There certainly are some interesting issues facing Ottawa Senators head coach Cory Clouston these days, but thanks to some lineup changes (yet again), it might be time to deal with the latest pink elephant in the room.
On the recent "embarrassment of riches" front, Clouston seemed pleased with the performance of his rotating bench-warmers. From Ken Warren of the Citizen:
While Ryan Shannon, Peter Regin and Jesse Winchester have taken turns sitting out through much of the season, all three were flying in Monday’s 4-3 overtime win over Washington. Together, they produced Regin’s first- period goal.
In the third period, Shannon and Regin served as wingers for Mike Fisher on a line that dominated. That trio played together at practice Tuesday before the team left for Newark.
“They played with a lot more intensity, they were stronger on the puck, and that’s one of the biggest things,” Clouston said of Shannon and Regin. “Neither one of them is a big, strong, physical guy, so if they don’t have an intensity around the puck, they get pushed off. For the most part, it looked like they wanted it more than the guys they were going against. They have to continue to do that.”
Then Warren punctuates it all by stating what we've all been thinking -- the following sentence is brought to you by Marcus Allen (CBS Sports):
Based on performance Monday, Jonathan Cheechoo, who continues to struggle, should have been the odd man out.
You can understand to a degree why Cheechoo has yet to ride the pine: 1) He was part of one of the biggest trades in recent team history and there's a immediate negative perception if you're blatantly admitting one of your pieces isn't working out; 2) He's a former 56-goal scorer and 3) He carries a cap hit of 3 million USD.
Too bad there's a legitimate argument for all three of these reasons.
While Cheechoo may sport the red, white and gold these days, he was a less-than-desired player within the trade. His name was consistently brought up during the rumour-mongering, and Murray always seemed to refuse. It was only after the dangling of Milan Michalek that Ottawa acquiesced. Furthermore, Murray immediately talked down expectations of No. 41 in the capital, most notably during preseason radio interviews where he viewed Jonathan's monster season of yore as an aberration, and not the norm (based on his history of injuries alone, you can understand why he took that tone).
The third reason is always the hardest for people to justify -- the paycheque.
It's always easier to watch a player making less than a million take a seat in the press box. They're usually the faces in the crowd -- no-name pieces to the rest of the league's observers, and perhaps even on a two-way contract. However, in Cheechoo's case, his benching would cause the media to sit up and take notice -- regardless of the fact that he's been relegated to fourth-line duties on a regular basis. The news outlets would report it, and it "doesn't look good."
News flash: Neither does Cheechoo's play, and people have noticed.
Memo to the Senators -- take the media heat for 5 minutes and try something new. Bench Jonathan Cheechoo for a game. You've given him time to show you what he can (or rather, can't) do. It's time to take a stand and sit him. After all, you've tried everything else. What harm could it do?
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