Tuesday, 6 August 2013

David Desharnais can be effective because of his size, not in spite of it.

Not to stir up the hornet's nest, but does anyone else here get the vibe that we've achieved assimilation with the Borg now, and that resistance to the meme that David Desharnais is worthless as a hockey player and must be disposed of because he's small is futile?  That fact makes it impossible for him to "win puck battles" or "score dirty goals", goes the refrain.  We've reached a point in the discourse where it's a black-white, right-wrong, baby-with-the-bath-water kind of deal.

Now I grant that David was not as effective last season as he was the previous season, but I suspect that his size in some ways works to his advantage, and that he may be a better player for it.  Yes, it disadvantages him in terms of contact where the outcome is determined by sheer physical strength, and in the faceoff circle depending on how the linemen are feeling, but he's learned to use his small stature to account for that.

One way he does this is by being jitterbug quick and able to dart into an area or after the puck quicker than your average defensive lummox.  His shorter stick enables him to operate in a small space that an octopus like Hal Gill would find impossible.  He can turn on a dime and change direction, notably along the boards, and opponents have a tough time keeping up.  He also gets down low enough that when an opponent tries to bodycheck him, they have a tough time delivering a wallop at him, he's down around their knees and they can't bodycheck as they normally would.

I will repeat that if he was more average size, say 5'11" and 185 lbs, he wouldn't be as quick and as difficult to deal for opponents.  He also probably would have learned to think the game differently, and not have adjusted to capitalize on the size mismatch when it plays in his favour.  He'd be your average player who doesn't do anything different or any better than anyone else.

Dare I say it, his small size is a weapon for him.  Of course, this gets nullified, and becomes a deficit when crosschecking becomes de rigueur, and wrestling moves are allowed into the game, right when February rolls around, but that's a structural problems that the NHL has, and not a fundamental failing on David's part for which he should be scorned.

And that's where the question of mix comes in.  Sure with Brian Gionta, Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher and Daniel Brière on the team, our mix is something that needs to be adjusted, but ultimately, a team is better with a variety of assets and skills and abilities.  Once that's addressed, the remaining jackrabbits will be more effective, and their size will be an asset rather than a liability.

A propos is the promising turn of Michael McCarron just two games into the WJC summer prep tournament at Lake Placid.  While it'll be okay if a prospect defenceman or one of the scoring forwards on the farm don't pan out, we can't miss on this guy.  If he's in the lineup, he brings balance back to the mix.  He won't be able to do everything by himself, he'll need some Mike Lalor-Rick Chartraw footsoldiers and some Mike McPhee-frontliners to help out, but if we have that then two or three artistes would be able to thrive and give opposite teams headaches.  So him, and Jacob de la Rose, they're kind of essential.

So yeah, the four-year contract extension for David is not a slam dunk right now, and the Daniel Brière signing seems inapt in our current situation, but we can't allow ourselves to think that a specific player is worthless because he's small, or that we need a uniform forward corps of Shayne Corsons.  Although, in a pinch, I'd probably take that.

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