Over the last few days, there’s been plenty of talk about Philippe Myers and whether he showed enough to break camp at the NHL level. In the end I landed on the conclusion that while he was good, he didn’t “bang the door down” and force the team to keep him around. On the surface, I think that’s a fair sentiment. Myers was good, but he didn’t knock your socks off and his play took a bit of a dip over the last week, which is certainly not the direction you’d like to be trending toward the end of camp.
But let’s attempt to dig a little deeper, shall we? I don’t believe this was the primary reason for his demotion, and for that reason, I have a bone to pick. Despite his not being at his best toward the end of camp and not “banging the door down”, he was still better – and by a fairly decent margin – than all three of the defensemen with whom he was competing: Robert Hagg, Christian Folin and Andrew MacDonald. Robert Hagg and Christian Folin have been far from even solid overall this preseason. Their play vs. the Rangers at MSG last week was something to show the kids out there on how to not play the defensive position. They’ve since leveled out their performance, and I’m happy to see they haven’t maintained that level of putrid play; but I can’t and won’t say that Myers had anywhere near as low of a low point as either Hagg or Folin. Even still, I’m not sure Myers was ever competing with Hagg and his mirror image. It appears to me that this was ultimately about one thing: the health of Andrew MacDonald.
When first reported, MacDonald was supposed to be out 6 weeks with a lower body injury, a time frame that would cause him to miss the first 2 weeks of the regular season. Instead, we see the veteran defenseman taking part in the final preseason games as he prepares for opening night in Las Vegas. Please do not misconstrue my point here: I am not wishing MacDonald had stayed hurt or been more seriously injured. However, I am saying his miraculous healing powers are hurting the team in the immediate future. AMac has not been good in his return to game action four weeks prior to his original return date. Truthfully, it’s been difficult to watch. He’s been turnover-prone, a zone exit nightmare and just as passive at his own blue line as ever. Let’s be polite and assume this version of MacDonald is due to him rushing back from injury. Why on God’s green Earth would you want him to rush back nearly a month before originally planned if this was the result? Am I to believe that the coaches and front office members in charge of this roster truly believe that this version of Andrew MacDonald is better suited to help this team win over the first 2 weeks of the season than Philippe Myers? Are we to just assume and trust that his play will improve when the season starts? Would it not be wiser to allow him time to fully heal, particularly while you have a player who at the very least is capable of giving you 8 games in a sheltered role?
I refuse to be sold on the notion that Myers being sent down is mainly due to him not “kicking the door down” in camp. He shouldn’t have had to given the performance of defensemen this preseason not named Ivan Provorov or Shayne Gostisbehere. If the team is, in fact, looking to ice the best possible lineup, marginal players should not be locked into roster spots. It’s frankly infuriating to be constantly sold by broadcasters – national or local, media members, coaches and front office members how valuable certain players are when their on-ice value screams otherwise. Off-ice value can only make up for so much and it certainly cannot supersede on-ice value. It can support, it can aid, or even boost on-ice value, but it cannot supplant it. More importantly, talent supersedes role and to be fixated on this idea that a player fills a vital role to the point that it hinders the ability to measure his true talent level is rather unfortunate. Philippe Myers didn’t kick the door down, but he was certainly knocking and the team chose to shoo him away and tell him to come back later.
At the end of the day, Andrew MacDonald is just one player and by no means should a single player be able to dictate the outcome of an entire team. What matters are how the players perform and how the coaches put them in position to do so. As the preseason comes to an end, the next few days will be very interesting with respect to the latter.