I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.
I mean, Paul Maurice is telling us that Nick Petan cannot play against a big, strong, heavy team like the St. Louis Blues because the game might be too big, strong and heavy for him.
Seriously. When asked to explain the rationale behind making slick Nic a healthy scratch for Sunday’s matinee at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie, that’s exactly what the Winnipeg Jets head coach advised news scavengers scant seconds after his troupe, which included a pair of knuckle-draggers dragging down the fourth line, were found wanting in a 4-2 loss.
“Figured it’d be a style of game like this,” was coach PoMo’s abrupt reply.
He then pursed his lips, jutted out his jaw and scanned the room with cold, blue eyes, very much playing the tough-guy role and daring anyone to pursue this line of questioning.
No one did. There was a lengthy, pregnant pause…then a query about lessons learned.
The Petan predicament, however, must be pursued.
There are, to be certain, much larger lads plying their trade in the National Hockey League. Many of them work for the aforementioned big, strong and heavy Blues, who enjoy leaning on little people. Petan is little by today’s shinny standards, standing just 5-feet-9 and tipping the scales at 179 pounds after a big meal. He is not a physical force on the frozen ponds of the NHL. Unlike the man who skated in his stead as a fourth-line forward on Sunday, Anthony Peluso, he uses his hands for things other than bouncing them off the skulls of foes.
In short, Petan is a skill player. He is everything that Peluso is not.
Yet, Maurice opted for the latter over the former on Sunday afternoon. There was Peluso, mainly leashed to the end of the pine, his skates touching the ice for all of four minutes and 59 seconds. He contributed zero shots, zero points, took the obligatory roughing penalty, and only once did he summon his brawn to bump into someone wearing St. Louis linen. In other words, he did nothing in what amounted to hockey’s version of a street fight. Supposedly his kind of game. Supposedly the kind of game that Petan cannot play.
But wait. Aren’t most outfits in the Central Division configured similar to the Blues? Big, strong and heavy? Nasty? In your face? Push always comes to shove?
“We’re going to get that in our division from every team all year,” defenceman Jacob Trouba confirmed post-match.
So where does Petan fit in? Will coach PoMo lean toward sacrificing skill and inserting sturdier sinew into his lineup whenever he sees the whites of a Central Division foe’s eyes? If so, can he be successful with a starting 12 up front that includes both of his guard dogs, Peluso and Chris Thorburn?
To me, this is not a Ginger-or-Mary Ann debate. One guy, Petan, can play hockey. The other guy, Peluso, cannot. Unless this is 1975 and the Philadelphia Flyers are running amok on a scorched-earth crusade, there is absolutely no circumstance under which Anthony Peluso gives the Jets a better chance to win a hockey game. None. Only a closet Freddy Shero would believe othewise.
Truth be known, I’ve long suspected Maurice of being an adherent of the Tao of Freddy, an outdated coaching philosophy that values brash, abrasive bullies as much as, if not more than, a collection of fancy-Dans who give thought to a soft, saucer pass rather than a slew-foot. It’s a notion I have tried mightily to reject, even in the perpetual presence of the aforementioned Thorburn, but there is no logical explanation for a ruffian like Peluso to play ahead of Petan other than the Tao of Freddy is at work.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.