Last night the Predators of Nashville lost 4-3 to the UNSTOPPABLE Blue Jackets of Columbus (I kid, but they actually are 7-0-4 in their last 11 games and currently tied for the final playoff spot in the West), and have now dropped to 13th after losing four straight, the last three of which were to Calgary, Edmonton and Columbus. Yyyyikes.
What a team like that needs is all hands on deck, everybody going, a great team effort…only they didn’t dress their best possible team. And you know why.
They didn’t dress Sergei Kostitsyn because he made one of the more hilarious, egregious, most ridiculous line changes in the history of hockey, abandoning a player a stride ahead of him who was carrying the puck because, I dunno, someone else take this minus I’m tired.
So yeah. It was a horseshit play. I get that, and so does he.
I’m in favour of coaches benching a player for an accumulation of lazy plays, or a repeat demonstration of poor positioning, or for any number of things that put you in a position to say “look dude, you’re just not getting it,” or “you’re just not working hard enough.” “We need more from you consistently, and until you prove you can give it to us, we’re going to play someone who can. “
But Sergei Kostitsyn has been a reliable player for the Predators. He sure as hell hasn’t been pouring the puck in the net this year, but with 11 points in 28 games on a team three goals removed from dead last in goals-for in the NHL, he has value. This isn’t a referendum on him as a player – there’s a reason he’s on Nashville’s powerplay in the third to make that gaffe the other night in the first place. They think he’s good.
By making him a healthy scratch for that ridiculous brain fart the team message to him is “Hey, don’t do anything completely ridiculous.”
He knows that.
Of course he knows that, and he knows it even more after getting nationally embarrassed for his dumb decision. That Edmonton scored – Lennart Petrell scored, to top it off – really made the whole thing even worse for him.
No hockey player wants to be embarrassed, and I think you could’ve got a hard, passionate game out of Kostitsyn by calling him into the coaches office and saying “Look, we both know what happened there and what you did wrong. By all means I could make you a healthy scratch, but I believe you’re a better player than that, and I need you to prove it tonight. Otherwise I’m the guy who looks like an a** here. Don’t make me look like an a**.”
By making him a healthy scratch, all you’ve done is cover your own backside. “See guys? I don’t take any crap from my players.” It’s the easy way out, and doesn’t just punish Kostitsyn, it hurts his teammates, and exacerbates the original problem.
The Nashville Predators simply aren’t deep enough, had lost three straight, and fell a goal short last night. Who knows if Kostitsyn’s the difference, but his replacement, Taylor Beck (playing 15 minutes in his first NHL game) shouldn’t have been expected to be. You had the chance to make your more experienced guy put up or shut up, and instead chose to put him up in the press box. It was the easy way out.