Thursday, 26 November 2015

Jarred Tinordi sent down to AHL for conditioning stint. The stalemate breaks.

Great news for this fan comes with the announcement that Jarred Tinordi has been assigned to the AHL IceCaps for a conditioning assignment.

We've spent a lot of virtual ink on Jarred Tinordi, who's spent the entire season in the pressbox as a healthy scratch and the apparent "#8 defenceman".  This isn't quite a surprise, since at the start of training camp, looking at the Canadiens roster, you could see this shaping up.

He wasn't going to break into the Top 6, that nucleus having been solidified with the Jeff Petry contract,  Nathan Beaulieu turning the corner in his progression, and Alexei Emelin's return to form.  So Jarred would have to be patient and be ready in case injuries struck.

Greg Pateryn was in the same boat,  also competing for ice time, a spot in the lineup.  Both these gentlemen couldn't be sent down to the AHL though, since they've used up their waiver-exempt status.

There was a lot of noise, a lot of chaff on social media about Mark Barberio, a former Lightning and July UFA signing, how the Canadiens should simply choose the best players to stick with le Grand Club and let the chips fall where they may, but in the end, things shaped up exactly how we figured they would.  Greg and Jarred were kept off waivers, the brain trust rightfully fearful that they'd be snapped up by other teams, and slotted in the roster as the numbers 7 and 8.

Mark Barberio, who it can be argued had a better camp than Jarred, was sent through waivers, with no takers, to the AHL, where he's been doing yeoman's work on the first pair and as the young veteran for the IceCaps.  As predicted, while he had a good camp, his asset value was a little lower in the eyes of the competition, and no one felt he was worth a spot on their 23-man roster over anyone they currently had on their hands.

We can compare to how the Canucks handled their surplus of young defencemen.  They decided to keep Ben Hutton when he surprised in camp with solid play, over Frank Corrado, who they had to expose to waivers to send him to the AHL.  Unfortunately for Vancouver, the Maple Leafs snapped him up, and they lost the asset for nothing.

Sure enough, the season started and injuries hit the blue line, and Ben Hutton had some struggles, and the Canucks couldn't turn to Frank Corrado for help, he was gone.  If they'd sent waiver-exempt Ben Hutton to Utica instead, he'd be available now for callups, he'd have gotten heavy minutes instead of limited icetime.

So while the principle may be laudable, that the player having the better camp gets to stay with the team regardless of organizational realities, while it 'sends the right message' to the players, ultimately it may be self-defeating.  The Canucks shot themselves in the foot with this principle, whereas the Canadiens have held on to their asset.

In my opinion, the principle should be tweaked so that, like in boxing, where the challenger has to knock out the champ, clearly and decisively beat him to take his crown, the waiver-eligible player has to be beaten decisively to be beaten by the kid who can play in the AHL without waivers.  The tie goes to the champ.  Which is what happened with Jarred and Mark Barberio, the difference in their play in camp wasn't significant enough to decide, to outright lose Jarred.

The one surprise so far has been that Jarred has not played in a single game.  I'd written a hopeful, probably unrealistic post this summer advocating that by hook and by crook, notably by resting Andrei Markov on back-to-back games and giving Jarred a turn, he could get somewhere around 40 games in this season.  The best-laid plans and all that.  I figure the conversation with Andrei to inform him he was sitting out to rest his brittle bones wouldn't go too well.

But there has to be a somewhat positive medium in between there, right?  Figure out a way to get him a handful of games, three or four?  Like the Rangers are doing with Dylan McIlrath, or the Stars with Jamie Oleksiak?  Both teams are in the same boat with towering but green defence prospects, but have managed to feed them four and six games respectively, despite also being at the top of the standings.

Instead, Jarred has been shut out, even when leftie Alexei Emelin missed a few games due to injury.  Jarred might have been the natural choice to replace him, but rightie Greg Pateryn was used instead, with Tom Gilbert shifted over to the left, where he acquitted himself decently.

One of the issues might have been that Greg Pateryn, who had with Jarred been a healthy scratch since the season started, had accepted a conditioning assignment in October with the IceCaps.  In three games, he didn't wow anyone on the stat sheet, getting no points and a -6, but evidently that was enough to shake the rust off.  When he got on the ice with the Canadiens, he played well in his first game and improved from there.

Now we don't know if this is the case*, but various analysts assumed that Jarred Tinordi had refused a similar assignment.  Combined with the fact that Jarred's dad, former NHL'er Mark Tinordi, didn't attend the 'Dads Trip',  and the rumour mill got cranking, that he was at loggerheads with the team, that the camps were engaged in a stalemate, a 'play me or trade me' situation.

