Monday, October 20, 2008

Line juggling

In my opinion, the beginning of the regular season is the best time to juggle and experiment with the team's lines to find previously unknown chemistry, and make a statement to underperforming players. Today, according to the Ottawa Citizen (via SensChirp), head coach Craig Hartsburg has expressed his frustration by doing exactly that. The lines, according to that Citizen article, are as follows:

Nick Foligno-Jason Spezza-Jesse Winchester
Dany Heatley-Mike Fisher-Daniel Alfredsson
Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Antoine Vermette
Shean Donovan-Dean McAmmond-Chris Neil/Christoph Schubert

Notice a few things in particular:
  • A big promotion for Nick Foligno, who was on the third line for most of the weekend.
  • A message to Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley that their pairing isn't invulnerable, and they're going to have to prove they can compete every night to play together.
  • A renewed call on Mike Fisher, who is with Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson, to realize his importance is not just in physicality, but also in producing offence.
  • Memo to Chris Neil: Get back to what you were doing in the pre-season, because 0 points and -4 on the season just isn't good enough--especially if he's not drawing penalties or making a physical impact (as Black Aces pointed out).
  • Christoph Schubert may step back to defence, but that's only speculation at this point. Being benched for two games is certainly a wake-up call, as would the scratching of whichever defenceman might make room for Schubert (likely Brian Lee, who's had some weaknesses exposed).

I guess Hartsburg wanted to prove he's not afraid to make changes if things aren't working. Considering how coaches in the past have often been afraid to do so, it's a nice thing to see.

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