Memorial Archives

Giving Kelly His Groove Back
posted Mar 15, 2006 at 01:51PM

Perhaps one of the real eye-openers of compiling the goal and point scoring efficiency factors were the bottom basement numbers of Kelly. It is not just that he has the lowest numbers of all regular playing forwards, it is that they are just barely above McGratton's and Schubert.

Now anybody who actually sees Kelly play, knows he is a much better player than these statistics would indicate.

One of the reasons is that Kelly, a natural left winger has been forced to play center. (Eaves is a RW. Varada is a LW, so Kelly gets the short straw) The problem of course is that the team has not put him in the right place, with the right complementary players. When that happens it doesn't matter who you are, or how good you are, your prodcution is going to suffer.

Consider some high profile examples. Remember Bondra? With Smolinksi and Alfredson he was part of our top line and a key reason why we ended a slump and were winning games going into the play-offs. Then Jacque Martin inserted White, bumped Bondra down to play his wrong wing, and rotated Spezza and Vermette out of the line-up. We scored one goal in our four losses, getting shut out three times.

Consider Havlat. At the beginning of the season Havlat was playing his wrong wing (left). He was playing well, but he wasn't scoring goals. Indeed his only goal was a short-handed goal (shades of Vermette). When he came back off his suspenion he was back on right wing and he started to fill the net up. It is not hard to understand why. Havlat likes to rush the puck up along the wing, after he crosses the line he breaks to the centre. When on left wing this breaking to the centre puts the puck on his back hand. When he is on the right wing this keeps the puck on his forehand. Just go back to that Sabres game and check out those highlights.

You want to screw Heatley up? Just put him on the other wing. Suddenly his one timer becomes a non-factor and his statistics would start taking on a much more pedestrian hue. The other team no longer needs $6 million dollar/year defencemen and goal-tenders to stop him. Any average clutch-and-grab Joe will do. (And now you start to understand why we always lost to the Leafs)

Just one more example is Doug Weight. Doug Weight was a non-entity when he first joined the Hurricanes, not scoring a single goal. Why? He was a centre man who was forced to play wing. Results ...nothing. Recently they put him back at his natural postion of center...and he has gotten points in every game since then.

So if this is with players like Bondra, Halat, Weight and Heatly; some of the most skilled players in the league. Any surprise that this wouldn't apply to a young player like Kelly?

It is no wonder that a good chunk of Kelly's points have come on the PK. Kelly the center can play as if he was a winger again. (What ia also happening is that Vermette the winger can play as if he was a centre again) For Vermette the PK allows him to use his main strengths, speed, puck anticipation, and passing to best advantage. Kelly no longer has to worry about reading the situation and play-making, he just has to "react" faster than the other guy.

Check the highlights and watch Kelly's goal against the Thrashers. That was not a center man's goal. It was a pure winger's goal. Knocking the puck loose and streaking down the wing and picking the top corner. And he did it nonchalantly, not like a guy whose efficiency factors are a smidgen above McGrattan's.

Check out that rush against the Lightening when he came out of the box. In a dozen years you will never see a centre like Spezza break off on the wing like that.

Put Kelly on the wing, give him a decent centreman to play with, and those rushes, and goals will become regular viewing.

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