This conditioning assignment comes at a perfect time for Jarred, if only to defuse these rumours, let air out of the balloon.  The IceCaps are scheduled for a three-game in three days weekend starting Friday in Rochester, and in Toronto against the Marlies Saturday and Sunday.  A nice compact window for him to get in gear, as injuries seem to mount both for the Canadiens and IceCaps, and the trade market starts to heat up.

I'll say it again, I don't want Jarred traded, I want him to be a big part of our future in more ways than one.  We need some physical players in our team, some guys who'll push back when Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves or Chris Neil and Mark Borowiecki decide to run around and pick on our smaller players.  Bully tactics can't be allowed to prosper.

We traded away Brandon Prust and hoped that Zack Kassian and Alexei Emelin, Greg Pateryn and Jarred would provide enough size and mean to deter the more flagrant attempts to intimidate our squad, but that plan hasn't quite worked out so far.  Our powerplay has helped keep the thugs at bay to a degree, but long term, I see Jarred and Mike McCarron as big components of our team, big guys who can play but inject enough menace in the lineup to give the Wayne Simmonds of the world pause.

So good job Jarred, get those minutes over the weekend, and I hope we can find a way to get you to play as the season progresses.  I'm prepared to be patient.  I hope that you, the fans, and the management of the team are just as ready.

(*) EDIT: Michel Therrien stated in a press scrum that this was the first time the team offered/requested that Jarred go to the IceCaps for conditioning:
«C’était la première fois que nous lui demandions, a mentionné l’entraîneur en chef. Nous avons attendu pour le faire pour la simple et bonne raison que les IceCaps ne jouaient pas assez de matchs. Je crois qu’ils ont joué quatre matchs en 15 jours. Là, ils rentrent dans une séquence où il y aura plus de rencontres. Nous avions encerclé cette date pour lui afin de partir à St. John’s. 

Game 23: Canadiens 5, Rangers 1

A Pyrrhic victory tonight, as the Canadiens outclassed a putative rival for the Eastern crown, but lost their best player for an undetermined period.  The Canadiens dominated the Rangers and won going away 5-1, after New York coach Alain Vigneault had groused that his team had received "a lesson of hockey" in their previous matchup, a 3-0 loss in October.

The fly in the ointment is that Carey Price evidently re-injured himself during the game.  This was caught early by RDS' superb Marc Denis, who was at ice-level and alerted his colleague Pierre Houde and the audience that he was moving awkwardly after executing a save, and provided commentary on the replays shown, showing the little stumbles and difficulty Carey had in getting up.  Carey tried to fight through it, finished the second period, but Mike Condon started the third.  Carey, ominously, wasn't even on the backup goalie's chair when the puck dropped, being attended to in the dressing room by the Canadiens therapy staff.

There was a lot to cheer about prior to that point.  Sven Andrighetto continued his strong showing in his second game subbing in on the second line right wing spot, scoring the opening goal, displaying his speed and ability.

Lars Eller seemed to respond well to his new linemate, manufacturing this goal by heading right to the net and screening Henrik Lundqvist, earning an assist on the play.  He also made a strong play on the puck on his next shift that led to a good scoring chance, again acting hungry and like he wanted the puck.

The Devo experiment got off to an encouraging start.  Devante Smith-Pelly most probably got his marching orders, got shown video of Brendan Gallagher going to the net and causing havoc, and got told to go out there and do exactly that in his stead.  He potted two goals from at most five feet out like Gally does.  Like he vowed, he worked the corners and the front of the net, allowing Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec opportunities.  Tomas picked up three assists, and Max a goal and an assist.

Mike Condon was solid in relief, blanking the Rangers in the third.  Alexei Emelin was shunted to the third pair in his return to action, Michel Therrien unwilling to break up the promising Jeff Petry-Nathan Beaulieu pairing, weaving all over the ice as they do currently, baffling and overwhelming opponents with their mobility.

Alex Semin didn't finish the game, and the RDS boys were stumped as to what could have happened, whether he was benched or hurt, until word came of a 'lower-body injury'.  They fretted some more, and wanted to go over the tape to see what could have befallen him.  I was pretty sure I'd caught it though, when we saw Jarrett Stoll, for some strange reason as if transported, in an ecstatic state, frenetically crosschecking Alex in the back when he was down.  Another NHL defensive play that the refs didn't see, or which didn't trigger them to act.  So it goes.

