Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Beauch Back in Black?

A recent report in the OC Register has Beauchemin coming back, IF the Ducks make the playoffs. So here's what we're looking at: is Beauchy's return a good thing or a bad thing given the amount of rookie defensemen we have and the problems we've had in our own zone? What will this do to Carlyle's D-pairings?

You know, they say Beauchemin's been skating for some time now, and I'm sure he's working on his conditioning. So, I'm thinking this is an 80-85% Francois coming back. ACL is unpredictable, but he's a UFA and I'm sure he'd come back and work hard to pad his stats or preen for the scouts going into the offseason.

If an 85% Beauch comes back, I see the pairings as Prongs/Whitney, Nieds/Beauch, and Brookbank/Wisniewski. That leaves every rookie in Des Moines, but Mikk is having trouble moving the puck and Fest can't seem to hit the net.

I'm splitting up Wisniewski and Niedermayer because I think that pairing just doesn't work. I've been critical of Wisniewski since he joined the team. Right here on this blog, in fact. I will admit that he's scoring, he's getting more shots on net than any of our other defensemen and his play has created a legitimate second unit on the man advantage, removing the need for the first unit to be out there for the entire two minutes. 

However, his defensive hockey sense is appalling.  In both the Oilers game on the 27th and the Avs game on the 29th, Wisniewski got caught playing a hunch into the corner.  In the Oilers game, Rob Niedermayer hesitated to cover the net when Jimmy abandoned it, and Penner was able to receive a centering pass in front.  In the Avs game, Wisniewski once again decided he could come out of the corner with the puck, and left the net open while Colorado was on a Power Play.  I'm not suggesting that no good defenseman has ever played a hunch into the corner. Pronger did that to Pahlsson all season, and Sammy almost racked up a -20 behind it.  But Pronger's a veteran whose decision making can be trusted, forcing other players to compensate.  Wisniewski hasn't earned that yet. 

And with this "great chemistry" between Wisniewski and Niedermayer, Jimmy can't get it through his head that he HAS to play defensive defense once in a while. He can't follow his instincts or double up pressure without reading the play first. On another play in the Oilers game last week, all three forwards were in the corners, Scotty was below the circles and Wisniewski was on the blue line. The puck came around slowly to the half boards on his side. He actually stuttered two strides toward the puck before stopping himself. He SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED putting all five Ducks below the circles. That's inexcusable.

I think Beauchemin can easily replace Wisniewski's production on the second pairing. Beauch was rediscovering his scoring touch this season, and his decision making has always been great when paired with Scotty. And maybe pairing Wisniewski with our only true defensive defenseman will help Jimmy shine offensively. He would certainly add a checking threat to that third pairing, something its sorely missed since we traded McIver.

At the end of the day, Carlyle will mix and match until he gets what he likes. BUT I can't imagine that a former Norris Trophy winner would be pleased with Wisniewski's defensive performance of late, not enough to put Beauchemin out of the top 4.

I'm not sure where I stand on this. I'd love to have Francois back. There's no doubt that him being gone has been a problem, and I'm terrified that someone is going to throw 5.5-6 million at him instead of the 4-4.5 that we can honestly afford. Beauchy and Whitney on that second power play would make Wisniewski almost obsolete. I won't detail the many defensive lapses he has, because it would just be like rereading your post, but I will say that I'm equally afraid of us trying to make a playoff push with a third pairing that is a rookie, and a guy who looks like he'd rather be playing on the wing. I think Wisniewski gets away with a lot more because Scotty can back him up. If he was with Pronger, he'd probably already be dead. But, Scotty has the patience to put up with his mistakes and, a lot of times, cover them up.

Maybe if Scotty retires, and we trade Pronger, then maybe it's worth it keeping the kid around, but right now I think he just makes us too weak in tight games. I don't know how this guy has been a plus player while he's played for us. He has an awful habit of all his mistakes ending up in the back of the net. Overall, I say Beauchemin coming back is a bad thing. Our scoring is shaping up very nicely with the emergence of Miller on the second line. I think Hiller is just as capable as Guiguere and special teams has looked so much better over the past two weeks. But, if Beauchy comes back, maybe he impresses too many scouts, and maybe Wisniewski becomes too much of a liability playing with a rookie who can't recover from the mistakes that he makes. I know a stay at home partner would be best for him, but a rookie stay at home defenseman probably won't be enough. Maybe next year when we've had a chance to pursue a stay at home guy via free agency we can find a place for him. But, I'm starting to think that Sammy for this guy was a bad deal.

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