Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Clouston, your highest paid player has a problem

Just wrapped up watching a rather pedestrian performance from the majority of the Senators in a game where you would really expect more. I know the players are saying all the right things with the 'we've moved on' bit, but those guys should have had far more fight in them. Leave it to Milan Michalek to provide our only spark out there, outside of some very strong shifts from Kovalev.

Before I get to my main point, I have to take one crack at Phillips and Volchenkov. I know A-Train has missed 14 games and to expect him back in game form against the top team in the league isn't fair. But these two guys lost EVERY SINGLE BATTLE tonight, whether in front of the net or chasing a puck in the corner. Our shutdown pair was downright awful. Our leaders didn't match their leaders, plain and simple. The second Marleau goal was a perfect example as both our guys are laying on the ice while Marleau essentially puts it away.

More importantly, though, and definitely more alarming, is the continued struggles of Jason Spezza. I threw so much support behind him this off-season coming off a very public divorce (ironic, as he was married, too). I even pumped up his tire when he had one goal in the first month and a half because he backchecked and was filling into form.

But to see him skate on the same pad as Thornton tonight was a blatant exposure that something isn't right with our young hero. Sure, Spetz doesn't have two other Olympians to feed all night (wait, he does, but they aren't Canadian...). But where Thornton outskated everyone in our zone tonight, Spezza too often was reaching with the twig. He was tapped off the puck on multiple occasions, and that is just when it wasn't already bouncing over his stick anyway.

I feel for the guy because he hasn't formed the chemistry with Michalek yet. If anything, it is Alfie and Watermelon Warrior that have meshed superbly. But if Spezza truly wants to get Olympic consideration (for 2014) and truly wants to be seen as one of the elite centres, he needs to rise up and make ANY linemate better. Right now, he's the anchor on that top line.

If his back is out, sit out the road trip. He's far more valuable to us in the stretch when teams really start to grind it out. Moreover, whether it is injury or he's got the blues, he is missing chances now to help us win games. 2 goals thus far is just not acceptable for someone of his talent, and fair or not, someone of his salary. I love the kid and hope that he can someday actually lead this team on a long playoff run in the post-Alfie era. But right now, he looks like a lost soul out there wondering if his ex is going to call and try and get back together.

One other thought on the Karlsson call-up. Okay, two thoughts. First, he played pretty well tonight and is very good at getting shots through from the point. Secondly, since nobody can really identify the main reason that he was called up and Lee was sent down when they really aren't playing that differently right now, is it possible he hated Upstate NY? He wouldn't be the first person to want to leave the city of Binghamton for reasons other than hockey. He goes from being a legend in Sweden, to living with the Alfredssons, to living in a shanty and riding buses. Perhaps he was homesick and asked openly about heading back to the SEL, which Murray should definitely decline. Ahh, maybe I just miss rumours...

Expecting a far, FAR more enthusiastic performance from our core players on Thursday.

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