Aside from that, a refreshing change was that after whistles, players got their man and shielded their goalie, but there was none of the tedious intimidation attempts, the headlocks and facewashes and crosschecks after play is theoretically stopped, that teams like the Blues and the Senators and the Bruins traffic in.  It was a skating, up and down affair, with few stoppages in play, exciting and entertaining to watch.

Another encouraging aspect was how the Canadiens, who sometimes in a 'measuring stick game' can lay an egg, came out ready to play, storming the Rangers zone.  And when the tide seemed to shift halfway through the second, and the Rangers found their legs and got within one, the Canadiens righted the ship and got two quick goals at the start of the third to put the game away.  Nice killer instinct this year, with these insurance goals and the empty-netters.  Last season, that was a lacuna.

So the Canadiens sit at the top of the league with 36 points, slapped down the impertinent challengers from the Metro, and asserted themselves as a power in the league, not just a flash in the pan, as some would imply during the nine-game initial winning streak.

And the boys now have to show they can keep up the pace with Mike Condon, who I think will have settled down after wilting near the end of his stint in lieu of Carey.  And I bet that this time, Carey doesn't get back in nets until he's absolutely completely 100% ready to go.  Maybe 101%.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Canadiens extend Marc Bergevin's contract to 2022.

NHL general managers are notorious, to the point of satire, for speaking of 'five-year plans' with respect to their teams, how they need that time to amass all the necessary pieces through the draft and subsequent development of prospects, before they can ice a team that's a legitimate contender.  In Québec, there is much mirth about the never-ending 'plan quinquennal' for the Canadiens since the mid-nineties, a rolling five-year period that has declared start dates but whose end date is ever further in the future.

Well, Marc Bergevin now has plenty of time to accomplish this five-year plan, having seen his contract extended by the Canadiens until 2022, which will be ten years after his hire.

We joke, but as fans of the Canadiens we can't be anything but pleased with the performance of the GM since he's been in charge.  Many of the glaring issues which I identified in an early post have been addressed effectively.  The Canadiens now have a team of bright hockey men in charge, with a strong leader for a team of equals, instead of the autocratic régime of Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier, stretched thin and making impulsive, ill-fated decisions.

The approach has been everything I could have dreamed.  The biggest priority has been instilling a winning culture in the team, from the top down.

Instead of knee-jerk decisions and panic trades, the focus has been on amassing prospects and spending a lot of resources on player development.  A whole new arm has been created under Martin Lapointe, relieving the pressure on Trevor Timmins, who had to wear this hat previously and keep tabs on prospects under Pierre Gauthier.  Now, he can focus on amateur scouting, and Martin Lapointe takes care of the players already in the fold.

To amass these prospects and players, Marc Bergevin, with the blessing of owner Geoff Molson, has beefed up the scouting departments, both amateur and pro.  Finds like Dale Weise and Jeff Petry can be traced to this new emphasis on pro scouting.

The organization is spending its vast revenue on the players, making sure they have everything they need, instead of funneling profits in the pockets of a rapacious owner.  The players notice, constantly referring to how good they have it, how everything is first-class.

And this bleeds through to the players' families.  We now see that they want to be in Montréal, they're not aching to leave at the first opportunity.  Jeff Petry's new contract came about in large part due to the support of his wife, who loved the new digs and wanted to stay here if possible.  We heard how Erik Cole's and Hal Gill's families were disappointed at having to leave.

These are just a few reasons to applaud the extension afforded to Marc Bergevin.  There is a sense that every resource, every effort is being expended to build a winning team, and a strong organization.  A plan appears to be in place, a systematic approach, rather than just a team treading water and waiting for happy accidents to occur.

A word about ownership, with President Geoff Molson providing a supportive, stable organization for the team to thrive.  He said at the outset that no expense would be spared to build a winner, and he's been true to his word.  Beyond the player salaries, which are governed by a cap and floor system anyway, ownership has invested heavily in the team, in terms of facilities and personnel.

But Geoff Molson has done more.  In every appearance, every public utterance, he has shown that the team is the first concern, not him.  He's not a grandstanding, meddling owner à la Jeremy Jacobs or Jim Irsay.  He's humble and deferential, and always speaks of the team, and the fans and the community's attachment to the team.

Seeing Johnny Manziel's latest escapade, I couldn't help be reminded how it was the Browns' owner Jimmy Haslam who made the decision to draft him, and how Jerry Jones admitted he needed to be restrained to prevent him from making a "big bold move" and picking Manziel earlier in the first round.

