Saturday, March 22, 2008

Neil in, Robitaille out

According to the Ottawa Sun, Chris Neil is back and ready to play tonight, which leaves Randy Robitaille as the odd man out. I would like to draw everyone's attention to my post from Thursday, in which I predicted this exact scenario to happen:
I'll start off with Randy Robitaille. He wasn't bad tonight; he was just Randy Robitaille. Which means he shied away from all physical play, was soft on the forecheck, controlled the puck well but was unable to make time and space that he needs to make plays. When he plays alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, those two are rendered less effective in the offensive zone because the opposing team can allow Robitaille some leeway and focus on checking Heater and Spezza more. And in the first period especially, it was evident that the two marquee guys on that line were getting frustrated. Robitaille's role on this team is quickly diminishing with the acquisition of [Cory] Stillman, and I have a feeling he might be the odd-man out when Chris Neil is ready to return.
Okay, that's enough of me patting myself on the back. Although I am impressed with myself...

I've been pretty hard on Robitaille all season, although not nearly as hard as Jeremy Milks over at Black Aces. I disagree with the harsh tone of Milks in his most recent post, though:
Randy Robitaille has been coasting with the Senators all season long, showing no physical commitment or emotion or doing anything to diminish his reputation as a wallflower.
Bryan Murray went out of his way to bring in Robitaille, a local boy, from Russia and Murray even gave him a chance to play on the first line with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.
Yes, Robitaille is a coaster. Yes, Murray--and John Paddock before him--gave Robitaille every opportunity to succeed in great roles. But that was a failing of both coaches in properly assessing Robitaille's skill set, and coming to the realizations that it does not fit in anywhere on this team. He never really appeared like he fit in with the other players, and in post-goal celebrations he always seemed to be on the outside looking in.

His game is very well-suited to the European style, and he would have flourished had he stayed in Russia. I have a feeling he'll be missing a lot of time leading up to and in the playoffs, and I think the team will be better for it. But that's not a shot at Robitaille; it's just a statement of fact. He's a middling player who can do time in the NHL, but can't be counted on for sustained production. Best of luck to Ropes, but I think his time has run out with the Sens.
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