Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And the line juggling begins anew

According to TSN, Craig Hartsburg--in his desperate mission to get his team to wake the shit up--has resorted to the old tactic: Split up the CASH Line. I'm not trying to suggest it's a bad idea, because it's not like they were producing anyway, but it's just so cliché.

He did complement the move, however, with a 12-minute (that's it) bag-skate to try and get their attention. And his reasoning was sound:

"I think the fact for all three of them, and I don't like to talk about money and all that, but they are paid a lot of money," Hartsburg noted. "They should be able to make players around them better and in the past they have counted on the three of them playing together to carry the team. From what I have seen so far that's not going to happen."

He's got to do whatever he can to get things going. Although his complaint was that some players aren't working hard enough, I would argue that a lot of players are working incredibly hard--they just aren't working smart. Daniel Alfredsson is working his ass off, but he's using up so much energy in the defensive end that he's got next to nothing left when they get offensive. Jason Spezza is working as hard as I've ever seen him, but he's not taking shots for himself or taking advantage of the chances he generates. I haven't been impressed with Dany Heatley's play the last few games, so maybe the 'no-work-hard' comments were directed his way, but he's definitely frustrated.

The line combinations didn't include Alfredsson, Jesse Winchester, or Chris Neil, but were as follows in practice (according to TSN's Ice Chips):

Heatley - Kelly - Foligno
Zubov - Fisher - Donovan
Ruutu - Spezza/McAmmond - Vermette

You may notice that the pairing of Ilya Zubov and Mike Fisher stayed together, but were playing with Shean Donovan on the right wing. I think that, if the CASH Line is to be split, let's throw Alfie out there with Zubov so the youngster has someone to set up.

Still, no matter how hard a player is working, the offensive specialists need to score goals. If I could offer my two cents to the situation, I think a benching might be in order. But I'm not talking about a punitive benching, I'm talking constructive benching. Take a player like Antoine Vermette; he's working as hard as ever, but not getting results. It's not because he's somehow lost the skills that he scored 92 goals in the previous four seasons for, it's because he can't catch any breaks, and isn't playing smart. So scratch him for a night, ask him to sit in the press box and take notes on the way the plays are developing, and how/where his teammates would be better suited to be playing.

Explain to the media that it's not an attempt to punish Vermette or to wake him up, because he--along with most of the Senators--already realize that they have to play better and score more. Rather, it's an attempt to give Vermette an idea of the greater scope of the way the team is playing, and hopefully see some simple change that he has to make in his game in order to rediscover his ability to score goals (even if it is only 20 on the season).
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