Friday, December 10, 2010

Clouston Makes The Right Moves After Day Of Turmoil

Good on Cory Clouston.

On a day when the Alexei Kovalev controversy ballooned into a public snipefest, Clouston took the highroad and decided to end his nonsensical experiment with Kovalev on the fourth line and made some changes that helped the team to a desperately needed win over the equally struggling New Jersey Devils.

Finally, and we mean finally, Clouston put back together the best offensive duo he's had all year, and that's Kovalev with Jason Spezza, a pairing that should never have been split apart in the first place. Surprise, surprise, that line, along with Milan Michalek, has a great game, creates some chances and gets an important goal.

After weeks of trying to force lines that just weren't working, he put Daniel Alfredsson back with Mike Fisher and put Bobby Butler where he belongs - on the fourth line, and suddenly the team had cohesion in the offensive zone and plenty of chances to score.

As frustrated as Clouston is with Kovalev, it made no sense to drop his minutes where you basically ensure he's not in the game. Guys like Kovalev need to play with a skilled centre and they need big minutes. What gave Clouston a change of heart, we may never know, but he even had Kovalev on the ice in the final minute trying to protect a one goal lead. Successful teams give their most skilled players the most minutes and have them on the ice when the game is on the line.

This is the way this team needs to go forward. Even Kovalev's biggest critics must acknowledge that it's almost impossible to move him within the season. Might as well use him while you have him.

Clouston also switched up the defense pairings with positive results and the duo of Erik Karlsson and Chris Phillips looked impressive all night. The coach might be on to something here.

And lastly, it would be ideal to see Clouston stick with Pascal Leclaire for a stretch to see if he can get on a roll. Just like Kovalev, he's not going anywhere this season. He gets paid like a top player so give him the minutes and the responsibility to help pull this team back into some sort of respectable state. Clouston sometimes opts too quickly for guys who were either with him in the AHL or guys who were just recently there, and does so at the expense of solid NHL veterans (see Shean Donovan the last two seasons). You get the sense he wants Brian Elliott to be his guy but there have been some road bumps along the way. Which way will Clouston lean? I don't think anyone can tell us for sure.

Overall, a much needed win for a team that, while still close to the brink, may be able to get some positives going for them with the new lines and defense pairings.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars - Ottawa 3 New Jersey 2

1. Erik Karlsson
2. Chris Phillips
3. Chris Neil

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars Season Scorecard

3 Points 1st Star
2 Points 2nd Star
1 Point 3rd Star

Elliott – 20
Leclaire – 18
Spezza – 13
Karlsson – 12
Kovalev – 12
Fisher – 12
Alfredsson – 9
Gonchar – 7
Michalek – 6
Foligno – 6
Regin – 5
Phillips - 5
Ruutu – 4
Kelly – 3
Campoli – 3
Shannon - 2
Neil - 1


tim said...

I like the lines too, although by the way the game went it would have been just as likely that we'd be talking about a loss today than a win. I wonder what the assessment of CCs moves would be then. I agree with Leclaire, but I'd like both guys to be played fairly consistently. Finally, these lines are good decisions only if CC lets them gel like that for at least a couple of weeks, win or lose. This whole sub-par performance could be the result of a lack of chemistry within lines. Human beings are much too complex and adaptable things to be interchangeable. They are smart enough to pull off a few mechanical elements of a game plan if mixed and matched constantly. But they can do a much more advanced kind of adaptation if allowed the time. They "gel" or get "chemistry". This is a whole new level of play beyond the type that CC is instilling with his "if you buy into the system anyone can play with anyone" approach. That's fine technically, but there is a whole other gear available if you take advantage of the players' natural ability to learn how to gel within a line.

Anonymous said...

I think its preemptive to conclude that CC's lines were a success given that we barely beat one of the worst teams in the NHL.

Anonymous said...

Butler doesn't belong on the 4th line? Are you alright. He may not be NHL ready, but if they bring up, it's completely pointless to put him on the 4th line when they do. As far as your " top offensive" duo - if your talking about the Ottawa senators, that's like being the smartest kid in special Ed. If anything it may be time to give the young guns like butler a chance to show what they can do - score.