This kind of interference is unknown in Montréal, certainly when it comes to Geoff Molson, and his steady, understated leadership, as well as decisions such as recruiting and retaining Marc Bergevin, bode well for the future.

Canadiens, Bruins announce rosters for the Winter Classic Alumni Game

The Canadiens and Bruins have revealed their rosters for the Alumni Game that will be held before the Winter Classic.
Bruins Alumni Roster     Canadiens Alumni Roster
PJ Axelsson     Donald Audette
Bob Beers     Christian Bordeleau
Ray Bourque     Francis Bouillon
Rob DiMaio     Benoit Brunet
Tom Fergus     Patrice Brisebois
Hal Gill     Guy Carbonneau
Steve Heinze     Lucien Deblois
Al Iafrate     Gilbert Delorme
Brian Leetch     Eric Desjardins
Reggie Lemelin     Normand Dupont
Ken Linseman     Gaston Gingras
Rick Middleton     Rick Green
Jay Miller     Mike Keane
Cam Neely     Alex Kovalev
Terry O'Reilly     Sergio Momesso
Andrew Raycroft     Mats Naslund
Mark Recchi     Chris Nilan
Sergei Samsonov     Lyle Odelein
Marco Sturm     Oleg Petrov  
Bob Sweeney     Stephane Quintal
Don Sweeney     Stephane Richer
Tim Sweeney     Larry Robinson
Glen Wesley     Richard Sevigny
      Steve Shutt
      Jose Theodore
Bruins Coaching Staff     Canadiens Coaching Staff
Lyndon Byers     Simon Arsenault
Don Cherry     Yvan Cournoyer 
Stan Jonathan     Jacques Demers
Don Marcotte     Stéphane Gauthier
Tom McVie     Réjean Houle
Mike Milbury     Guy Lafleur
Derek Sanderson      
Bruins Honorary Coaches
John Bucyk
Eddie Sandford

Some comments:

1)  I feared the Bruins would cheat, obviously, and stack their roster with recently-retired players, younger players who gave them a greater chance to win.  On first perusal, there's no real smoking gun, there are some names from the seventies and eighties, so I'll lower my pre-emptively raised hackles.

Although I see a note at the bottom of the press release stating that:
These rosters are current as of Nov. 24 – additions or changes may be made leading up to the game.
So you know I'll be checking behind the curtains and under the bed and be hyper-suspicious of any wheeled wooden horses right up until puck drop.

2)  Steve Shutt and Larry Robinson!  I know Larry in his current role with the Sharks probably spends a lot of time on skates, but I don't know how nimble Shutty is going to be.  He'll probably have to up his game in the dressing room, contribute in that manner.  Not merely be 'good in the room', but great.  Should be manageable for the quipster.

3)  Francis Bouillon will be our cheater, he could probably still play in Europe right now.

4)  Richard Sévigny and José Théodore in nets, no André 'Red Light' Racicot, so we should be fine in goal.  I would have brought in Jocelyn Thibault, he's the emergency practice goalie for the Canadiens now, should still be sharp.

5)  Isn't Stéphane Quintal more of a Bruin than a Canadien?  At least, that was my sense until I looked it up, and found that he spent barely four seasons in Boston, around 150 games played with some time in the AHL, and seven full seasons with the Canadiens over two stints.

6)  Chris Nilan to handle the nastiness.  I fully expect there'll be a real fight, not the good-natured pantomime we often see.  Jay Miller, the Bruins' worthless goon they somehow found reason to include in the proceedings, will be going down hard.

7)  Wait, that leaves Sergio Momesso to handle Terry O'Reilly and Rob DiMaio.  And Stan Jonathan and Linden Byers on the bench.  We're outmanned!  Damn dirty Bruins.

8)  And Ken 'The Rat' Linseman, the original rat against which all are measured.  What, couldn't they spring Nevin Markwart out of jail for this too?

9)  I'm on the record that I hate the name 'Sweeney', it gives me the creeps somehow, maybe it's too close to 'swine' and/or 'sheeny', something like that, that it just rubs me the wrong way.

I now realize there's more to it, there have been three Bruins named Sweeney for me to hate over the years.

10)  Fossil Zdeno Chara should by all rights slide right into that game, and then disappear forever.

I honestly don't know which game I want to win more, the Winter Classic itself or the Alumni Game.

Oh, who'm I kidding.  I desperately want to win both

Monday, 23 November 2015

Game 22: Canadiens 4, Islanders 2

The Canadiens win the return match of the home-and-home against the Islanders 4-2, and sweep the season series.

