Things that make you go, "Hmmm..."

I find Holland getting sent down more perplexing than Etem and Vatanen being brought up. And yet I find retaining Rakell as a fourth line center even more disturbing. Here’s my comment on the recent moves by the Ducks’ organization in a fan post because I got long winded in the comment section.

With the context that the AHL will not be playing for a week, bringing Etem and Vatanen up for a look and maybe a cup of joe makes some sense. There was a lack of practice time for the coaches to focus on the young guys with all the new guys there. Vatanen didn't play at all because he was injured. Palms, Bones and DSP have played under BB last year. The only nube from the AHL ranks to make the team is Holland, and I bet it was based on Norfolk coaches recommendation that Holland was the best player, to wit, Holland made the roster cut.

Obviously, Rakell made a memorable impression upon our NHL coaches as he's getting a cup of joe. Yet, Rakell falls into a special circumstance that needs to be taken in heavy consideration. For his junior team, Rakell is the top line center. And yes, he dominates the competition on ice with his all around game for his junior squad. At the WJC, for some unknown reason, he is moved to play wing. If Rakell makes the team after his five game tryout and that position he won is 4c, then it looks like a mismanagement of assets considering you have Holland available or Bones can be moved down to play 4c as well.

The question is why waste a year of an ELC for a player dominating as a first line center at juniors to be relegated as a fourth line center without even a peek at playing 2C in spite of the lack of cohesion on the 2nd line result with Bones at 2C? We don't lack resources to play fourth line center as we have Holland and possibly Wagner that can vie for that position. The lack of resources last year was one of the reasons why I didn't mind DSP making the team; the other was he was hitting everything in sight, he improved his scoring touch in juniors the previous year, and he would be playing the third line with auditions in the top six (actually, the top line).

Last year, we needed players because we didn't have much talent or experience developed. This year is completely different. We all knew that Palms would make the NHL cut. Then we had a more experienced Holland returning to the A. This lockout really helped up evaluate our farm system and it looks very promising. Etem started to get the the AHL game as he was nominated on his own merit to the AHL All-Star, not as a direct Holland replacement. Vatanen has come over the pond, finally, and Lindholm is a rising star. Don't forget Wagner has become Norfolk's coaches' favorite dark horse of a darling. (I completely forgot about Wagner as a possibility at 4C until some people in this thread brought his name up. Props to you guys!... and I'm sure Light the Lamp will Napalm me for forgetting.)

Thus it seems counterproductive use of high end asset. It's like when you're in junior high looking at new clothes for the new school year. You haven't grown over the summer and your shoes still look decent, but not new. You see some kicks that look awesome, but your foot size is a size too small for that brand you like and they don't make them any smaller. So do you waste all that money on a shoe that looks great, but fits too big on you so they look like clown shoes on you or do you wait until next year when your foot could fit better into those shoes and you'll be going into high school, where it matters most? Should we choose the former, then we're really not thinking logically and we're behaving like a little kid saying, "I want it. I want it." Should we choose the latter, then we're using some perspective and thinking beyond our years in this analogy.

Which leads us back to Holland, he’s an established top line center from the AHL being pigeon-holed for fourth line duties as well with Rakell. Neither player has had a chance to man the second line during an NHL game, this including the fourth game where every line was being switched. Holland’s only received minutes in one game where over 15 minutes of that game was played on the PK. Holland’s first game was similar to Rakell’s first game, both were a little fidgety and not assertive. The right word would be timid as they were trying to appease their line mates as opposed to playing their game.

To notice disservice to Holland would be to include two player performances and the coaching staff’s decision making. Allow me to first state I’m simply a hockey fan and not a hockey coach nor scout; this is my opinion. DSP has been underperforming to his initial breakout with the Ducks this year in the AHL and with the parent club. There’s a catch to that in regards to the coaching staff and DSP’s tenure, DSP’s initial intense breakout occurred during Randy Carlyle. When DSP returned to play it was under BB, if I recall correctly. So our fan perspective has already developed a set bias whereas BB and company started thereafter and using that as a baseline to evaluate DSP. This season, DSP hasn’t played to our expectations. But after witnessing the vacuum that Staubitz brought, I welcome DSP’s return to the lineup. Although, I am still not satisfied with DSP’s performance.

