Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Forward Roles Need A Shakeup
With a new coach in town, are we about to see a truly fresh outlook for the organization when it comes to their forward lines? Because let’s face it – the team has been stale in its thinking for too long now, similar to the way it was in Jacques Martin’s final year as a coach in 2004.
Core players on this team such as Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Antoine Vermette and Chris Neil have been pigeonholed, or even typecast by the fans and coaches into roles that either don’t suit them or limits their contributions.
For what seems like years, the team has been trying to force Fisher to be a second line center for Daniel Alfredsson, despite the two of them having little to no chemistry together.
Their failure to click has forced past coaches Bryan Murray and John Paddock to put Alfredsson back with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, leaving Fisher in a sort of no-mans land – is he supposed to score or is he supposed to shut down the other team’s scorers?
Gord Wilson on the Team 1200 this morning made the point that Fisher may be able to excel in a role similar to Anaheim’s Samuel Pahlsson – a top-notch shutdown guy. With Fisher’s size and speed, he could be as effective as Bobby Holik was in his prime winning Stanley Cups for Lou Lamoriello and the Devils.
Wilson also threw in Vermette’s name as a possibility to be the second line center and it struck me that nobody has talked about Vermette as a center for years, even though it’s his natural position.
Why not give Chris Kelly more of a chance to play offense? He already has chemistry with Vermette and a 2nd line of those two with Alfredsson would be formidable at both ends of the rink. (Note: Alfredsson played on a line with Kelly and Nick Foligno today during the morning skate)
Why not throw a gritty forward next to Spezza and Heatley instead of the talented but inexperienced rookie Jesse Winchester? Those two don’t need more talent on that line. What they need is more room to move out there. Either Chris Neil, Jarkko Ruutu or even Shean Donovan could make an impact on that line, even if their statistics don’t merit the promotion.
Sometimes chemistry happens in the strangest circumstances. Maybe Fisher would be better as winger on the top line or maybe Neil scores 20 goals in that slot while driving to the net as a physical distraction.
That sort of scenario would allow a skill player like Winchester to add a little flair to the third line, creating more balance throughout the lineup. Of course, if Winchester proves he belongs on the top unit, all the better.
We all like to classify players as either first, second, or fourth liners, but on the ice, sometimes the right experiment based on out-of-the-paradigm thinking can produce much better results.
It’s too early to tell whether Craig Hartsburg will stick with the status quo or really try to shake things up. Let’s hope he opts for the latter.
For those of you wondering what Alex Auld's newly painted Senators themed mask will look like, you can take a peek here, here, and here.