As you've probably heard by now, Ducks forward Jason Blake suffered a significant laceration to his left wrist in the third period of yesterday's game against the Sharks when defenseman Brent Burns stepped on his arm. I was at the game yesterday and we knew right away that something was wrong when a) Blake pulled off his glove and skated straight to the bench and b) we saw the puddle of blood in the faceoff circle.
In case you missed it before, here's a YouTube video of last night's Ducks Live postgame broadcast that shows the injury:
Eric Stephens of the OC Register reported this morning that Blake is scheduled for surgery on Monday to repair a severed tendon and that he is expected to be out for three months. While many of us here at AC have opined that Blake no longer belongs in the top-6 forward ranks, none of us were hoping for things to go down like this. After the jump, I'll take a look a the likely replacements for Blake (in descending order of probability) on the second line and the implications of any move. And the nominees are:
McMillan seems the most likely candidate to join Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu on the second line. Coach Randy Carlyle experimented with McMillan on the second line in the pre-season and McMillan has been a good soldier for the organization, dutifully accepting his current fourth line assignment despite his break-out performance last season. Alongside George Parros and Maxime Macenaeur, McMillan has made the most of his playing time, racking up an assist and a +2 rating through three games, despite only averaging 8:24 of ice time per game.
A McMillan promotion would probably open up a spot for Matt Beleskey on the fourth line or possibly even a Patrick Maroon. Beleskey seems the likely candidate as he's already with the team and has experience with Carlyle's system. If Maroon isn't called up, Dan Sexton would be another candidate to take on the role of depth forward.
Like McMillan, Beleskey seems a likely option simply because he's already with the team. While he struggled last year with injuries (going 3-7=10 in 35 games at the NHL level en route to a -10 rating), Beleskey's strong performance in 2009-2010 had many speculating that he would be a top-6 forward in no time. Beleskey has shown a scoring touch, as well as a desire to take the body and wreak some havoc. His style would best fit the role Jason Blake currently occupies on the second line as the guy who is supposed to dig out pucks and set up the Finns. Beleskey had shoulder surgery in the off-season and has yet to see NHL game action yet this season.
Using Beleskey to replace Blake is a smart move from a roster standpoint because it doesn't mess with the chemistry of the other three lines. While I think McMillan has earned the chance ahead of Beleskey, I'd prefer to keep the third and fourth lines intact given their strong play so far this season. As with any move, Maroon or Sexton are the most likely candidates to be called up and fill the depth forward role on the scratch list.
This isn't nearly as crazy or unlikely as it seems at first blush. Bobby is used to being shuffled throughout the lineup and he's shown great chemistry with Saku Koivu on the power play's second unit and other situations in the past and Bobby could theoretically fill the role of the physical guy on the second line while also adding some teeth to that line. Given that neither of the top two lines have found the score sheet yet this season, this move could also be used to motivate the team a bit to start producing results. Obviously, the question would be whether or not Bobby could adjust to a less prominent role on the team and how his desire to carry the play would gel with Selanne's.
Here's where things get tricky. You can't capably move Bobby to the second line without creating some chaos in the lineup. Putting Bobby on the second line means moving up Beleskey, McMillan, Andrew Cogliano, or even Devante Smith-Pelly and subsequently replacing them on their current lines. This move could pay off for the team, but it probably would further delay the gelling of the top two lines.
#42 / Right Wing / Syracuse Crunch
Apr 29, 1987
Like Bobby, Sexton has shown good chemistry with Saku Koivu in the past. While Sexton hasn't been able to recapture the magic he created in 2009-2010, there are some who believe that all Sexton needs is a chance to play in a scoring role. Sexton's game relies on speed and opportunity, and he struggled to find consistency when relegated to the third and fourth lines. In the same way that Beleskey's promotion leaves the other three lines intact, a Sexton promotion would preserve the chemistry of the other lines and prove once and for all whether or not Sexton has a future as a top-6 forward.
Although Sexton is likely to be promoted to the team one way or another following Blake's injury, I don't think he deserves the first crack at the second line. As much as I love Sexton's fire, I just don't think he's got the offensive skills to fill that role. Of course, you could argue the same about Jason Blake, but that's not really productive at this point.
While this is the most unlikely option of those I can conceive, I actually find this to be a really interesting idea. Cogliano can skate like the wind and paired with Selanne, their speed could really create some problems for opposing teams. Cogs has been a top-6 forward in the past and has the ability to play both the center or the wing, which would give Randy Carlyle two face-off options on the second line.
While I think the Cogliano option is an interesting one, I would hate to break-up that third line. They've been dangerous at times and while I think Brandon McMillan could capably fill the third-line center role, this move creates a bit more roster upheaval than I'd like to see. I think the team really wants to get a sense of Cogliano's abilities as a center, and this move would jeopardize that.
What do you think? Am I missing a likely option here? Who do you think will replace Blake on the second line?