Jason Blake made a somewhat triumphant return to Top Six status tonight after sitting out a game, then putting out a 7 shot effort to get back on the second line in the middle of his first game back against the Devils.
In scratching Blake, Carlyle noted the following to the OC Register:
"Jason has to play his game and his game is a speed game," Carlyle said. "And what we’ve asked him to do is to be quick and first on the forecheck. He’s got to be, as I call it, somewhat of a more tenacious player with the puck down below the goal lines.
"Finish the body checks, stopping progression. We ask every member of our hockey club to do that. Basically outwork the people that he’s up against."
The criticisms are valid and certainly representative of things Blake was not doing in recent games, especially in an effort against Detroit. Still, it must be a tough decision to store 3M in cash salary in the press box for one night. Daniel, with Joffrey Lupul expected to return to the lineup some time before Christmas (and expectations of the much younger Lupul far outdistancing those of Blake), do you think young Joffrey can live up to Carlyle's current standards, especially considering the punishment is scratch time?
I don't see Lupul having trouble living up to Carlyle's expectations. I think everyone forgets how aggressive Lupul was when he was on that top line. He was a man on a mission, taking the body, blocking shots, and burying the biscuit. Lupul enjoyed is best success here in Anaheim, and I'm convinced he wants to stay here. He was moved up and down the depth chart due to a lack of early success, but he was still making the hussle plays. He was also a willing Penalty Killer. I wasn't happy with the acquisition of Lupul in the Pronger deal, but I thought he was one of our better players early last year.
I would like to see Lupul form a strong bond with Bobby Ryan and create a new inseparable pair. If Lupul plays like he did when he was on the top line, he can go into corners and get the puck to Ryan. Bobby can get the shots he likes while still taking the ice with a skill player. Whenever Lupul comes back, he will probably be a little slow for the first couple of games, but he may be a key piece in solidifying the three scoring lines that Murray and Carlyle talked about so much. Although, I have to say I think his return will make it tougher for Jason Blake to secure the top six spot he momentarily lost last week.
I was really impressed with Joffrey Lupul last year. Not with the pace of his offensive production, because lord knows he couldn't have sustained that for an entire season, but definitely with his commitment to playing some defense, forechecking and even passing. I think Lupul was doing all of the little things on a shift to shift basis, the things that were probably eluding Blake and the things that can't be fun for Blake to commit to at his size.
By benching the 5'10" winger, Carlyle basically came out and said that just being a reliable shooter (which this team desperately needs most nights) won't be enough. I think Lupul proved he had a little more to offer than that last year, and assuming a completely healthy Joffrey returns at some meaningful point in this season, I see him being steady enough to stay Carlyle's scratching pencil.