When the puck drops at the Bell Centre tonight to start the Habs/Oilers game, second year forward Magnus Paajarvi will not be in the lineup. Dan Tencer tweeted:

“Renney says Paajarvi needs to play with more passion. Says benching won’t help confidence tonight, but will inspire him tomorrow and forward.”

I too was occasionally accused of not playing with enough passion, but it wasn’t that. When you’re a guy who’s supposed to contribute offensively and you’re going through a case of the snowballing struggles, it often looks like you don’t care. That’s rarely the case.

Making a young player a healthy scratch really is the defibrillator options when it comes to creating life in a player. It’s pretty intense. The problem is, if it doesn’t work things aren’t just going to stay the same. Dead can become worse-than-dead in hockey’s case.

So Paajarvi hasn’t had much success this year (almost none, actually – he has zero goals and one assist in 13 games), and now he’s scratched. He’ll have one of two reactions:

He’ll recognize a much-deserved kick in the ass when he sees one, be embarrassed that it came to this, and never want it to happen again. He’ll skate hard the next day, wait for his chance, and come out guns-a-blazing. This is known as the Tom Renney Hopes option.

Or, he’ll be a kid. When you’re that talented that young, you’re not used to being told you’re not good enough to get it done. Pouting can start, the relationship with the coach can become strained, and it can start things down the wrong path.

I’m not behind the scenes enough to know if they’ve tried other things – pulling him into the office, sitting down to watch video with him, staying out with him after practice with a bucket of pucks, giving him extra lingonberries etc. – but I hope they have. Some younger players (you see this a lot in junior) really don’t take well to the healthy scratch.

So if you’re an Oilers fan, you’re hoping he’s a mentally mature kid, that he gets back in the lineup the next game, and he puts one in the back of the net.

To opt for the nuclear option on a young player usually ends up going one way or the other. Stay tuned.