Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Is Clouston Thinking?

After yet another stunted offensive game by the Senators where they again managed only 19 shots and a few limited scoring chances in a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, you have to wonder what coach Cory Clouston is thinking by benching one of his best offensive defenseman for a second straight game.

Of course we're talking about Erik Karlsson who for some reason is the one feeling the wrath of the coach after the entire team went into a tailspin the previous week due to very understandable circumstances.

Not many people questioned the decision due to the fact that the Senators escaped with a win against the Kings despite struggling offensively for much of the game. Clouston didn't want to change things up for Wednesday night's tilt against the Stars but it backfired on him.

The Senators weren't getting scoring chances or shots because they didn't have the puck in the offensive zone. The reason for that is because they couldn't get there with the puck and they couldn't score on their few power-plays, two things that Karlsson is best at. Even his detractors would have to admit that.

Look at it this way -  going into the Dallas game, Karlsson was fifth in team scoring and second among rearguards with 11 points. He's tied with Sergei Gonchar for goals and tied for the team lead in game winning goals. He leads the defense in shots on goal and consistently gets the puck through the neutral zone.

Yet he was eating popcorn Wednesday night while the Senators trudged their way to 19 shots and one fluke goal by Ryan Shannon that was a softie let in by Andrew Raycroft.

It didn't make sense to sit him against L.A. and it made even less sense to sit him against Dallas. There was nothing so wrong with his game that couldn't be solved with a meeting and a stern reminder to stay away from bad penalties. Benching the kid was an overreaction.

In short, Clouston didn't ice the best possible team and the Senators looked haggard in a snoozer of a home loss.

So what's the reasoning here?

The Senators were flying on all cylinders but were put into upheaval by the tragedy that everyone already knows so much about. They had a hard week on the road and most, if not all, of the media and fans were very forgiving, realizing that the three straight losses were not indicative of what this team is usually capable of. In a sense, it was a mulligan week. It was time to move on.

But instead of keeping the course steady, Clouston scrambled the lines that were responsible for five wins in six games before the slump took hold. He split up the successful pairing of Jason Spezza with Alexei Kovalev and with Karlsson now sitting, has inexplicably put Sergei Gonchar back on the left side on the power-play even though that pairing with Karlsson on the left was working so well previously.

Doesn't make sense.

Surely, reason will prevail here and Karlsson will be inserted into the lineup for the game against the Penguins on Friday afternoon. If and when Karlsson doesn't work miracles and single-handedly win the game for the Sens, people will be on his case even more, especially if the very effective David Hale is the one who has to sit. Tough situation for the kid no matter how you look at it.

But you won't win a lot of games in the NHL if you're sitting one of your best weapons, no matter what kind of point you're trying to make by doing it.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars - Dallas 2 Ottawa 1

1. Pascal Leclaire
2. Ryan Shannon
3. Chris Campoli


Watching Nick Foligno suffer through the early part of the season has been nothing but a downer for everyone, but, as always, Foligno is his own worst enemy.

Seeing the decisions he makes on the ice kind of lets you in on his mindset. It's clear that in his head he thinks he's a skilled top six forward but the evidence suggests otherwise. Breaking down the left side in the second period, Foligno had a chance to shoot the puck at Andrew Raycroft but instead decided to do a spinarama and try to feed the puck blindly to the slot. His feet and hands aren't the quickest and of course the gambit failed and a scoring chance was lost. This type of thing happens all the time to Nick. If he would have been thinking straight he would have snapped that shot away even though he was to the outside and taken a chance that someone would be there for the rebound.

In a strange way, Foligno skates and carries the puck a lot like Spezza, hunched over with the puck way out in front of him, but he just doesn't have the speed or the hands to make those creative plays. He should be grinding out a north/south groove in the ice towards the net at all times and the less he handles the puck the better. I don't know because I've never seen it up close, but it almost seems like Foligno's stick is way too long. Maybe it's just the impression I get because of his skating style, but a guy like him should borrow Ryan Shannon's stick for a game and keep that puck close to his feet instead of hanging it out there on a broken yo-yo string like he always does. If he wants to have a long career, he's going to have to completely change the way he plays. He should realize he doesn't have the foot speed to be a scoring winger and start playing a greasy type of game. The sooner the better.......

