While reading through various Ottawa Senators fan pages and forums, there seems to be a general sentiment that many fans share. They are sick and tired of Matt Murray’s inconsistency and are all aboard the Anton Forsberg train. While it’s easy to fall into a short-term mindset, there are many reasons why Forsberg shouldn’t be given the keys to this team long-term.
Sure, Forsberg has been hot of late, with a .937 save percentage (SV%) in his last five starts. This isn’t the first time he’s stood on his head for an extended stretch, and it won’t be the last. But that still isn’t enough of a reason to keep him around.
Age is just a number, right? Time and time again, goalies in particular can have renaissance seasons in the twilights of their careers. Look at the ageless Henrik Lundqvist or an even better example would be an unheralded goalie like Devan Dubnyk. He bounced around the league on waivers before finding a home in Minnesota, where he put up five straight seasons of solid hockey.
Let’s not kid ourselves, though, those ageless wonders are outliers. For every Dubnyk of the world, there’s a Martin Jones, a goalie who has disappeared with age.
Forsberg is now 29 years old. That’s not quite old, and he might even still be in his prime. However, the Senators aren’t positioned to win a Stanley Cup during his prime. They have a number of holes in their lineup, and even though he is playing well at the moment, it doesn’t mean he will be at top of his game three years from now, which is the soonest that the Senators could compete for a Cup.
Forsberg Lacks Consistency
Sure, he’s been great over the past five games, even through the last 10 games. But there were times earlier in the season that he had trouble getting through the first period.
Through his first eight games of the season, his SV% was .812. In fact, it was a miracle he wasn’t put on waivers. Instead, Murray made his way through waivers, likely because he was the safer bet to make it through, due to his hefty contract.
This touches on the short-term memory fans seem to have, especially with goalies. When they’re hot, you want them in there every night, and you want to sign them to a long-term deal. When they struggle, you want to trade them or send them to the minors. The key is to evaluate them over time, and with Forsberg, the long-term picture isn’t pretty.
This is the same goalie who bounced around the league on waivers last season, seemingly unwanted by most teams. He was regarded as simple goaltending depth, not even as a consistent NHL backup goalie. That might be unfair, but it helps remind everyone what his value could be if he has another inconsistent stretch of hockey.
Forsberg’s Inflated Statistics
Forsberg’s recent hot streak hasn’t just helped the Senators stay in hockey games or improve his trade value, it’s made his season look like an absolute success, regardless of his slow start.
His 2.77 goals-against average (GAA) and .920 SV% are solid but unremarkable, and they are the by-product of a nice five-game stretch of recent play where he has put up a .937 SV%.
To be fair, there’s no reason to diminish his statistics simply because they are inflated by a hot streak. But it points to the bigger picture, that he can be hot and cold, whereas the best goaltenders in the world are more or less consistent throughout the season, with a two or three-game speed bump here and there.
Forsberg’s Value is at an All-time High
This leads directly to my next point. He’s been great lately, and teams that are gearing up for a playoff run need a hot goaltender. His value is as high as it’s ever been, and it could be the highest it ever will be. To risk losing all that value for some hot goaltending down the stretch of an already lost season would be silly.
At this point, he could fetch a second-round pick in next year’s draft, a solid prospect or young roster player. Gaining an asset like that is more important than winning games this season, and if he loses his mojo, he could be worth nothing by next season.
Frank Seravalli has already reported that teams are interested in him, among other players like Nick Paul. His low cap-hit makes him an attractive find for many teams. Furthermore, there will be goalies available in free agency next season, or emerging talents in the system like Filip Gustavsson that could step in next year.
Filip Gustavsson Needs Playing Time
Forsberg isn’t necessarily standing in the way of Gustavsson’s development, that title might belong to Murray. The fact is, the Senators are stuck with him, and unless they want to spend $6.25 million for a goalie stuck in the minors, he will be with the big club. That leaves Forsberg as the expendable one.
If the Senators are serious about Gustavsson’s development and believe he is the goalie of the future, he needs more playing time. He’s already proven himself in juniors, the World Juniors, professionally in the Swedish Hockey League, the American Hockey League, and now has had some growing pains with the Senators. The only way to work through those is to be with the big club, day in and day out, taking NHL-calibre shots in practice, and gaining confidence.
Even if he never develops into the goalie the Senators believe he can be, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later. They could make big moves in free agency or in a trade for a legitimate goalie if they find out what they have in Gustavsson. They could also target a goalie earlier on in the draft if they want to play the long game. Either way, he needs to become a known commodity in the organization, and the only way to figure that out is to make room for him on the roster.
All-in-all, Forsberg was a nice waiver pickup and earned the contract he has today, but let’s not kid ourselves, his value is high now, and he might not ever reach the heights he sits at again. He’s not the goalie of the future, and the Senators would be smart to strike while the iron is hot, and move him for an asset they can use in the future.
Writer and hockey addict from the GTA, covering the Ottawa Senators. Leafs fan from birth, moved to BC to explore the mountains and find the strength to keep cheering. Love talking prospects, potential, and coaching strategies.