A Real Team, Finally.
No doubt the underlying story of the season has been team play. We all thought it would be “what if…”. What if Heatley were still here.
It started that way, but this has turned into a story not about one player, or two, but about a whole roster and its solid team play.
So many of the victories have come as a result of diversified scoring and top to bottom sound defensive play, yet when the “skill” was out of the line-up, the team struggled.
Now, this is hardly a phenomenon isolated to the Senators. Take any team in the league, remove their top line, their starting goaltender, and their top ice time defenseman, all at once, and you’ll see a team struggling to remain competitive, at best.
The truth is, a team needs a solid mix of skill. Look at the past few elite teams in the post season, and you’ll see teams that find impact through-out all of the line-up. Not every skater is a star, but every skater has the ability to out-perform their counterparts on the oppositions depth chart.
This is what were seeing in Ottawa, and the return of the skill highlights this fact. Yes Alfie has been a beast and Mich and Spez have scored in both of their return games, but those further into the depth chart have excelled once returned to their sweet spots.
I’m not saying this team is ready to challenge for the Cup, but I have thoroughly enjoyed watching a TEAM win games.
After the Cup run this team quickly devolved into a one line club. The wins came when this line performed, the losses piled up when they struggled. As the season wore on, the fatigue came into play and the guys further down the depth chart we’re ignored as coaching leaned more heavily on the top line to “fix” the problem. It was a catch-22.
But with Heatleys abandonment of this team the “fix” was no longer available. In all likelihood the “fix” was already being seen for what it was, the problem, and that played a part in Heatleys flight. Clouston has been commited to a team game. The stars playing time has been reduced to more appropriate levels. A system has been put into place, and every player is expected to play the same system, from 1st line to 4th line.
And the results are showing.
Scoring is being found through-out the line-up. In a compressed schedule the team has been able to continue to play an up tempo game. And in critical situations Clouston can throw any line over the boards and know what he’ll get.
A skid may well be in the future, that’s the reality in a competitive league, but the sound play of the team and its ability to stick to the system, through thick and thin, will bring the best out of this line-up, whatever that may prove to be.
Here’s hoping Spezza can refocus his game, take some of the pressure off of himself, and flourish as not having to be the guy the team relies on for wins, but instead as a part of a complete team. If Spezza begins to play to his full potential, and this team remains healthy, there may just be reason for optimism…just ask Big Mel.