.....The NHL is getting it right big time by allowing cameras to follow the Oilers around this season for the TSN show Oil Change.  You can learn more about life in the NHL by watching a single show than you can watching years and years of hallway player interviews conducted by journalists content with asking questions no one cares to hear the answers to.  It’s also interesting to watch the show for Sens fans as they can get a glimpse of Ladislav Smid, a player that was part of a trade package headed to Ottawa before being nixed by Dany Heatley. He’s a big, steady player on the ice and a bit of a jokester off of it, having the kind of personality that would fit into any locker room. Even coach Tom Renney can’t help but laugh (most of the time) at “Laddy”.  And from what we hear, Smid was happy the trade was nixed because he likes life in Edmonton. Now that’s a player you want to keep around..…. If you believe these sorts of things, talk is that Dustin Penner is available at the right price (well, duh). Could Bryan Murray still have interest after not getting him in the ill-fated Heatley trade with Edmonton? It would be hard to fit his salary on the Senators unless they moved someone like Milan Michalek for him, who’s signed for two more years than Penner at a near identical salary. Not sure that would be a good trade for Ottawa but it's something to chew on….. Okay, geez, I'm always poking fun at hockey rumour blogs and their ilk, but can I start one of my own, just this once? How about Nick Foligno and Brian Lee for Andrew Cogliano? Ottawa could sure use some more speed in that lineup and you can almost see Foligno in an Oilers jersey if you squint a little.....

.....Prediction: Bryan Murray won’t find a taker for Brian Lee, will put him on waivers and watch him clear and wonder why he kept him on the NHL roster for so damn long for no damn reason…… Will anyone want Doug Weight at the trade deadline?  You just know Weight doesn’t want to end his career playing for the miserable Islanders. He’d be an interesting fit on either the Vancouver Canucks or San Jose Sharks as a part-time veteran role player. One of those guys like Dave Andreychuk with the Lightning, you know, “let’s win for Dougie” type of thing. It seems both the Sharks and the Canucks are so close but they need an emotional element to put them over the top. I’m not saying its Doug Weight who will do it, but they need more to motivate them than being called underachievers year after year. They need something or someone to rally around to push them over the top. Otherwise, it looks like Detroit is again the team to beat in the West, maybe in the whole NHL. Their rallying cry? One more Cup for Nick Lidstrom, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood before they retire.


Anonymous said...

Lots to chew on here.

I'm a Karlsson fan, but do you really think he would have been the difference maker tonight? I don't know, I just think that the whole team looks a bit off.

When your best players aren't playing at the top of their game, you won't win a lot in today's NHL.

Penner for Michalek? No thank you. We'd be acquiring an asset that nobody wants, for an asset that many like. I also don't think that Penner would help us much. Not a fan of his.

Cogliano for Foligno and Lee? I wouldn't take Cogliano for Foligno, straight up. Foligno's the type of winger that we need. He's 22, let's help him find his game. He has game.

Seems odd that we would covet assets that the worst team in the league doesn't want.

But seriously, all trade rumours aside, I just don't see this team reaching its potential unless our top guys are clicking consistently. That's the puzzle that needs solving.

What's the solution to that?

The Dutch Treat said...

Jeremy, I may be alone here, but can you explain to me what Filip Kuba has brought to this team? I mean, it isn't defensive play, as his minus rating would attest to. It's not his PP prowess. He has one assist there (and for some reason has taken the right side away from Gonchar...). And it's not a gritty, physically sound defensive game, as he's soft as a marshmallow and looks slow and lost out there.

SO WHY IS HE STILL IN THE LINE-UP?!? I don't buy the "he'll need a few games" argument. This loafer decided to take a few more games AFTER HE WAS CLEARED TO PLAY because he wanted to "be sure".

This team's slide has corresponded directly with his insertion into the line-up. Karlsson was, and is, at his best when he is paired up with someone he trusts. First it was Sutton, now it is Hale.

Dump Kuba and reunite Hale and Karlsson and I GUARANTEE this team finds its groove again.

Anonymous said...

What game were you watching? Wasn't it a 2-1 game...

Jeremy Milks said...

Whoops, it was 2-1. Had the boxscore open to the Kings game. The dangers of blogging late and distracted... it happens.

Anonymous said...

I disagree, EK has been nothing short of brutal this year. Full stop.

I saw him play in Toronto and in Buffalo and have watched many games on TV - EK has had waaaay too many giveaways and has turned the puck over way too often. Sitting him for a game or 2 isnt a bad thing, especially the way the sens have been playing as of late.

Oman said...

Have to agree with Dutch Treat on this one.

Trade Kuba for a bag of pucks and get Hale back with Karlsson.