Stupidity Is Rarely Rewarded
posted Jan 2, 2006 at 07:23PM
Hockey is not politics. Stupidity is not rewarded. Today the Senators ran into a team that did not have a sieve for a goalie and had some genuine offensive talent - a description of any team you expect to meet in playoff hockey - and the result is that we got smoked out of the building. With Murray's incomprehensible fetish for diluting offensive talent across four lines, the Thrashers could, and did, for whole chunks of time, completely dominate play.
The media, broadcasters, pundits indeed even most people on chat boards etc still talk about the Senators as an elite team that will be vying for the Cup. But that team no longer exists. And it has not existed since Nov 30, when Vermette was demoted to the fourth line. Up to that point the Senators lost only 2 of 22 games. Since that date we have lost 7 of fifteen.
Now Vermette is not Gretzky, but the move is significant in that it changed the philosophy with which the Senators have been organized. Up to that point if you ranked our forwards from top to bottom in terms of offensive talent (speed, puckhandling, shot), and then fed them into a rotation - you basically came up with the lines that made Ottawa such a devastating team.
I know everyone likes McGratten because he knocked Tie Domi's lights out but he is not an NHL player. He is a liability every time he is on the ice. He ruins plays by being off side. He cannot hit open men with a pass because his eyes have to stay on the puck, and cannot receive a pass even when on his tape. He gets stupid penalties trying to start a fight, that nobody wants.
Smolinksi is a good steady player, but he is not the guy you put on a "dominant" line. Varada has one goal despite regular ice. Vermette has eight. Indeed since Nov 30 Vermette has more goals than the entire third line combined, and that is despite getting shifts of the 20 second variety playing with a useless thug and a defenceman turned forward. Varada has been a digger his entire career. Vermette has been a superstar scorer at every level he has played in, and yet has to see every emergency call-up get more ice time and opportunity than himself.
Vermette is a Havlat in waiting. He is the kind of star player that can ensure a hockey' teams future for years to come. Varada is a salary cap drain. Vermette is a restricted free agent. He is under contract for one year. If the Senators don't smarten up, they are going to lose him the way they almost lost Spezza. And before that, you can kiss our chances to win a Cup good-bye.