Monday, August 11, 2008

Meet Alex Auld (But Don't Ask About The Belfour Thing)

Two things about Alex Auld that should make Senators fans feel confident:

One - The guy is freaking huge at 6'5”, 221 pounds.

Two - According to the media in Vancouver, he has “nerves of steel”.

The Thunder Bay native (born in Cold Lake, Alberta and lived in England for two years before settling in the Bay as a child) first showed that characteristic when Dan Cloutier got hurt in the Vancouver Canucks first round series against the Calgary Flames in 2004. Coach Marc Crawford decided to yank veteran Johan Hedberg and threw in Auld as a raw rookie to face the likes of Jarome Iginla late in the series with the Canucks season on the line.

Auld pushed the series to the full seven games by holding off the Flames in a classic triple-overtime win in Game 6 before losing Game 7 on a Martin Gelinas overtime power-play goal.

During his 2005-2006 stint as the number one goalie in Vancouver, the Georgia Straight did a piece on Auld focusing almost entirely on his strangely calm demeanour amidst a season gone awry. His teammates had this to say about him:

Mattias Ohlund: "You can't tell … whether he had a great game or a not-so-good game… He still looks the same the next day, and as a goaltender that's obviously one of the things you have to have. After a bad goal or a soft goal, you have to be able to let it go and focus on the next save, and I think he's doing a great job of that."

Trevor Linden: "From day one he's always been a guy who's had a very calm demeanour and he exudes confidence, which I think carries over to the team… He's very calm, and that's a real interesting trait for someone who's as young as him, especially when you look two years ago and he started playoff games and such. And that's a big challenge for a young guy like that. He's solid. He's very mature for his age and he's done a great job for us."


Now that was over two years ago and since then, Auld has bounced around to the Panthers, the Coyotes and the Bruins (where he had a real solid year taking over for an injured Tim Thomas).

The only raised eyebrow is that incident with Ed Belfour in Florida. The explanations given seemed to satisfy no one, although the implications seem to have more to do with Belfour’s legendary drunken and chaotic behaviour than anything to do with Auld, who sounds like he was an innocent bystander in the whole thing.

“During a road trip to Long Island in October 2006, Belfour and Auld were "horsing" around in one of the hotel rooms.

Belfour spilled some water on the floor, and Auld slipped, hit his head and had to be taken to a hospital.

That's the official version of the story. The Panthers otherwise dropped a cone of silence over the incident and not another word leaked, though there were many rumours.

"They have marble floors there and they're slippery," Belfour said. "We were just horsing around with each other. I dropped my bottle of water and we all slipped. Alex hit his head when we fell down. That's the truth of the matter. It was a pure accident. There was no alcohol involved whatsoever."

The good soldier, Auld dummied up.

"I'm not going to discuss anything," he said. "We're going to handle this internally. Everything is fine. I've been out on the ice, so it's not a big deal. There's nothing that happened that's of anyone's concern."

Ottawa Citizen (Allen Panzeri)

"According to two eyewitnesses at the Garden City Hotel in Long Island, where the Panthers were staying, the incident happened after Belfour became disruptive in a nightclub connected to the hotel, causing a commotion when some teammates, including Auld, tried to get him to leave and go to his room.

One witness at the Posh Ultra Lounge said Belfour, 41, was flailing and fighting off his teammates, who were trying to pull him away while apologizing to the club's employees about Belfour.

Belfour called Auld's fall "a pure accident."

- South Florida Sun-Sentinel
You can be sure that if Mother Teresa had spent time as Belfour’s backup, she would have been involved in some kind of mind-blowing scandal as well.

As it stands, the general consensus is that Auld is in Ottawa to back up Martin Gerber. If you compare the two, Auld has had more success with far weaker teams while Gerber’s one claim to fame has been that year in Carolina (2005-2006) where he had an outstanding regular season before getting sick and losing his job to Cam Ward in the playoffs. He’s never really been the same since although he is going to get the chance this season to prove everyone (including myself) wrong.

You can’t help but get the feeling that Auld’s alleged “nerves of steel” may give him an advantage over a slightly fragile Gerber who has the reputation of not even being able to stand the pressure of having a backup capable of pushing him for ice time, let alone being a number one goalie.

Regardless, the pressure is on Gerber, whether he can handle it or not. Auld is a major step down from the talent of Ray Emery, but he looks like a good insurance policy if Gerber falters once again this year.

Welcome to the fishbowl.

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