Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What's wrong with Flash

Yesterday, JP posted a note on Flash Fleischmann's less than stellar output to open the year. While his assesment that Tomas has been "virtually invisible" is right on the mark, let's explore why that has been the case.

First, lets examine Flash's strengths and weaknesses. From TSN.ca's scouting report, Fleischmann "has outstanding setup ability and an understanding of what to do with the puck on his stick... Still needs to add significant strength before becoming a regular in the NHL. Must continue to improve his play without the puck at the highest level."

Having strong skills with the puck is all well and good, but skating on a line with the Russian Machine, Flash is not going to have the puck on his stick very often. Throw in the chemistry between Oveckin and Kozlov and the way they give and go with one another, and the chances for Flash to play to his strengths decreases significantly. Instead, he's being asked to do two things he doesn't do well - play in space without the puck and play strong in his own end.

Defensive play will never be the strongest part of Flash's game. He doesn't yet have the strength to move players off the puck, and his positional play in his own zone has been spotty at best. His physical game has about as much edge to it as a spoon. Indeed, Flash has found himself firmly planted to the bench in late game situations where the Caps are protecting a lead. This makes sense from a coaching standpoint, but it gives Flash even less time to create a rapport on-ice with his linemates.

It appears clear that if Fleischmann is to stay a part of the Caps everyday lineup, some changes have to be made. First, he is not the type of winger that should be paired with Ovechkin and Kozlov. As long as Nick Backstrom isn't ready to center that line and move Kozlov to the wing, the right wing on the first line needs to be responsible defensively and capable of wreaking havok without the puck, but with strong enough skills to contribute in the offensive zone when needed. And if you think I'm talking about anyone other than Chris Clark, you're way off the mark.

So, moving Clark up to the first line, the lineup looks something like this:

Ovechkin - Kozlov - Clark
Backstrom - Nylander - Semin
Pettinger - Gordon - Sutherby/Laich/Motzko
Brashear - Steckel - Bradley

Flash is still the odd man out.

It's too early to declare Fleischmann's tenure here in DC as a failure, but unless he's put in a position to play to his strengths, I don't see him sticking around past this season. But considering Semin's current injury, why wouldn't the Caps at least take a couple games to see if Flash can make an impact on the second line with Nylander and Backstrom? Paired with a couple defensively responsible linemates who both think pass first, wouldn't Flash be in a better position to play to his strengths?


The Deuce said...

You, my friend, are a genius. Flash goes to the second line for last night's game and scores a nice tap in off a beautiful no-look pass from Backstrom. But Motzo looked pretty good on the first line. He is also a genius (or at least, not an idiot). It's amazing that more guys don't realize what he did last night, "Wait, I'm on a line with Alexander Freakin Ovechkin, maybe I should pass him the puck every chance I get, like, on this two-on-one for example!" Zubrus never seemed to get that.

3 Grumpy Caps fans said...

I'm not so sold on Motzko - he had several opportunities to dish to Ovechkin on the multiple PPs and held or checked down to an easier option. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times - I don't care if he's triple covered, Ovechkin MUST get the puck on the PP at every opportunity.