--I'll say it again, I didn't quite understand how good the production values were on "La Soirée du Hockey" and "Hockey Night in Canada", even though I often spouted that they were.  I didn't realize how flawless, how slick those programs were until the clowns from Rogers got their fervid hands on the wheel.

--Did anyone else catch sight of those two dudes sitting at the studio desk, playing with microphones, checking their phones, modeling their beards?  Because unless I was hallucinating, this was beamed out to the entire nation, for half a minute or so.  No sound or nothing, just dead air, and the wrong camera feed sent to air by the director.

Once I realized that this wasn't just a blip, something that'd get corrected in a second or so, I hoped and prayed that one of the hipsters would start picking his nose or something.

--Is no one minding the store at Sportsnet?  Are they trying to 'do more with less', running with a skeleton crew of mostly unpaid interns, the savings to be had by offloading call centres to Asia not enough to keep the corpse of Ted Rogers in ivory backscratchers?  Don't they have a person watching what actually comes out of the final pipe?  Were they being hacked by Anonymous?

--Is Gary Bettman as "extraordinarily comfortable" with his decision to entrust his product, our national game, to those bozos for a dozen years, as he claimed to be with the decision to not levy a suspension on Zdeno Chara for his gameofthronesing of Max Pacioretty?

--Gary Galley, the brainless spokespout for NHL culture, lionizes Matt Martin for running over David Desharnais, but fails to mention that he led with his elbow so far out he looked like a frigging unicorn out there.  The refs 'didn't see it', therefore it didn't happen I guess.  The video tape lies.

Earlier, he tut-tutted that David Desharnais had almost turned over the puck while wheeling around behind his net.  What didn't catch his eye, since he's the proverbial insensate frog in the pot of water that's slowly being brought to a boil, was how an Islander forward had taken three hookslashes at his sideshandspants.  That wasn't a penalty, a reason to object, that's par for the course in Nick Kypreos' NHL.  That's defensive hockey.

It's not wrong in his or most boiling frogs' mind that the player three strides behind the puck carrier, the player who is beaten, is allowed to fish and hook and hack at the guy who's trying to do something with the puck.

--Yet let's consternate about how scoring is down.  After we're done elbowing Sidney Crosby in the face, let's try to address that issue.  Let's strike a committee with Brian Burke and Colin Campbell to work on this.

--Two fractured fingers for Brendan Gallagher, who'll have surgery tomorrow, and whose absence will best be calculated in weeks rather than days.  Alex Semin, Bud Holloway, Sven Andrighetto, answer the phone.

--I don't want Greg Pateryn to come out of the lineup.  He provides some pushback, a bit of physical menace, but not at a cost like Douglas Murray exacted.  Greg can move, he's reasonably handy with the puck, and getting shots on net.  We can't ask for much more from him.

--I've held off for a while on commenting on Tomas Fleischmann, afraid his bubble might burst maybe, but now I'm sold.  What an acquisition.  A really smart player, good puck skills, and his line is just humming along.

--I've slowly begun regretting that René Bourque never got a chance to play right wing with David Desharnais.  If anyone could have gotten him going, David was the guy.

--Cool celebration by Alex after his powerplay goal, spontaneous and authentic, and I really liked how it drew in the people in the vicinity, how they reacted to Chucky and cheered with him.

--Some will gripe that Max is getting all his goals on empty nets, and he seems a little bit sheepish about it judging from his post-game comments, but I want him to keep it up.  Last year we were never quite able to put these games away, we'd scramble to the last second and eat some board dasher along the way.  I like how this year Tomas Plekanec and Max are out there in the dying seconds foiling opponents and dishing out le coup de grâce.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Nobody gets hurt in hockey fights? Ask Luca Sbisa.

Canadiens fans are not the only ones that generally think that fighting and 'toughness' in hockey is overhyped, even glorified by the talking heads, and plays against the long-term health of hockey and the NHL.

Case in point was last night's game between the Canucks and Jets, a big team that uses a thumping style and some level of intimidation to try to win games.  During the first period, Luca Sbisa caught Jet rookie Nikolaj Ehlers with a mostly clean, jarring hit in the Jet zone.

Some might argue that it was worth a penalty at all, that it was a clean hit that separated a player from the puck.

In any case, Mr. Sbisa served a minor penalty for a check to the head, and the Jets made the Canucks pay, scoring a powerplay goal to go up 1-0.

