As is typically the case when a team officially falls into a slump, the fans are left searching for how the problem can be fixed. Far too often it seems that if Jacques Lemaire were a little less stubborn in his ways, many of the problems we're currently experiencing would not exist. Regardless, I think our coach would do well to at least glance at this list and take some of these suggestions to heart. Could it really be worse than what we're seeing right now?
1. Ilya Kovalchuk should never carry the puck in the zone.
There's no question that nothing compares to watching Kovalchuk race up the ice with the puck, dipping and darting his way past opponents and into the zone. Problem is, the fun stops there. Far too often, he works his way into the zone, only to be hounded by two or three defenders who force him to turn the puck over. By contrast, having Elias or Zubrus carry the puck in while Kovy gets open has paid dividends the few times it was been attempted. Kovalchuk either ended up scoring or creating a prime scoring chance.
2. Get Kovalchuk off the point on the PP and leave it that way.
I don't even mind the fact that Kovalchuk has been playing all 2 minutes of every powerplay recently, because he looks like he has the endurance for it. The trouble is where he's positioned. A player of that skill level should not be so far away from the net. Kovalchuk should be sitting in the slot, waiting to either tip a shot, or pounce on a rebound, or any other of a myriad of things the man can do. Why exactly is he standing all the way back there when between Andy Greene, Anssi Salmela, Brian Rolston, Jamie Langenbrunner, and even occasionally Mike Mottau we have several players capable of shooting from the point. It's such a blatant waste of skill and energy to keep Kovalchuk back there, I find it hard to believe a hall-of-fame player and coach is behind the decision and refuses to budge on it.
3. Danis needs to play more.
I know, I say this in everything I publish now, but because it's going to come back to haunt us if we don't start doing it. If not for the sake of Marty's play, how about for Danis himself? Say Marty goes down with another injury, or needs to be pulled from a game, etc. We're now putting in a cold goalie with very little game experience this year. Marty is not invincible, as we've all recently seen, and Danis won't be able to help the situation when he's played as little as he has. I'm not saying to severely cut Marty's time, but how about a little more balance?
Unfortunately, as much as the players falling flat on many occasions, Lemaire is not free of responsibility for our recent slump either. Perhaps if he was more open minded, maybe it wouldn't seem as if he's lost the players. At least then we would be able to say that this is definitely something that can be worked out of. Alas, Lemaire is not willing to even remotely change the formula, switch things up, break the monotony. And for that reason, it almost appears as if he has lost the players, and by extension, the season. Call it grim, call it overreacting, but until I see signs that point otherwise, it's hard not to at least consider this.