There were many people angry with me following the Leafs and Stars game Thursday night. I seemed to have enraged a large portion of fans who have Jay McClement as their favourite player for the blue and white. I have nothing against McClement as a 4th line role player, but people need to adjust their perspectives if they think he is anything better than that. While many admire him for his work ethic McClement is an easy player to acquire off the scrap heap at any time. The name on the back of his sweater may not say McClement, but it will say Steckel, Halpern or Smithson instead. I know many don’t want to acknowledge this, but it’s true. Also, just like the current penalty killing skid is not McClement’s fault, the penalty killing greatness of last year wasn’t due to him either. McClement, after all, is not in net.
Coming off of a week where many people speculated Leafs General Manager Dave Nonis removed Jerred Smithson from the Leafs roster in order to stop Randy Carlyle from playing him, I said this:
If Nonis really wanted to send Carlyle a message he would put McClement on waivers tomorrow.
— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) December 6, 2013
While the Leafs are certainly playing through injuries, the fact that McClement is playing so much while someone like Peter Holland hardly sees the ice is a major problem. This is especially the case when your team is incapable of producing offense and getting dramatically out shot night after night. Perhaps riding a player that has never produced offense and has only 2 points in 28 games is not the best option. Carlyle has increased McClement’s workload which is something that does not suit the very very average McClement. Carlyle is placing him in a position to fail and last night that failure came to the forefront. While many seem to think that McClement is a player capable of being very good defensively at even strength, it is in reality something that just isn’t true. For example, take a look at Dallas’ first goal at the 1:45 mark in this clip. You’ll see McClement get on the wrong side of Erik Cole and then not have the foot speed to catch up to the Stars’ winger:
This isn’t McClement’s fault. It is something that shouldn’t be expected of him. It is also something that he has proven of not being able to do in his entire NHL career. This shouldn’t be news to anyone, McClement is not a shutdown NHL centre.
Following that defensive miscue by McClement, the Leafs were able to once again take the lead. However, with less than three minutes left in a one goal game, McClement was unable to contain Tyler Seguin along the boards (no surprise) and ended up taking a two minute tripping minor. The Stars subsequently scored on the power play to tie the game. Is it McClement’s fault that he couldn’t contain Seguin causing him to take the penalty, or was it Carlyle’s for placing him in a situation that was destined for failure? I choose the latter.
What angered many other people last night was this comment:
The Leafs are a McClement and Fraser injury away from being a good team
— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) December 6, 2013
Oddly enough, so many took issue with me saying that the Leafs would be better should McClement be injured but not one person defended Fraser. The people who were saying it was underhanded and terrible for me to wish ill on McClement weren’t fazed at all by the inclusion of Fraser in that tweet. I found that very interesting. If you’re going to get offended, get offended about the entire thing. Don’t just pick and choose. Unless, of course, you agree with me about one part of that tweet but not the other. Do I want them to suffer a career ending or life altering injury? Of course not. However, it has been proven repeatedly that the only way to have Carlyle change something that isn’t working is by having those players taken away from him.
Also, what was so bad about that comment? Last year Carlyle refused to play Jake Gardiner until injuries to Fraser and Mike Kostka forced him to do so. Once Gardiner came into the lineup he was the Leafs’ best defenseman. This season, Carlyle refuses to play Nazem Kadri on the top line until Tyler Bozak gets injured. Kadri proceeds to score two goals and be one of the best Leafs on the ice. Is my logic faulty here? Can someone explain the problem? Is it because you don’t think it is crude for me to want a player to get injured? The majority of these people who were up in arms are big advocates of fighting in hockey. I guess they turn their sensitivity to violence off when the gloves are dropped.
Jay McClement is a valuable contributor if he is playing between 8-12 minutes a night on the 4th line. If he is playing between 16-20 in a shutdown role then there is a major problem. If he is on the ice in overtime with Phil Kessel then there is a major problem. If your head coach prefers to play him over and over again to horrendous results then there is a major problem. If you don’t think that it’s been to horrendous results, keep in mind that, beginning with the 6-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Jay McClement has been on the ice for 12 of the 24 goals against the Leafs have allowed. Perhaps it’s time to try something new since this plan isn’t working.