Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Broken Spokes

On Buckling Under The Pressure

This morning as I was cycling to work I heard and felt the resonance of a familiar ping from underneath me. It both sounds and feels like a rock has been thrown up into the wheel, but none had. One of my spokes had broken.

5 years ago I would have gone on riding the bike – it's only a spoke after all, there are many – but I have learned a few things since then. If I don't fix this spoke now, I face a much bigger repair job in the future.

If the Canadiens were a well-tuned bicycle last winter, a couple of weeks ago they were a team in need of a tune up, and now the spoke has gone – they need a fix. When a vulnerable Komisarek popped and was removed from the line-up the thought of a smooth-running team was gone, the defence has since shown signs of buckling. Don't get me wrong, they are doing an admirable job. But like the poor spokes on my bike – if I continue to ride them – it will only be a matter of time until they pop, one by one.

O'Byrne showing signs of weakening
As is often the case, the spoke that is called upon to take more of the load than it can manage is the one that will be next to go. In our case, that player is Ryan O'Byrne.

I don't think anyone missed his catastrophic brain fart last night. Nor could we fail to notice his struggles so far with more responsibility. I don't want to vilify O'Byrne because he, as has been pointed out more than once, is her to stay. It will be in our interest to take his development to heart. Defending him was the right thing to do. Coaching him further would be helpful.

O'Byrne is an obvious example – a rookie thrust into a second/sometimes first pairing. But, it is my feeling that it's only a matter of time for the others. Brisebois, for example. He is playing beyond the minutes one would think prudent given his abilities and age. He's been OK while others expose themselves with mistakes, but a heavy workload does not suit him. And how about Bouillon? Powerplay and PK time galore now. In times past, more ice time hasn't translated into a cry for more ice time from fans. Generally, he too, thrives in a limited role. Even the top guys, Markov and Hamrlik could burn out some if they are asked to play too many 25+ minute games.

Replace broken Komisarek?
This brings us to the obvious question posed above. Why haven't we then replaced Komisarek on the roster?

When you lose a 240 lb behemoth that's one thing, but we also lost 20 minutes of fairly dependable ice time – all needing to be replaced. We are entitled to carry a full complement of players, but have chosen not to since Mike's injury. We have chosen to spread those 20 minutes around to the 6 other guys (not just Gorges). Why is that? I understand our wheel may never be as strong as it was without Komi in the line-up, but an extra reinforcement couldn't hurt could it?

I don't think so. It would mean we could give Brisebois, O'Byrne and Bouillon a rest once in a while by moving them down or temporarily into the stands. It would give us flexibility to toy with the defensive lineup. I think what I'm saying is that it would stop the current corps from wholly buckling under too big a load. Gainey could act here, make the necessary repair, bring in the right replacement parts.

If only we had a big defenceman (say at least 230 lbs) with NHL experience and on a roll this year (at least a great team-leading +/- on a winning team). Wouldn't that be great? Maybe we could trade one of our young offensive prospects for a guy like that...

Just a thought.

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