Coming off one of the most emotional wins of the season, the Senators are in Newark, New Jersey tonight to take on another Eastern Conference opponent who is vying for a wild card position.
The importance of getting on a roll and going on a few winning streaks is reaching the critical stage, so you can understand the fan base collectively losing its head when news from this morning’s practice concerned Marc Methot remaining a healthy scratch.
Methot did not play in the team’s December 1 game versus the Detroit because of the flu, but he did travel with the team and played in the team’s next five games before relapsing with more flu-like symptoms.
From all indications, Methot is able and willing to play, but MacLean obviously has his reason(s) for wanting to keep Methot out of the lineup.
“I believe that he’s getting closer to being ready, if he’s not ready, and we’re going to consider (him returning) for sure,” said the coach. “But sometimes when you win games, it ain’t broke, don’t fix it or don’t change it, but we’re going to give everyone every consideration to be in the lineup.” ~ Paul MacLean via SenatorsExtra
Okay, so there are few things to keep in mind here:
Like MacLean said, the Senators have played well and players like Cody Ceci and Jared Cowen have stepped up in Methot’s absence, however he is still one-half of this team’s top defensive pairing. Perhaps more importantly, Methot was playing some of his best hockey of late, even during that stretch of five games that followed his ‘first’ bout with the flu.
MacLean has also never been shy about tinkering with a winning lineup. Remember, he’s the same guy who had the stones (pardon the pun) to insert Swedish import Jakob Silfverberg into Ottawa’s lineup for Mark Stone immediately after the team won game five and went up three games to two in their 2012 playoff series versus the Rangers. If he believes Marc Methot could help this team win, he would be in the lineup.
So it begs the question, why should fans ever listen to an organization when it comes to revelations about the extent of an injury or illness?
Misdirection has been a commonly employed tactic and it is not going to change anytime soon. For me, it seems more likely that Methot aggravated an injury and it has been nagging him over the past few games. Having the team play well in his absence simply affords Methot more time to nurse whatever injury could be bothering him now, so he does not have to miss an extended period of time later.
Then again, MacLean is the same guy who keeps going back to Craig Anderson instead of allowing Robin Lehner to run with the number one starter’s gig, so who the hell knows?
Whatever the case, as the Senators’ blue line continues to improve, Methot’s absence underlines one importance – the Senators currently have four capable left-handed shooting defencemen who can play in the lineup. From a development perspective, Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch represent the future, and Methot and Chris Phillips are both slated to hit unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the next two seasons – Phillips in 2014 and Methot in 2015. With Phillips already negotiating an extension with the Senators and Borowiecki possessing a contract that turns into a one-way deal next season, it will be interesting to see how the Senators handle this abundance of bodies.
The Sens have tried using Wiercioch and Methot on their off-side to little success, so maybe the organization will be forced to parlay some of these stockpiled assets to address another position of need.
Other News & Notes
You can remove the ‘emergency’ asterisk beside Cody Ceci’s recall, because the Senators have formally changed it to a ‘normal’ recall.
It’s a small sample size to be sure, but Pierre Lebrun believes that Ceci’s emergence as a viable pro means the Senators will be done kicking the tires on puck-moving defencemen. Instead, they will now focus their attention and efforts on acquiring a top six forward.