Struggling Canadiens Acquire Scrivens From Oilers
Goalie Ben Scrivens got a great, though slightly belated, Christmas gift: he’s back in the NHL.
Scrivens was acquired by the Montreal Canadiens when the holiday roster freeze ended early Monday in exchange for beleaguered power forward Zack Kassian, ending Scriven’s four-month exile to the American Hockey League. Scrivens was recalled to the Canadiens, who have been struggling with star Carey Price still out indefinitely with a suspected knee injury, and Dustin Tokarski was sent back to the AHL.
That gives the Canadiens an Ivy League tandem of Scrivens, a Cornell graduate, and Mike Condon, who graduated from Princeton, as they head into the spotlight of Winter Classic outdoor game on New Year’s Day trying to shake a slump that has seen them lose 10 of their past 11 games.
With no timeline for Price’s return, Scrivens adds low-cost NHL experience to the Canadiens crease.
The 29-year-old has appeared in 129 games over six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings and Oilers, compiling a 42-56-17 record, seven shutouts and a .905 save percentage.
Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Maple Leafs after his college career ended in 2010, Scrivens posted a .910 save percentage in 32 games over two seasons in Toronto before being traded to the Kings as part of the deal that sent Jonathan Bernier to the Maple Leafs. Scrivens had a .931 save percentage in his first season in Los Angeles, but was traded before it ended to Edmonton, where he finished the 2013-14 season with a .916 in 21 games before a miserable 2014-15 that included a .890 save percentage.
Beat out by new acquisitions Anders Nilsson and Cam Talbot in training camp, Scrivens was sent to the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL, where he was 2-6-1 with a .893 save percentage this season. But as is almost always the case with goaltending, numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Scrivens shared some insights into his season with Puck Daddy writer Joshua Cooper two weeks ago, including not being able to play for three weeks after clearing waivers because of work visa issues:
“After almost a month when you play one game, it’s really tough to stay sharp and keep that rust off,” Scrivens said. “Practices are – and it’s not here it’s every team I’ve played on – practices are usually pretty non-game specific I guess. You don’t have a lot of game realistic scenarios that come out of practice, so it’s tough to keep that going.”
Scrivens also admitted he could have done a better job dealing with the shock of being back in hockey’s minor leagues after signing a two-year, $4.6-million NHL contract in 2014, but after a miserable first two months in Bakersfield that included sporadic starts and a .827 save percentage, Scrivens has gone 2-2-1 with a .941 save percentage in his last five starts in December leading up to this trade.
“Obviously I didn’t do a great job personally. It’s something you learn off of,” Scrivens told Puck Daddy of his start back in the AHL. “I would do things differently in hindsight, but I had never gone through anything like that before. You just do the best you can and from those mistakes you learn lessons.”
Whether Scrivens is the answer to Montreal’s recent struggles remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt he brings added experience, with Condon getting his first taste of the NHL and in just his third full season as a professional. Scrivens excelled behind a stingy Kings defense that went on to win a Stanley Cup in 2014, and certainly isn’t the first goalie to struggle behind a porous Oilers system before this season.
Scrivens is expected to back up Condon Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning and could play as early as Tuesday against the Florida Panthers. he wasted little time getting to work with his new goaltending coach, Stephane Waite:
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 28, 2015
The Canadiens should offer a lot better defensive support than he had in Edmonton, and for Montreal the move comes with little risk. They were able to move on from Kassian, who was coming out of the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program after breaking his foot in an early morning car crash in October, and add goaltending experience at little cost. Scrivens will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and the Oilers are reportedly retaining 24 per cent of what’s left on his $2.3-million salary this season. Scrivens may even help the Canadiens prepare for their upcoming game at Gillette Stadium after playing an outdoor game in California on Dec. 20.
Thoughtful and insightful, Scrivens, who started his career as a Francois Allaire disciple, has certainly never hesitated to share ideas on the position with young goaltenders through InGoal Magazine, including taking questions about his unique glove position in this Ask A Pro segment, and a big spread in the January 2013 edition of the digital magazine that expanded on his philosophy.