|New Sens goaltending coach Rick Wamsley worked extensively with Ottawa stopper Pascal Leclaire when both were with the Columbus Blue Jackets (Mark Buckner/NHLI via Getty Images).
When Pascal Leclaire arrives at his second Senators training camp in September, it figures to be a reunion week of sorts.
Among the Ottawa staff who'll greet him at Scotiabank Place — former National Hockey League stopper Rick Wamsley, who was named today as the Senators' new goaltending coach.
Wamsley held the same position with the Columbus Blue Jackets nine years ago, when Leclaire was the eighth overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. They were a team in the Ohio capital until 2006, when Wamsley moved on to an assistant's position with the St. Louis Blues.
In short, there might be nobody better equipped to elevate the game of Leclaire, who battled injuries and inconsistency during his full season as a Senator before turning it up several notches in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"What he has, you can’t teach," Wamsley said of his former pupil in Columbus. "(Leclaire) is extremely quick, he’s really good side to side and he has good hands. What he needs constant reminders about is how to be a goalie, rather than just trying to stop the puck all the time.
"He has the ability to make the unbelievable save like probably no one else can, but what he needs to do is make the easier saves all the time. Sometimes, he puts himself into positions where it’s tough to recover from or tough to play from. So it’s how do we want to best use what he has to become a successful National Hockey League goalie?"
Wamsley agreed injuries, which have plagued Leclaire through much of his five-year NHL career, have hampered the goaltender's development.
"What he has, you can’t teach. (Leclaire) is extremely quick, he’s really good side to side and he has good hands. What he needs constant reminders about is how to be a goalie, rather than just trying to stop the puck all the time. He has the ability to make the unbelievable save like probably no one else can, but what he needs to do is make the easier saves all the time. So it’s how do we want to best use what he has to become a successful National Hockey League goalie?" - Rick Wamsley
"I think he lost a lot of early development when he got hurt at a young age," said Wamsley. "Injuries are tough at any time but especially when you're trying to establish yourself, it adds extra weight to the injury."
While Wamsley's hiring might seem like a move directly intended to boost Leclaire's game, Senators general manager Bryan Murray said it runs deeper than that. Not only has Walmsley worked with goaltenders in two NHL organizations, he also owns a solid 12-year playing resume that included stops in Montreal, St. Louis, Calgary and Toronto.
"We wanted a guy with experience," said Murray. "We thought having a goaltender who played in the league and had a good career … was one of the things that led us to believe that Rick could do a good job here and get the respect and the work ethic back that we really need in our goaltending.
"He's been around the game a long time as a player and a coach. We've got a couple of young guys coming and I felt very strongly that we needed a guy who could teach and provide the information that the young guys in particular need."
Murray did speak with Leclaire before bringing Wamsley on board and said "Pascal endorsed him fully."
"(Wamsley) was very tough on Pascal coming out of junior," said Murray. "The first thing he demanded of Pascal was that he got in better condition. As a junior goaltender, he’d had an outstanding career but to play at the pro level every night was a different level. He needed work. But he felt that Rick was great and ... provided good guidance for him."