Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Should Vigneault bench players rather than demote them?

From Tony Gallagher today:

Taylor Pyatt returns to the lineup from injury after going 10 games without a point before getting hurt, and he's promptly given a spot in the top six. Then Pavol Demitra is sent to start the game on the fourth line where he fits like O.J. Simpson's gloves just because like so many of the other forwards he's struggling. As Tom Larscheid put it on the telecast, "It's an insult to a player of his calibre."

"I was kind of surprised to start on that line," Pyatt said after the game.

Kyle Wellwood was another who spent a few games on the fourth line where he doesn't fit, and people wonder why his production has dropped off. If they wanted to send either of these guys a message, sit them out. But putting them where they have virtually no chance to succeed makes very little sense.
Is it any surprise that the players who have come through this Luongo-less stretch the best have been Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler and the Sedin twins, all of whom have escaped the endless line juggling? Conversely, the Devils -- who have been through a similar goaltending absence -- have kept their top line together for 25 games.
Yeah, there is heat on Vigneault alright. But what do you think of Gallagher's point? Sometimes I like seeing players benched. The line-juggling does get a bit insane after a while and doesn't always help in the chemistry department. On the other hand, Pavol Demitra showed the hustle that was lacking recently in last night's game and was quickly promoted to scoring lines after he started the game on the 4th line.
Whether you start the game on the 4th line or ride the pine it's a "slap in the face." So that isn't really the point.
Chemistry is the point.
In Vigneault's defence, much of the time he does give players a fair shot at succeeding with the Twins or Kesler and Burrows. The 3rd man often isn't excelling there. The Sedins haven't had a stable linemate since Anson Carter was here. It hasn't been easy finding a replacement. That replacement was supposed to be Steve Bernier. Or Taylor Pyatt. Or Jannik Hansen. Oh hell, it's hard to be the 3rd Sedin isn't it?
Bottom line is that we'll see how the players respond when Luongo returns. Maybe all this Vigneault questioning will cease. But that's only if the team starts winning.

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Waiting For Stanley was created in June 2006.