Thursday, May 19, 2016

Impressions of, and questions concerning--G, Robin Lehner

Reprinted with permission from

Goalie--Robin Lehner
DOB:  July 24, 1991 (age, 24)
Draft:  2009, 2nd round (46th overall,) Ott
How acquired:  June 26, 2015 Draft-day trade with Ottawa
Last contract signed:  2014--3yr./$6.675M
Final year of contract:  2016-17, RFA

2015-16 Stats:  21 games, 5-9-5 record, 2.47 goals-against average, .924 save percentage, 1 shutout, 8 penalty minutes

What we wrote preseason:  "Buffalo Sarbes GM Tim Murray was hellbent and intent upon fixing a goaltending situation that had been in a constant state of flux since he came to the Sabres in 2013. [Robin] Lehner was acquired from the Ottawa Senators the morning of the 2015 NHL Draft. Murray, who had drafted the Gothenberg, Sweden native in 2009 (46th-overall,) watched Lehner develop while he was AGM in Ottawa. On June 26th, Murray sent the 21st pick, one of three first-rounders the Sabres had, to the Senators for Lehner and forward, David Legwand and many thought that Murray paid an above-premium price for the 23 yr. old Lehner.

"Murray had seen him lead the Binghamton Senators to the Calder Cup as he was named playoff MVP as a 19 yr. old and Lehner would become the youngest Senator ever to start and win his first NHL game that same season. And he's convinced Lehner is a starting goalie in the NHL. "I think he's a No. 1 goalie. I think he becomes a starter," he said at the draft, then defined what he meant. "When I say a starter or a No. 1 center or a No. 3 defenseman or whatever, I mean on a good team, on a contending team, on a competitive team, on a playoff team."

What we wrote mid-season:  N/A (Injury)

Impressions on his play this year:  There were times Lehner looked invincible and there were times he looked like a rookie, but his intensity was always a constant. He had a steel-eyed glare worthy of a villain in a superhero movie and looked like he was ready to bite the head off of a bat at any moment. Lehner's got the size, the athleticism and unquestioned compete and had himself a pretty good, albeit shortenened, first season in Buffalo as his .924 save percentage and 2.47 goals against average would indicate.

He did come back from his injuries pretty well, all things considered, and one needs to remember that Lehner hadn't gotten into a lengthy routine due to a concussion in February, 2015 and then he was felled by the high ankle sprain barely into the second period of his Buffalo Sabres debut on October 8th. By the time he hit the ice for good on January 15 this season, his workout cycle had been interrupted too much for a full evaluation.

Everyone in the hockey universe is going to point to the first round pick Murray gave up in the trade for Lehner. Immediate reaction from the media called it "larceny," and so it could very well be until Lehner and the Sabres prove otherwise. Perhaps that starts this season.

Questions moving forward:  Can he stay healthy? Will he be able to regain the form he had three years ago when he was considered an elite goalie? Can the Sabres and Lehner channel his intensity? Will the NHL's competition committee reduce goaltender's equipment like they've mentioned lately? How will it affect Lehner, a big-framed goalie who championed the reduction on WGR this past season? At $3.15M in salary this season as a pending RFA, what kind of performance will he put in and how will that affect the cap-hit and term of his next contract?

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