There has already been lots of discussion following Coach MacLean's decision to keep Marc Methot in the pressbox tonight after his bout with the flu.
Methot came down with the flu after the December 10th game against Buffalo. He reportedly lost a significant amount of weight which is not ideal for a hockey player who uses his body as often or as well as Methot does.
In normal situations, when a top-4 defenseman is injured (or sick), when he is healthy and ready to go, you play him. Simple as that.
This is not a normal situation though.
Enter Cody Ceci.
For too long have we heard the words "puck moving defenseman" used to describe what Ottawa needs to help their blue line. There was trade speculation regarding Michael Del Zotto, and rumored interest in many more players. Many of us anticipated that this PMD would have to be found internally due to a certain internal budget.
What we did not anticipate was said player being Cody Ceci.
Ceci has come in to Ottawa and played extremely well for a 19-year old. Hell, compared to how
shitty well our defense has played for a good portion of the season, I would say (in this small sample size) he has played better than some of the older blue-liners.
Having eight defenseman has it's perks and it's problems. This is one of the problems: who sits.
The team has been quoted saying that Methot came back too early last time which led to his three-game absence this time around. However, like many of MacLean's decisions this season, this is another one that has taken some fire.
Where my view differs with others is that I believe this is a move that can and should be taken at face value.
Ceci has been playing well. Well enough that the team changed his recall status from emergency to regular. Now the team has the flexibility to see what the kid can do for another five or six games before they need to make a decision with him.
Not only has Ceci looked poised out there, he has looked like an NHL defenseman.
Let me be the first to say, Marc Methot is an integral part of this team. Yes, Methot wants to play. Of course he wants to play. Playing hockey is what the man does for a living. It might be hard for him to feel ready to go only to have to sit because Coach MacLean says so.
On the other hand, Methot is (again) an integral part to this team. With the defense playing better as of late, why not afford him the chance to sit just one more game, let him get his strength and weight back to normal, and then play him as much as MacLean desires going forward?
Being a coach involves making tough decisions like this. I have been on the same side as Methot, coming back from an injury only to have the coach sit me one more game even when I thought I was ready and able to play. It's a difficult place to be in, but what you always have to remember (as a player or as a fan), the coach is making decisions based on what he feels is best for the team.
This decision is not a knock on Methot or his play before his illness. This decision is made for a few reasons:
1) Ceci has been playing really well
2) The more Cowen played, the better he got. My thinking is MacLean wants to use that same philosophy on Wiercioch
3) Corvo has been good.
4) The defense in general has been better.
5) The fact that this is the first of back-to-back games affords MacLean the ability to rest another guy tomorrow to get Methot back into the lineup when it is best for the team.
think know this team is better with a healthy Methot in the lineup. I also don't think MacLean would take Ceci out of the lineup after his past few games as an Ottawa Senator. I think MacLean is using the time and flexibility afforded to him by the play of his defense, to sit his best guy and make sure he's 100% going forward, because Lord know's we're going to need it.