Friday, January 25, 2013

The Ballad of Mathieu Perreault

Disclaimer for anyone who has never read a post on this blog: I am about as close to a Perreault fanboy as you can get and still be a straight man who loves America (France sucks, Jennifer Lawrence does not).

Much was made of Mathieu Perreault's Google translated desire to be traded if he did not factor in the plans of Adam Oates or George McPhee. Predictably, there were a lot of fans who started coming down on Matty P as a "whiner" who needed to take what he was given. In a lot of cases, I'd probably agree with them. But I didn't read Perreault's words as whining. I read them as the words of someone who wants to play, feels he has earned it, and was promised it in the offseason with a new contract and the GM's assurances.

He has been up and down between Hershey and Washington. He was plagued by complaints of "inconsistency" (while the same people would praise Neuvirth as being more consistent than Varlamov without irony), and then broke out last year with 16 goals and 14 assists, spending time on all four lines, including a two-goal appearance on the top line. He was the most successful of the Caps' 2C-by-committee in the 2011-2012 season, and finished the season winning the majority of his faceoffs. In short, he stepped up to criticism, improved his game, and knocked 1st round pick Marcus Johansson out of the spot he was drafted to fill. Then he doesn't score a goal in the first four games of the playoffs, and Dale Hunter benches him for the duration of the postseason. Jay "I Routinely Go Entire Games Without A Shot On Goal" Beagle gets top minutes.

Fast forward through the lockout. Yet another new coach. Yet one more guy who doesn't know much about him and doesn't know what he can offer. Oates only knows that he doesn't know Mathieu Perreault, so boom, fourth line. That's not a knock on Oates, but put yourself in Perreault's shoes. You finished last year tied for fifth on the team in goals, and as a team leader in points per-, goals per-, and assists per-60 minutes, and you're stuck behind the guy who set a career high in points with five in 42 games.

Are you going to grit your teeth and just go with it, especially after seeing how Tomas Fleischmann (who was also jockeyed around the lineup and charged with inconsitency) was traded and became a nearly point-per-game player when he fit into the Avs' and Panthers' plans? Of course not. You're going to be upset. You're going to wonder why Johansson gets chance after chance without actually improving his game one bit (and actually getting worse at winning faceoffs), why Jay Beagle is getting twice the minutes you are, why the guy making half your salary because nobody else in the league wanted to sign him is in the spot the GM said would be yours.

He's looking up because that's where everyone else is.
And you know what? You'd be right. Not just for yourself, but for the team, too. The Caps have serious identity issues, and too many redundant players. MoJo, Wolski, and MP85. Brower and Laich. Fehr, Ward, and Chimera. Poti and Hamrlik. Hockey players aren't dumb, they can count. When Laich gets healthy, there will be two healthy scratches at forward. When Orlov and Hillen are healthy, there will be FOUR healthy scratches at defense. That's too many guys. The coach will constantly be trying to find the right combos without having the opportunity for guys to build chemistry. Somebody has to move.

But if you're in the team's plans, they aren't going to move you. If you're in the team's plans, then you have a spot, because that's the plan. You aren't trying to earn it, to prove that you belong, to try and one-up yourself just to earn the opportunity to one-up yourself. Obviously players should constantly try to better themselves, and a little competition can be healthy. Eventually, though, enough has to be enough. And like Perreault, I think 16 goals in limited minutes is enough. It wasn't for Fehr, it wasn't for Fleischmann, and last year it wasn't enough for Knuble, but it should be enough when 14 is enough for MoJo.

Perreault has been around the Caps organization to see the writing on the wall. He knows that if he isn't getting more than 10 minutes right away, he probably is not going to get them later. He's not in the plans. But maybe another team, you would be. Maybe on another team... maybe if you aren't in Washington's plans, they should trade you. Because why keep someone that isn't in your plans?

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