Getting healthy scratched sucks! It really sucks. Coaches and most players will spin it as an opportunity for the scratched player to learn from watching. Maybe he can work on his conditioning or the mental break could help him get out of a funk. No matter how you spin it, as a player it sucks. Any player worthy of an NHL spot will not like it and take it as motivation to play better.
Ralph Kreuger decided to sit Ryan Whitney for the game against the Canucks. Ryan Whitney hasn’t played to the level that he has set for himself nor the coaching staff. His stat line through the first eight games is subpar based on what he has done in the past.
- 8 games, 0 goals, 3 assists, minus-5, approx. 17:30 TOI
I am not always a huge stat guy. For me stats tell part of the story, but there is a lot more to the game than stats. That being said, Whitney should be better than this line suggests.
There is a lot more to be gained by watching a player then looking at his stat line. The last few games I have put the isocam on him as I watch the games. There are two areas of his game that I think are missing.
He is not moving his feet. To often when his partner passes to him D to D he receives the pass and does not skate. He simply continues to glide. It doesn’t matter if it is a neutral zone play or defensive zone behind the net play, this is the pattern he has established.
A D-man’s first reaction should be to take one or two hard strides. This does a couple of things. One, a defenceman always makes a better pass when his feet are moving, always. Two, it makes the read for the checking forward harder. Now the forward coming to check you must react to your movement.
There are more options for the D-man when he gets skating so the forward must identify which he should close off. The defender can choose to both continue to skate the puck or pass it. If he is just gliding, the forward knows he can only pass the puck; he isn’t a threat to skate. Too easy to predict and easier to shut down. All the other players on the other team also recognize that a pass is coming so they can be more aggressive with their decisions. That is the domino effect of a defenceman not moving with the puck.
The second area that Whitney seems to be lacking is in aggression. Think back to the pre-injury days, he was putting up numbers offensively and being aggressive defensively. I now see indecision in his game on the defensive side. He seems to be caught in between ‘should I go or not’ or ‘can I keep that puck in at the blue line or should I retreat?’ Usually indecision means his confidence is not where it should be.
When a D-man is feeling good his gap is tight on rushes, he attacks players in the corners aggressively and pinches at the offensive blue line. These are just some examples, but three that we all can recognize easily that happen on the ice during a game. He isn’t as sharp as needed right now and it has affected his game.
The big question is why is this happening? Two reasons I can see.
1 – His feet are still bothering him and he might never be the same.
2 – He still hasn’t gotten up to NHL speed because of the lockout.
Still too early to tell but Oilers fans should hope it is number two and not number one!
Setting the Tone
I am impressed by Ralph Kreuger making this decision. It isn’t easy to sit a veteran player out of a game. You can risk having that player turn on you. It can mess up the dressing room, I have seen it. Whitney isn’t going to be a problem though, he wants to be here long term.
Ralph is saying loud and clear with this move that no one is safe on this team. If he feels that you are not performing to your ability and someone else can do your job better, he will not hesitate to make the switch. I love this and as fans you should as well.
This will keep everyone on their toes. He is creating internal competition. Instead of him having to push the players, they will push each other to be better or they could face line demotions or a trip to the press box. Good teams have this. For the first time in quite some time an Oiler coach also has the ability to do this.
This move took courage to make, and I for one am really impressed.
Super Super Bowl Commercial!
Did anyone see this commercial during the Super Bowl game? It is a commercial for Volkswagen.
This is one of the funniest I have seen for a while. Were there any better ones?