Justice served, right?  A Canuck went over the line in the eyes of the refs, was sent to the box, and they subsequently gave up the initial goal.  Don't do it again.  Message delivered.

Except, this is the NHL, and there's a 'Code'.  And the Jets carry a player like Anthony Peluso, a 6'2", 235 lbs enforcer who has 3 goals in his NHL career, and 39 over his four-year OHL career.  He has to justify his job, his roster spot somehow.

So despite Luca Sbisa having served his penalty, after leaving the box and playing a shift, he found himself in the corner with Mr. Peluso, getting crosschecked and mugged, and had to drop the gloves to defend himself.

A wag on social media was driven to remark this last night:
"Jeeze. What the heck was Sbisa thinking taking on Peluso? Guy can take a beating though."
My thoughts exactly.  Luca Sbisa is a Top 4 defenceman in the current Canucks lineup, and shouldn't be fighting fringe fourth-line goons.  Especially when they outweigh him by thirty pounds.

And that's the point.  Luca Sbisa is a little bit like Alexei Emelin, a guy who plays rough and dishes out hits, but doesn't fight.  And he shouldn't have to, especially on legal hits, or hits that he's been penalized for.  But, as Don Cherry will reverently intone, he had to 'answer the bell'.

And predictably for Luca, it didn't go well for him, he took several solid punches to the head and face, to the point that the play-by-play guys, both TV and radio, commented during the scrap that the linesmen should jump in and break this up, that Mr. Sbisa was in trouble.

He played a couple more shifts, but had to leave the game later.  Today, it's announced that he suffered a "fight-related" injury and is out indefinitely.

Alex Semin, in one game, works himself out of the lineup.

The coach is the boss, he's the one who pays with his job when he loses too many games, so I understand that he'll put the best team he can on the ice in order to do that, win the next game, rather than look at the long-term view, or even the medium term.  But I'm surprised that Alex Semin wasn't given a longer trial period, after sitting out seven games.

From the get-go, I expected Alex to be a somewhat oblong peg that we'd have to hammer into a round hole, it wouldn't be an easy fit, probably.  He's being brought in precisely because he has a different skill set, he brings something to the team that it doesn't have.  Kind of like when George Parros and Douglas Murray were brought in, you know what you're getting, you'll live with the shortcomings to benefit from their contribution in other areas.

Sure, he's not a forechecking menace or a burner like Pavel Bure, but his creativity, his ability to hold on to the puck and be unpredictable, to go through C to get to B, was a wildcard on our roster, a changeup in a fastball pitcher's arsenal.  We lacked a certain amount of finish, of skill in the Top 6 when looking at our lineup on June 30.  He was brought in to try to address that, a 'beau risque'.

I don't think that a one-game trial after sitting out seven games was a fair chance for him to continue his adaptation to his new team, the new system, his linemates.  He can be forgiven for being antsy, nervous in his return to the ice.  He didn't really have a a chance to get into a groove.

He certainly didn't help his case with a bad penalty in the third period against the Canucks.  That doesn't inspire confidence in his decision-making.  The RDS staff raised an eyebrow when they reported that he had skipped the optional morning skate on Monday.  You'd think he would have tried to put his best foot forward, got some advice from Andrei about this and realized that he should make an appearance.

The thing about social media is you read something over and over again, and it starts to sound true, it's certainly truthy.  I don't know if he is indeed so slow because he's 'finished', because he doesn't have the leg strength anymore, but based on some of the lowlights Monday, you can see how that might be what we're driven to conclude.

But again, as a fan, I was advocating a ten to twenty game trial, to allow him to get or remain in game shape, to get in rhythm, to figure things out.

Yet the coaches are the ones who know the player best, are closest to this.  They get a feel for whether he's pointed in the right direction.  They can tell if he can work out of this funk, whether he's starting to 'get it'.  They're the ones who talk to the players, and can feel if allowing him to run a long leash might alienate the others, who are doing everything that's asked and working hard and making good decisions and being defensively responsible and attending all the optional skates.

So it's easy for me to advocate that he be given good linemates and powerplay time to get in gear.  It's harder for the coach to tell that to Dale Weise and Thomas Fleischmann.

If the coaches decide they have seen enough, that the lottery ticket isn't a winner, I expect the brain trust will be decisive.  I don't think we'll see Alex going to St. John's, it'll be a clean break, they'll eat the contract, glad that it's a shorty.  They won't prolong the headache by dumping him on Sylvain Lefebvre, by stealing icetime away from the kids who do have a chance to help this team down the line.