What Could Have Been
posted Mar 27, 2006 at 10:17AM
Well, only 11 games left until the playoffs start. We are a little behind the eight ball, as we still need to reintegrate the disabled back into the line-up. The big question marks remain Hasek's health, and how much time will Havlat need to get his timing back.
In the mean time Murray has stated that he will take no extraordinary measures to try to win the President's Trophy. So I guess one should not expect shortened benches or beefed up lines. He will basically go with the four lines as deployed in the past few games. At this stage of the season one can't take too much issue. One can argue that this tack has as much to do with keeping players like Varada happy, and preventing them from being a cancer in the dressing room, rather than scratching and clawing for every two points.
With the improved play of Arnason, Smolinksi, and the Vermette/Kelly pairing we should do OK. The defence needs to get back to the form they displayed in Buffalo, and of course our core players from Alfie to Schaeffer need to keep the good work up.
I really would like to see the Kid Line put together to give them "together" time before the playoffs. It still irks me that Murray has yet to try this obvious combination.. If he had, I believe the President's Trophy, and home ice throughout the playoffs, would have been in the bag by now.
Instead, during a good chunk of December, January and bit of February, he went with a third line of Kelly, between Eaves and Varada. Do you know how many of Varada's goals Kelly got an assist on? One. That is it. Just one. Guess how many of Eaves's goals Kelly assisted on? Zero. Nada. Zilch. As far as offensive production goes, the line was a total failure and yet Murray stuck with them for thirty games. And there was Vermette, in the doghouse playing alongside McGrattan. Both Vermette and Kelly were getting more points playing together in short-handed situations, then they were in even strength play!
Because of that, we could field, at best, two lines that could seriously mount sustained attacks. Our record before and after Nov 30 speak for themselves. Things only improved after McGrattan got injured and then scratched, and the third line broken up. The only time the Senators looked like the dominating force of October and November, were those times when Varada was back on the fourth line, where he should have been all season.
Over that stretch, if we had gone with Vermette, Kelly and Eaves we would have had those three lines required to sustain offensive pressure, and lot of those losses to lesser teams would never have happened.
As well because we were not doing as well, Murray would not have had to compensate by keeping Hasek in the nets all the time. Did the accumulated wear and tear have a bearing on his current status? It couldn't have helped that is for sure. The ripples from decisions made Nov 30 continue to make thier presence felt.
I know some people are cynical about the President's Trophy, but if we head into the Cup Final against Detroit, then having that home ice advantage would be a really nice edge to have.