Off with Murray's Head! Devils 5, Senators 3
posted Feb 1, 2006 at 11:24PM
There was a point in the first period where the only things missing were six-packs of beers, screaming snot-nosed rug-rats and a totally depressed houswife scrubbing dirty pans. I was looking into the abyss - wanting to descend into the terrain of white boy trailer trash and just pull my hair out and scream obscenities at the television.
Shades of our first away game at Philadelphia. Murray comes up with some never before seen lines and the team, looking totally disjointed, soon finds itself in a big hole. I do not understand Murray at all. He is making things complicated when they shouldn't be.
The Heatley-Spezza-Alfredson line is probably one of the best combinations in hockey history. Revel that you have such a line, and then, leave - them - alone! In pre-game shows, Murray said too many goals were being scored by our first line: that we had too many eggs in one basket. That is true, we need more secondary scoring. So what does he do? He replaces Vermette and Eaves with thier 21 goals with Kelly and Varada who have five goals combined. Like duh! How is he making his decisions? Darts on a board? Chicken bones in the dirt?
Inevitably when he gets desperate he puts the big line back together, moves Vermette and Eaves up higher in the rotation, and benches McGrattan. Did it every occur to him that he may want to start the game like that?
All is not Lost
There were some "half glass full" things that came out of this game. One, the problem is not just Emery. He should definitely be given the opportunity to start against Pittsburgh on Thursday. It is a golden opportunity for the coaches to express their full confidence in Emery. Scream at the team if you have to, but get Emery's head back on straight. I think he would play his guts out, if given a chance to start.
Another, is that the team could easily have folded but didn't. They gathered themselves together and played pretty good the last two periods, although still giving up too many chances. But at least there were large chunks of time where they were carrying the play. This team, contrary to the myths propagated by Toronto based media, does have grit, guts, intestinal fortitude - what have you, and do have the ability to perform under pressure and to come from behind.
Another good thing was that Chris Neil, perhaps, lost his sacred cow second line status. Don't get me wrong. I love Neil. He has been and is the pumping heart of this franchise, but he is not an offensive star, nor is he a top six forward on a Stanley Cup winning team.
Third we got to see Vermette playing his natural position as center. When on wing he plays as if he has a governor on his motor, almost purposely slowing himself down so as not to take himself out of the play. At center we seem him play without restraint. He looked totally at ease out there, a totally different player. He looks likes a star, certainly not a "utility" player.
So one thing for sure. From now on Vermette should play center. It doesn't matter which line, second, third, or fourth - as long as he gets a regular shift. And of course he needs at least one decent player, like Eaves to play with him. By the end of the game he was playing with Schaeffer and Fisher. I didn't catch if he was center. Ironically this is similar to the second line when Ottawa was at its peak, where Vermette centered Schaeffer and Havlat. Here Fisher ably takes the place of the injured Havlat.
Fisher and Vermette are the two fastest skaters on the team and Schaeffer is no slouch. It would a line built on speed. It would be interesting to see what could happen, but I doubt if they will be kept together for any length of time.
It seems that unless people start scoring right away they don't get a chance to work out any chemistry. Indeed it seems just as a line has got the kinks worked out, and start playing together, Murray rips them apart.
Of course what happens, like in years past, is that lines are continually juggled, right up to the start of the playoffs. For all intents and purpose, the team, instead of peaking, is no better off than they were in the pre-season. And we wonder why we never reach our potential and inexplicably lose to lesser opponents?
I have completely lost faith in Murray and his ability to organize the talent he has at his disposal. True when Havlat gets back it will be harder for him to screw up, but I am confident that he will find a way. I would fire him immediately and replace him with someone who can.