The Ducks ran into trouble last night, and Coach Carlyle immediately shifted back to his big line of Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan. Among the things he discovered: Beleskey is just as effective a banger on the second line and Calder isn't bad when you put third line expectations on him. As with all things Carlyle, the depth chart appears to be good only until the next slump, but for once this season, the players are actually responding positively to his line shuffling.
Daniel, Selanne is skating and Carter will start next week. Will it be tough to insert them in the lineup, or can we expect the team to rally around Carlyle's juggling act, just as they did last night?
I don't think Carter will be as big of a problem as Selanne. Until he went down, Ryan Carter looked like a great defensive center. I honestly believed he had what it took to resurrect a true stopper line in Anaheim. In his case, I don't think the team will be greatly disturbed if Nokelainen sits and Carter plays. I also think there is space to move Nokelainen up to the third line and sit Calder, but we'll see how everything plays out. The point is, Carter is very responsible in his own end, and having him anchor the 4th line will only make us better.
The real concern is Selanne. When he comes back, where does he go? If we stick with the formula of requiring a banger on each line, then we have two options: Selanne on the top line or Sexton on the top line. I say put Selanne on the top line, because Ryan, Koivu, and Sexton have proved that they can work together. While Selanne-Koivu-Sexton sounds like a wonderfully fast and frightening line, I think they would be too much of a defensive liability to be a feasible option, even if we take into consideration Koivu's phenomenal defensive skills.
No matter what, Beleskey will be knocked out of the Top 6, and that's where I think the trouble starts. . Beleskey has earned his third line spot. If anyone should be sent to the minor leagues, it's got to be Calder. However, the X factor in all of this is the amount of Crazy Juice that Murray drinks between now and the time he has to make a decision. Ultimately, that is going to determine what kind of adjustment the team actually makes. If Murray continues to think his rookies aren't as valuable as guys who have simply played a few more games in the league, then Calder will become the Chipchura to Beleskey's Macgregor Sharp. At that point, Murray is sending the message that job security is tied to games played, not performance. And you can only expect players to rally around the lineup changes if they believe that rallying and playing well will actually keep them in the lineup.
I agree that there ARE potential missteps here. This team isn't playing so well that it can ship or sit anyone without tanking the chemistry, even if they do it to reinsert two players that were playing exceptionally well before their respective injuries.
Carlyle told the players to get their noses dirty last night and to get into the house no matter how often they were shoved or boxed out of it. You saw Perry and Ryan doing that, but you also saw Beleskey pushing his way to the crease on Sexton's goal. And I think Carlyle should fight for the players that are doing exactly what he asks of them.
I'm not saying Murray is constantly overruling Carlyle. I have no evidence of that. But I sensed a bit of quiet dissent from the coaching staff when Murray acquired Chipchura. It's not often that you hear a coach admit he knows nothing about a new acquisition, even one that split time in the AHL. I mean, this wasn't like Eminger or Brown, where the guy came from one of Carlyle's former workplaces, but you still expect that the coach was consulted or sent a scouting report when the player is just hours away from joining the team.
I think Carlyle knows what he needs out there, and he knows who's delivering it. This team should be rewarding its Sextons and Beleskeys, not acquiring identical players to keep its options open, and certainly not sending them back to the minors in favor of keeping someone like Kyle Calder.