A Tale of Two Defencemen I Don't Like...

A quick post today to mention things about two defencemen for whom I have strong dislike.

First, my Habs fan friends must be absolutely joyous at the news that for tonight's Oilers-Stars game, Sheldon Souray will once again not be in the line-up. It is December 10 today and Souray has managed to play in 6 games for the Oil since they signed as a free agent in July. Nearly every Habs fan knew that Souray was a complete and utter waste of a roster spot 5-on-5 and now they also know that their powerplay can live without his howtizer from the point. Let's take this holiday season to think kind thoughts about Kevin Lowe's family who will likely be without an income from the old veteran GM sometime next summer. (My own personal bit of happiness stems from the fact that Martin Havlat is a point-per-game player, but he will probably never play more than 65 games in a season in his career.)

Second, Scott Niedermayer is back. Or will be soon. He says he's coming back to the Ducks for the remainder of the season as soon as he can get himself in game shape. He also says that this will be the end of his run...which I believe has been Roger Clemens' line the last couple of years too. Now, I admit that I may still be bitter about Anaheim beating out Ottawa for the Stanley Cup last year, but I'm also pretty sick and tired of athletes taking what amounts to extended summer vacation and then expecting a hero's welcome on their return. Anaheim can certainly use a defenceman of Niedermayer's skill level and no doubt his teammates will be happy to see him in uniform, but frankly, I don't know how they can't feel a little bit betrayed that while they were in the trenches struggling to defend their crown Niedermayer was...well, what was he doing? Contemplating whether or not to cash in the rest of his contract with the Ducks, I guess.

Then there's the issue of how paying Niedermayer for the rest of the season will play out on the rest of the Duck's roster moves, including signing Corey Perry to an extension. And, as has long been speculated, what if Teemu Selanne decides he wants back in now that his good buddy Scotty is back? All that having been said, I kind of like the idea that Brian Burke is in a bit of jam.

Anyway, a little bit of "schadenfraude" (sp?) never hurts, especially around the holidays. Right?


The Great Michael Ryder Debate of '07

The following exchange occurred earlier today between Phoff, myself and possible future PT! blogger Timaeus (currently of Philadelphia). The exchange is in response to one of the most thought-provoking posts of the year, courtesy of Jeff at Sisu Hockey, so read that and then come on back for the

Fascinating. I haven't seen Ryder play, obviously, but it does sound like he's putting in the effort, then got freaked by the pressure and started chocking on his chances. What have you seen? It does seem like he's this year's subject for the Samsonov treatment, which is not only a shame but detrimental. Is Ryder a first-line player? Probably not on a good team, but like Koivu, his role says more about the team than it does about him.

Speaking of Koivu, I can't help but think that, injuries aside, he was a much more effective player when the Habs had Damphousse as their other center. Who'd we ever get with that draft pick, anyways?

And I agree with Sisu (nice to see he's back) that Carbo's the one losing his grip here. Too bad Claude Julien and Alain Vigneault both have jobs. Wonder how Pat Burns's health is. When a team screws up in a team effort the way they've being doing recently, it's not something a trade or two will fix, it's in the way the whole team is run. You can't tell me that player-wise, Montreal is much different from Buffalo, even last year's Buffalo. The difference is in he team strategy and approach, which the coach's responsibility, This team really doesn't have an identity-are they offensive, defensive, hard-working, opportunistic, fast, physical, what? They need an identity, a system, a style of play that will allow the players to be more than the sum of their parts. Carbo won't give them that.

I read that and, although I tend to agree, all the math in the world can't hide the fact that the guy is lost on the ice and can't seem to keep up with the play. It goes way beyond stats at this point.

Anyone who has watched the Habs play knows that Ryder is not, like his linemate Higgins, "snakebit". The poor Newfie is not even getting quality chances, can't hold on to a pass and can't find the handle on most nights.

Stats, shmats.

I think you're both right, actually.

Here's the thing. When Ryder stopped scoring, it wasn't for a lack of effort. In fact, in the first couple of weeks of his slump, he was one of the hardest working players on the ice - shooting like mad (not great quality shots, but not terrible ones either), skating hard, trying to embellish his one move (where he fakes a deke on the defenceman at the opposing blue line and then bull-heads up the boards, exposing his ribs to the occasional vicious bodycheck), etc. Sensible Carbonneau (as opposed to Hothead Carbonneau, to whom we will return in a moment) encouraged his team's "natural" goal-scorer and kept him on the "top" line (that discussion is for another day).

Then the Habs started to lose, and suddenly Hothead Carbonneau took over. Truthfully, the Habs' play didn't change all that much - they were still consistently outshot and careless with the puck in both ends, with their poor play peaking at the start and end of each game. So Hothead Carbo picks up the Manual for Inexperienced Coaches and decides to try something new each game. Juggle the lines in practice. Juggle them again before game time. Juggle them some more in the third. Ryder lost the reassuring support of his coach and wound up pseudo-benched, hovering on the "third" and "fourth" lines. Of course, a sharp observer would note that he'd never produce playing with Dandenault/Chipchura/Kostopolous/Smolinski/Begin/Streit, and his mediocre skating and iffy transition play would just poison the team's "checking" line. All of which has happened.

So the situation has gone from "slumping player ups the effort" to "dumbass coach ensures top scorer will never break out of his slump (and ruin the cockamamie 'defensive' system)." You might think I'm agreeing only with Timaeus here, but Phoff is right too. Because of the miserable way in which Carbonneau has dealt with Ryder, he's lost whatever was left of his fragile sense of self-worth, and is now floating out there. As you wrote, he's "lost on the ice and can't seem to keep up with the play." His slump has turned into a condition and will now only be corrected by some over-priced sports psychologist who deals only in cliché.

When he grew frustrated with Ryder, Carbo should have benched him and then brought him back. Instead he's jerked him around and perhaps even ruined his career. Ballzov is convinced he'll be out of the league in two years. He may be right. The alternative is a trade to Philly where he'll become a 50-goal scorer.

My money's on Gainey returning behind the bench by year's end. Carbo has lost his team.
For what it's worth, Ballzov told me at the Bell Centre on Saturday that Ryder'd be out of the league within two years.