Ray Emery is quite the troubled soul these days. His tirade at the end of Thursday’s pre-game skate followed by a lame excuse for being late to Friday’s practice was, to put it lightly, very childish. The fact that Senators head coach John Paddock sent him home from the rink sulking like a disappointed pre-teen schoolgirl instead of a pro hockey player is just another nail in his coffin. The organization has simply had enough of Emery’s absurd antics and if he isn’t careful he’ll go right off the deep end into NHL anonymity.
Call it a distraction, call it flamboyant over-zealousness. Whatever it is, it’s not making his teammates very happy. The stories are stacking up like something out of that horrible TMZ show – everything from his road rage to his wardrobe to his recent noticeable and ludicrous lack of effort at practice, there’s always a story with ‘Rageaholic Ray’. Nobody wants to hear a pro hockey player whine, and even though Emery may not be verbally whining, he is certainly showing ridiculous immaturity through his actions.
To his credit, he did respond to Friday’s fiasco by showing up to practice early on Saturday morning in order to work with goalie coach Eli Wilson. While that may have calmed the stormy seas just a little bit, rest assured the media buzz heading into Saturday night’s game against the Washington Capitals was still focused on Emery’s attitude problems as opposed to Martin Gerber continuing his great play or how to contain Alex Ovechkin. Having the reputation of a goalie with on and off-ice problems is the worst thing that can possibly happen. You’re nothing but a nuisance, a scab that won’t heal, a festering wound.
In Emery’s defense, there’s a valid reason why he’s been so visibly upset this season. It is said that no goalie should ever lose his starting job due to an injury, yet that’s exactly what has happened. That would tear up any goalie inside and out, no matter what kind of mental framework the player has. Part of his frustration comes from his inability to perform at last year’s level, as Emery is only 5-3-3 with an 89.1 save percentage and a mediocre 2.88 goals-against average this season. He started the season 2-0 with big wins over Florida and Atlanta but dropped his next three decisions to Washington, Buffalo and Philadelphia. Those three losses were key chances to win key games for his team, yet he was unable to perform. In 12 games, Emery has allowed four goals in five of them…not very starter-like. It’s a frustrating time when capable goalies cannot come through for their teammates, so his unhappiness is a normal reaction - thrashing about and swinging a stick around at the end of a practice is not.
Obviously Martin Gerber’s incredible and unexpected play this season coincided with Emery’s injuries and inconsistency, making it virtually impossible to bench Gerber for anything more than two games. The Swiss goaltender is now 19-6-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average and a 92.0 save percentage. Since being pulled on December 1st against the Rangers after allowing three goals on 12 shots, Gerber has gone 6-2-0 and didn’t allow more than three goals in any game until Saturday’s 8-6 loss to the Capitals.
Speaking of Saturday’s high-scoring affair, you can read a lot into the Emery debacle through coach Paddock’s actions, or lack thereof. His decision not to pull Gerber after allowing Daniel Alfredsson’s shorthanded goal halfway through the 2nd period could easily be seen as a disciplinary action against Emery. And when things went from bad to terrible after Nicklas Backstrom scored with three seconds remaining in the period, making the score 5-2, Emery sill remained on the bench. In any other situation there would have certainly been a goalie change to start the third.
Beyond the loss to the Capitals, it’s honestly more that Emery’s recent benching is a result of cause and effect more than a bad attitude. He’s inconsistent and Gerber is playing stellar hockey. And whether it’s due to the injuries or a wretched character, Emery is just not playing the same as last year. Sure, he may believe he deserves a chance to take back the starting status, but we all know it’s not what he did for the Senators last year, but what he is doing right now. “What have you done for me lately?” is thrown around all the time, so he’s handling the situation in the worst possible way – stick tirades and tardiness is flat out immaturity and selfishness.
Overall, Emery’s current lack of a work ethic is like a mental sickness that can cause career suicide. Not only can he feel it internally, but he knows it’s happening and that it’s noticed by other players and teams, yet he has to play through it anyways. It can also possibly infect other players, so the only thing that can be done to stop the spread of this “sickness” is to quarantine him – or eliminate him.
Like quicksand, once you start sinking, the more you’ll struggle and the further down you’ll go. The best thing for Emery to do at this point is to put up and shut up by working hard and being patient while waiting for an imminent opportunity. Fantasy hockey managers are well advised to drop him like a ton of bricks and never look back.