Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is Benching Wolski The Right Move?

The New York Rangers are making some lineup changes for tonight’s gameagainst the New York Islanders with Sean Avery and Steve Eminger returning tothe lineup while Wojtek Wolski and Matt Gilroy will be sitting in the pressbox. The decision to sit Gilroy forEminger is not one that surprises me and is once I have been looking for sometime, but the move to sit Wolski for Avery is a bit surprising.

On the plus side I see the appeal to Avery in what could be a very physicalgame against a rival who has been playing tough hockey of late. There is also the fact thatbased on being benched the last game you will have a very motivated Sean Averywhich can be a powerful weapon as he showed last season when he scored sixpoints in 7 games after being benched for. The issue is not with the reinsertion of Avery per say, but the choiceto remove Wolski from the lineup.

Wolski is a player that with coach John Tortorella is either ridden for topline time or in the doghouse from one game to the next.He can be inconsistent in his results, but ona team that lacks skilled forwards to remove him not only from the lineupduring regulation play, but a potential shootout situation when in the lastgame he kept the team alive to eventually get the second point on BrandonDubinsky’s winner. For a team worriedabout every point that seems like a big risk to take especially if you end upwith another game of Avery playing less than 10 minutes.

The other piece that I worry about with Wolski is that being a healthyscratch was not an effective tool to prod more out of him in Phoenix, so ifthat is the goal of the move I fear it will fail and the Rangers will lose himto it, but hopefully that wont happen.
From what Andrew Gross is reporting at RangerRants he seems to understand the issue and is determined to work on it.
“I guess you’re always surprised. You don’t want to be out of the lineup.You want to be in the lineup. But I don’t think that (the shootout goal) is agood enough reason to keep me in the lineup. I’ve got to play better. He (coachJohn Tortorella) is holding me accountable. The only one to blame is myself. Ihave to play better and have more of an impact on the game. Obviously, Irealize I have a lot of upside and potential. I’m happy they realize it too.The team is battling for a playoff spot and I’m not playing as well as I couldbe. They’re going to hold me accountable. It was a quick conversation (withTortorella). It wasn’t anything too big. We’ve got to win and I’ve got to be apart of it. If I’m not contributing, I’m not going to play.”
Hopefully this is one of those times where using the prod works becausesitting can be a great motivational tool, but I don’t want a scenario whereeach game a different guy gets benches just to light a fire under him because itis too late in the year for those kind of mind games.