Out of all the players that should not have made it out of camp, DSP has been the player that the majority of the consensus believes should not have made the team. Yet it he has earned a lot of leeway with the coaches. Another player who shares a similar grace is current second line center, Nick Bonino. He is centering a line that remains non-existent and often penned down in the defensive end. Those descriptions are reserved for the fourth line alone. A changed did occur in the fourth game; lines changed. Unfortunately, Rakell was not given the chance to center the second line. The coaches decided to reassemble the old men’s club connection of Koivu-Teemu. It is no secret that there is and has always been chemistry between the two, but during the offseason the staff thought it pertinent to separate the two in order to create a more even balanced team.

If we don’t learn from our previous mistakes, then we’re bound to repeat them. The old men’s club is not a mistake, but was not going to help the club in the long term aspect of a season and playoff chances. That was the whole reason to separate the two. The surprising event was seeing a Cogs-Koivu-Winnik line, as I’ve called them the Cone head line, have instant and greater chemistry than the old men’s club. That line revealed that Teemu and Ryan are perimeter players off the puck which left the heavy lifting to whoever was centering that line. Bonino, affectionately known as Bones, failed that task. Koivu, once inserted into that second line of Ryan-Teemu, became more relevant but that’s only because of Koivu’s heavy lifting. Rather than swap centers between the second and fourth line, which would be less invasive to the whole team, the staff decided to blow up their best line, the Cone head line to, what seems to me, appease Teemu alone. The third line was scattered throughout all the lines: Winnik debuted with the Twins, Koivu with Teemu, and Cogs became the spare part between the third and fourth line players sans Staubitz.

Those move looks as if we’re running around with our heads cut off. Staubitz’ play made me wish for Parros to return, but our staff believed that Staubitz was a good replacement. I would rather play Parros than both Staubitz and DSP. It was our staff that chose to release Parros as part of their long term plan. In a short season where we noticed two lines with good to great chemistry, the first with the Twins and the Cone heads, making small adjusts seems more reasonable to do because you can calculate the evaluations of lines and player chemistry faster than trying to thrown the everything including the kitchen sink to see what sticks. The latter idea flies contrary to having a long term plan.

So lost in this shuffle is Holland. If the team were willing to give Rakell more a chance than Holland from the get go, then we should have left Holland in the AHL until this whole Rakell thing was sorted. Then it gives Holland a carrot. Holland goes from being the only Norfolk player invited to the AHL all-star celebration, at the time, to being demoted instead of say DSP? There could be an odd chance that the organization wanted Holland to participate in the AHL all-star festivities and thus bring up Etem, but that would be a psychotic move as it also takes away Etem’s invite as an AHL all-star. These are young players and their psyche plays an important part. Down in the AHL, Holland is head above shoulders when compared to DSP, but somehow DSP manages to be a mainstay at the NHL despite his average type play. Beleskey has done more hitting and has been more aggressive than DSP. Yet, DSP is not sent down. That quandary is also upon our minds, but we’re getting it from a fan’s perspective.

I understand that season is a short season and there is a plethora of decisions that need to be addressed, but I’ve often found that making too many changes often disguises the necessary changes that need to be addressed. Our PK finally pitched a shutout. The defense needs to be more aware as well as knowing the right angle of attack to not be exploited. There is a second line center position that should be auditioned to either Rakell or Holland. Yet Rakell is the only center to have practiced with the first line, not the second. I find the decision to play only Bones or Koivu on the second line baffling just as DSP not being demoted for lack luster play or dispersion of the Cone head line. In the last game, the fourth game against Nashville, we score two goals during that whole sale changes, but both were a result of outside factors of those lines: Fowler pinched in as an outlet from Koivu to where both Teemu and Ryan had circled to the net and Ryan got the tip in goal, and the second goal came from a stretch pass that caught the Predators off guard which lead to a two-on-one breakaway chance with Winnik burying a nice pass from Perry. There’s just a whole can of confusion with the whole sale changes that displaces Palmieri from the top line as well.

Right now I disagree with some of the decision making from the coaching staff. I don’t mind the Etem and Vatanen call up during the AHL all-star break because there seems to be too much of a coincidence for it to be considered otherwise. Some of these moves look more to be an act of desperation than an act of tactic. Their moves may have an end game, but I cannot seem to understand the flow of it. And that could be the reason why I comment on blogs instead of being part of a coaching staff.

This article is user-generated. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Anaheim Calling. Please do not link this article as representative of Anaheim Calling content or viewpoints . . . unless it's <em>really</em> really good.

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