Ramblings: Digging deep on Gusev, Bowey’s blunder, Iron Yan, and fading Phil (Nov 25)
I was asked on Twitter if it’s time to drop Nikita Gusev, after I had advised him two weeks ago that he should “give it two weeks”. I liked the question and I wanted to delve deeper and I will do it here.
First, the bad. In his first 19 NHL games, Gusev has just eight points. He’s only getting secondary PP time and his linemates are Tommy Stonehands and Jimmy Lunchpail (alright fine – Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman). His ice time is modest (maybe third line-ish) and Coach Hynes seems to be using him as a PP specialist, reminding me a little of John Tortorella and Sam Gagner back when he was with Columbus. I don’t think the coach is a big fan because his possession numbers are quite weak, albeit with limited sample size.
Now, the good. Ice time seems to be creeping upwards (averaging over 15 minutes in his last four games) and last game he was bumped up to the top unit. When the team scores while he is on the ice, Gusev is a big part of it (88.9% IPP), more so than with most players. His points per 60 minutes of ice time is fourth on the team. The talent is definitely there.
I feel like at this point Gusev is a linemates change away from posting three points every four games. My sense is that his talent was evaluated properly in training camp (all offense, little defense) and now he is just being eased into a new league. Is the game plan to continue easing him in until the 20-game mark? Forty? Your decision on this comes down to your comfort level. Myself? I would do everything I can to make room for him on my bench. But if that’s just not possible, then I’d drop him – but I’d keep my finger on the trigger ready to quickly claim him back if I hear of any changes to his linemates. That could happen next game…or next season. I wish I could get in the head of Coach Hynes and find out for sure, but I haven’t developed that power yet. I’m close though, just a few more experiments in my labr…oh but I’ve said too much.
John Marino has points in seven of his last nine games. Who? Yes, the guy has come out of nowhere. He’s doing this without PP time, and his track record in other leagues (NCAA, USHL) screams “20-point player at best”. But, if you look deeper, he was behind Adam Fox (NYR) and Devils’ third-round pick Reilly Walsh when he was at Harvard. So maybe there’s more to this guy. For now, I have him going through a Max Lajoie-type of hot run, with the potential to fade just as quickly as Lajoie did. But Marino is taking full advantage of his time with Kris Letang and Justin Schultz out of the lineup. And, just a thought Mike Sullivan, but if he has seven points in nine games and your two star PP defensemen are out…maybe try him on the power play and see?
Madison Bowey has six points in his last eight games. But Detroit plays just six times in the next 17 days, the fewest in the league, so not as much short-term value there as I would have liked. The former point-per-game WHL defenseman is already just four points shy of his career high of 12. But all that good faith and hot stick…is for nothing. Because of this play on Saturday:
Yep, he was still in the box, and he got his stick on Jack Hughes…while still in the box! Bowey was a healthy scratch on Sunday for the brain fart.
James Reimer had an easy shutout Sunday, facing just 19 shots. But it’s enough to bring his overall numbers up to respectability. He sits 4-4-0, 2.71 and 0.910 with 44.4% QS.
I remember three weeks ago when I had more than a few people write in to me asking if they should give up on Sebastian Aho. Turns out, all he needed was to move Nino Niederreiter off of his line and put in Andrei Svechnikov. Aho has 16 points in his last 14 games, with another two Sunday. El Nino, on a different line, has fared much better than he did playing with Aho. But at least he hasn’t fared much worse. In all, Niederreiter is on pace for a career-low 34 points (other than his horrible rookie season).
Svechnikov has an eight-game points streak.
Filip Zadina made his 2019-20 regular season debut with Detroit, called up because of the Anthony Mantha injury. Zadina played 15 minutes and was a minus-1. He is minus-6 in 10 career NHL games.
After having eight points in seven games to kick off his Red Wings’ career, Robby Fabbri is pointless in his last two games and is actually a minus-6 in his last three games.
Robert Bortuzzo was suspended four games for this. Viktor Arvidsson will miss about 17 games for this. I fall pretty firmly on side of “this is brutal, Bortuzzo went too far”. Before the suspension was handed down I figured he deserved four games for the vicious, unnecessary cross check – and doubled because he’s a repeat offender. Eight games.
These stories going around about Mike Babcock has opened my eyes. And do you know how it makes me feel? It makes me believe that he was overrated as a coach (many of you would say “finally” to that, I’m sure). It makes me believe that he should not coach again if that’s the style he chooses to embrace. But it does not make me resort to using f-bombs, or insults to him as a person. And those who do need to take a look in the mirror. Showing the world on social media how much you hate a celebrity who did a bad thing by spewing venom and vitriol at that celebrity does not get you a pat on the back. You are just using ‘hate’, ironically the very thing that you think you are fighting
The last footage I saw of Babcock before he was fired, just a few days prior, was a friend of mine on Facebook posting a video of her son. He was in the hospital with cancer the same time as I was, just a few floors below me. This young boy had a liver transplant and two-and-a-half years later he’s doing as well as I am. Anyway, this video was of the Leafs hosting this boy and his family and Babcock was showing him around the dressing room and his office. The line combos were right up there on the white board. The boy looked at the notes on his desk and asked what the numbers meant. Babcock explained how they were faceoff success rates in the different zones. Super friendly, incredibly patient on a game day. The seven- or eight-minute video was followed by a dozen pictures with the family. It was easily a 40-minute visit from what I can gather. It really stuck with me. And then Babcock was fired. And now, a week later, I see nothing but hate about him. But I want you to also remember that he does do good things. Denounce some of the actions and perhaps even the coaching style, but take the high road when you do it. The Mike Commodore method is not the blueprint to use.
Keith Yandle took a puck to the mouth on Saturday in the first period, he lost nine teeth – and returned for the third period. He had dental surgery Sunday morning…and played Sunday evening. His iron man streak sits at 821 consecutive games, and I think it’s fair to say that he’s earned the iron man label.
Yandle didn’t just make a token appearance either. He led both teams in ice time with 23:38.
Fun fact. The only player to go without a shot on Linus Ullmark Sunday was Anton Stralman. Every other Panther was credited with a shot. Ullmark stopped 43 of 45. The 26-year-old has had a pretty good season, but more importantly – I think he’s ironing out his consistency issues. That’s five straight games where he’s allowed three goals or fewer. It’s the fourth time this season that Ullmark has made at least 40 saves, and that leads the entire league.
With three points Sunday, Jack Eichel now has 10 in his last five games. Give him a full season of health this year and he’ll give you 100 points. Mark it. He’s arrived.
Casey Mittelstadt is pointless in 13 games now. I had quickly backpedaled last month because I blabbed throughout the preseason that I felt he should put in some AHL time this year. Maybe I backpedaled too soon? He had seven points in 10 games to start.
Phil Kessel has five points in his last 12 games and is minus-9 in that span.
See you next Monday.
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