Saturday, January 3, 2009

Did anyone see Sifers at all?

So Sifers played just under 7 minutes last night with only one shift in the third period, despite playing over 20 earlier in the season and playing decently well at that. He took some heavy hits but no mention of an injury was made, nor did he leave the bench at any time.

Wilson in his post game noted that a virus has been making the rounds through the team, the defense especially, and he tapped Finger as an example. Except Finger played 18 minutes last night, despite taking two penalties that resulted in 5-on-3's. How did Finger deserve almost triple Sifers' ice time? He certainly wasn't any good on the power play.

So why was Sifers effectively benched for the game? He didn't stand out particularly, either good or bad. He certainly didn't put us in as many rough spots as Finger and Kubina did tonight. And if it was a virus tearing him up and causing lazy play from our vets, why wasn't one or both of Stralman or Kronwall called up to provide fresher bodies? If we needed the "toughness" that Deveaux and I'm supposing Newbury were to provide why haven't we given Phil Oreskovic, a 6' 3" defenseman from North York who has 56 PIMs in 32 games in the AHL, a tryout?

Also, upon the subject of the Leafs' decent amount of blueline scoring in the postgame, Wilson named White as someone whose contributions have been pleasantly surprising. White has 4 points in 20 games as a blueliner, and his assist tonight was so ghostly it might have been given to Alexei Cherepanov (too soon?). What is White slipping into Wilson's beverages to him believe he's contributing offensively? Especially as our power play has been atrocious during White's tenure on D. How does a productive tenure at forward justify the offensive minutes given to White on the blueline?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ian White should be a forward right now.

Alright, first off: Full Disclosure. I am a White hater; I've stated repeatedly and emphatically how, statistically and physically speaking, there simply isn't enough there to warrant the ice time he's getting over just about anybody else in the organization.

But he's been playing pretty well lately as a steady presence on our blueline, and though I still cringe to see him out there at crucial times in either zone, his screw-ups haven't resulted in as many goals as most of the guys making somewhere between 5 and 10 times the money he's making have allowed.

But all that needs to change.

When White clawed his way out of the press box he had to do it as a forward. He promptly scored a goal his first shift in, then a couple games later went on an impressive 6 game point streak, netting 7 points in his first 8 games back.

He then put two 8 game pointless streaks together around a pair of goals in his time afterwards, almost all of which has been spent as a defenseman. Since his hot streak, White's production has been three points in 19 games, and his shooting percentage has been creeping closer and closer to his career average (0.042), residing at 0.082 after a 0.32 clip during his point streak (a fact that makes the stat nerd in me inexplicably pleased).

I think he's terrible at shooting from the point. He tends toward double-clutching close to the blue line when he shoots. He's way too far away for the shot that he's got to fool anybody, he never moves to change his angle, and he takes just a little too long to get it off, giving a goalie enough time to make the save.

His two goals as a defenseman? One was off a beautiful faked shot from Anton Stralman (the last good thing he did before being sent down) in which White had actually crept down to the top of the circle, leaving less ice between him and the goalie. The second was a shot that actually lost power from the blue line, striking the ice early and skipping over Ryan Miller. I think I can put this more succinctly: White is not a good enough shooter to keep on taking the shots he trends towards. He's the Jason Blake of offensive defensemen. If he's going to grow into his offensive potential he needs to either change the way he takes shots from the point, or he needs to not be there at all.


Now, there's nothing wholly wrong about White not producing points if he keeps on providing stable blueline play, right? Not necessarily.

First off, he's second in shots for only to Pavel Kubina, impressive considering White has played 11 games less than him. However, White has half the points Kubina does, and from the blueline he has something like one sixth the offensive production. Or, 2 goals on 44 shots since his first 8 games (for a shooting percentage of 0.045, which happens to be his career average. Hmm...). Or, 1 assist on 42 shots in 19 games while averaging over 20 minutes. If White isn't producing any points while taking this many shots in this time it means he's not creating many offensive chances, which means he's killing our offense, especially on the power play.

Second, this team is a little bit strapped for reliable offense, especially with injuries mounting. We've scored 8 goals in 5 games after our two game blowout streak over Atlanta and Pittsburgh. White's production at forward could be a boon if he were to rediscover it.

Third, we need to figure out White's value on the trade market. If he shows he can be a productive third liner and a steady 20+ minute blueliner then he may actually be one of the best bargaining chips we have at his salary and age. We may even want to keep him if he can keep it up, although if it's the difference between White or a lottery pick at this year's draft I know which I'd make in a heartbeat. I'm also pretty sure that Ian likes scoring goals.

So for our sake, and Ian's, please Ron Wilson: make him a forward when Schenn comes back.