Even though he had seen teammates Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly and Jarkko Ruutu pack their bags and leave Ottawa in recent days, Brian Elliott wasn’t completely prepared for what went down on Friday morning.
On the ice warming up for a goalie practice, Elliott was pulled off to the side and informed that he was now a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
“Initial reaction was obviously shocked. You never really think you’re going to get traded. With things going on here in Ottawa obviously there’s going to be some changes,” said Elliott. “I’m definitely excited for the challenge, and change can bring excitement and a different attitude to a season that hasn’t gone the way we thought it would [in Ottawa].”
Elliott experienced a breakout campaign with the Senators in 2009-10, posting a 29-18-4 record and five shutouts while leading Ottawa to a postseason berth, where the team was eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
With that success in their back pocket, the Senators had high hopes heading into the 2010-11 season. For various reasons, things didn’t turn out quite as expected for the club. Ottawa currently sits in 15th place in the Eastern Conference with an 18-30-9 record (45 points), and as a result, the club has been active in shaking up its roster.
“We’ve had, obviously, a lot of questions about that here lately,” Elliott said, referring to the Senators’ struggles. “If we knew what the difference was from last year, we would change it pretty quick. I think we’re all competitive athletes at this level and we all want to win.
“I think it’s good for everybody to get different scenery, and I’m no different. Hopefully that change will be beneficial.”
A goalie who plays without confidence won’t play to the best of his ability. Despite his relatively modest numbers this season in Ottawa (13-19-8 record with a 3.19 goals-against average), Elliott believes he still has the necessary swagger to thrive. As he notes, when the tough times come, a netminder has to have short memory, rely upon his instincts and be ready for the next puck coming his way.
“When you’re not winning, you look for answers in different ways. Through this, I felt I’ve come to the rink with a positive attitude and wanting to get better every day,” said Elliott. “You’ve got to think about every day as a new day, a new opportunity to get better.”
Elliott has yet to personally speak with Joe Sacco, but the Avalanche head coach did mention following Friday’s practice that the team’s starting goalie position would essentially be up for grabs between Elliott and Peter Budaj.
“As the season has gone in Ottawa and in Colorado, it’s kind of been a healthy competition,” said the Newmarket, Ontario native. “Especially as goalies, getting to where we are at this level in the NHL, you only get there by healthy competition and trying to get better every day. If you have guys pushing each other, I think that’s the best for the team.”
The next step for the University of Wisconsin product will be to take care of the normal immigration paperwork that needs to be completed. After that, he’ll be set to join the Avalanche for practice, likely sometime early next week.
Having a familiarity with Denver from his visits during college – and his time spent working a goaltending camp in the city during the summer – Elliott knows a little bit about what the Rocky Mountain Region is all about, and he’s excited to get started with his new team.
“Hopefully a change in environment will help. I’m just really looking forward to it.”