According to Bruce Garrioch, Cory Clouston revealed in a media scrum that not only will Pascal Leclaire get the start tonight but sophomore defenceman Erik Karlsson will be resigned to sitting this one out. It’s not a unique strategy used with young, struggling blueliners. It has worked wonders for Brian Lee over the past twelve or so games. And alas, for all three of you who thought it would hilarious for Brian Lee to return and match up against fellow 2005 first round pick Anze Kopitar, it wasn’t meant to be. David Hale has drawn back into the lineup in Karlsson’s place instead.
It was speculated yesterday that Karlsson would be a scratch because of his recent bout with the flu. So his absence isn’t really that much of a surprise. Maybe Karlsson is still suffering some lingering effects of the flu and Clouston is genuinely concerned about fatigue or the spread of the flu within the dressing room. However, neither answer is the case.
The Senators defenceman is well enough to suit up against the Los Angeles Kings at Scotiabank Place, but coach Cory Clouston wants Karlsson to sit anyway, which means blueliner David Hale will play.
While Karlsson has the flu, he could play, but Clouston wants the youngster to watch and try to get his game together. He is minus-5 this season and took a boatload of bad penalties on the club’s long and frustrating road trip last week.
“It’s perfect time for (Karlsson) to step back, refocus and get his game back on track as well,” said Clouston. ~ Via Garrioch, Off the Posts
In case it wasn’t clear, the organization’s message is simple: we’re a middle of the pack club that is trying to remain competitive while building from within. As the organization attempts to balance wins and losses with player development, the margin for error is incredibly fine. So when Ottawa loses three in a row and four of their past five and have been outscored by a margin of 23 to 8, someone’s going to have their ass stapled to the bench and sure as hell, it’s not going to be an underachieving vet.
Albeit, Karlsson isn’t playing well. I get that. But as an undersized, offensive defenceman who has only 80 games of NHL experience under his belt, his career is going to have some ebbs and flows as he adjusts to playing at a high-level every night of the season. What I don’t get is the organization’s willingness to give their veteran players the benefit of the doubt, even though they’ve been the ones who have repeatedly dropped the ball this season.
Mike Fisher has been nursing some undisclosed upper body injury that has prevented him from playing that physically assertive style that we’ve all grown accustomed to. Yet, management would apparently rather carry eight healthy defenceman and risk losing one of Hale or Lee for nothing rather than call up another center to give Fisher a rest. (Note: A return to health would also spare us from all of those mundane “Maybe if Carrie would give him a rest” jokes that became unfunny after the first week that their relationship was made public knowledge.)
Like Alexei Kovalev, Karlsson’s an entertaining player. However, when the young blue-chip prospect screws up or disappears in a handful of games, he’s the one who’s admonished to the pressbox. It’s a mixed-message that I don’t understand.
Maybe it’s just me but I’m not convinced that the team is any better by dressing Hale. Nor am I convinced that it’s better from a development standpoint for the kid to sit and watch. I’d prefer to see if he can elevate his game against one of the top teams in the Western Conference than sit one out.