawa Senators pull off a not-quite blockbuster trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Filled with confidence in rookie Steve Mason, the Blue Jackets trade former future franchise goaltender Pascal Leclaire along with a second-round draft pick to the Senators for centre Antoine Vermette. It is a move applauded by many in the hockey media, with TSN analyst Pierre McGuire declaring that Leclaire is the best goaltender the team has ever had.
Mike Fisher Hits Leclaire in the Face
November 23, 2009: Centre Mike Fisher attempts a routine dump-in that deflects off a stick and careens directly towards the bench and into the face of an unsuspecting Pascal Leclaire. The goalie, who was on the bench thanks to a minor lower body injury two days earlier, breaks his cheekbone and promptly goes onto the injured reserve list for a month.
Mike Fisher Hits Leclaire in the Face ...Again
January 14, 2010: Mike Fisher, noted goalie face destroyer, takes morning practice seriously and drills a shot directly into the head of Pascal Leclaire. The goalie suffers a concussion and is out until February, when Brian Elliott is pulled in a game against Toronto. After playing one period, Leclaire does not go into the net again until March.
The Matt Carkner Scores in Triple Overtime Game
April 22, 2010: In the first playoff start of his NHL career, Pascal Leclaire looks a little bit shaky in the first 60 minutes. Then comes overtime. Nervous Senators fans watch in amazement as Leclaire comes out with confidence they have never before seen, attacking pucks instead of letting them hit him. He begins punching pucks out of midair with his blocker even if they sail wide (take that, Tom Barrasso) and shuts the door for 47 extra time minutes before Matt Carkner scores and steals Leclaire's thunder. With 56 saves, it goes down as Leclaire's best game in a Senators uniform and arguably one of the best single playoff goaltending performances ever for the franchise.
That One Time, in Binghamton
February 26, 2011: After suffering a lower body injury in pregame warmup in December, goaltender Pascal Leclaire is sent to the Binghamton Senators on a rehab assignment. In his first AHL game in nearly five years, Leclaire stops 30 of 32 shots before losing in a shootout on a goal scored by notorious sniper Kenndal McArdle (he of 44 goals in 220 career AHL games). After only one game, Leclaire mysteriously does not play another professional game.
Honourable mentions: Leclaire attempts to destroy bench door after being pulled in Dallas. Cory Clouston complements Leclaire by saying "It's good for him to show some emotion." Leclaire attends tennis match, is not hit in face by ball. Leclaire wins four of first six games with Senators. Pascal Leclaire retires.