I realize the daftness of writing an open note to you, as that A) you may not read it and B) you know that I wouldn't know the first thing about playing defense in the NHL. That being said, I have to say this with the utmost respect:
A significant portion of the fanbase doesn't want you playing defense - at least not for the Devils. In short, they want many things to happen to you. Benched. Scratched. Sent down. Traded away. Waived. Or all of that.
I don't agree but I do have to state that you're not playing to your best abilities. While I understand that this is only your second year of NHL hockey, you have made some unfortunate decisions at times. In the first 10 games this season, we have seen the following: you've struggled in positioning on defense - being caught out of position multiple times per game. Instead of playing the body when necessary, you've been playing passive. You have not been reliable on special teams. You sometimes have trouble holding on to your stick.
Unlike some of the fan-base, I don't think you alone are the reason why the Devils' defense has been so poor - just a part of it. According to the stats compiled so far this season, you have averaged 20:04 of ice time a night. You're clearly in the Devils' top 4 on defense namely because you have played a full season for the Devils last season. You have experience, you have the talent, and you're a more attractive option in many situations as opposed to rookies (Andy Greene, Mike Mottau, Sheldon Brookbank) and others new to the team (Karel Rachunek and Vitaly Vishnevski). Even when Colin White - who is sorely missed by the Devils as a defensive stopper - returns, the team needs all the help they can get. That's why so many are unhappy with how you are performing. You can do so much better and that would help the Devils.
As it is, if you want to be a good defenseman for the Devils, I think you have all the tools to do so. You've been given the opportunity to step up your game; based on the first 10 games this season, you have failed to do just that. A quick look at the average ice times will show that this window of opportunity is fading right now. Andy Greene and Karel Rachunek have averaged at least a full minute more than you right now. Vitaly Vishnevski and Sheldon Brookbank has shown improvement in recent games. If you continue to falter, you'll soon end up on the wrong end of the roster. Even quicker when White returns and/or if the Devils make a move for a defenseman.
Again, I'm not saying you are the sole reason why the Devils' defense has been inconsistent at best and unfocused and easily exploited at worst. But you are a part of it and I want you to do better. I think you can do better. For the good of your own career and the team, please work hard in practice, improve your defensive skills in game, and hold on to your stick.
And if you are reading this, tell the rest of the defenseman that I'd rather not write open notes to them in the near future.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues