Upon a 3-3 start, which isn't bad. But then again, if you hold the "not bad" mantra, than you are not buying into the Isles brass and player expectation to be a playoff team. So, 3-3 is, in lieu of that, not acceptable. Furthermore, some habits and tendencies have been seen and adjustments seem to be being made.
Much like this blog's namesake, the Isles defense and offense is an improvisation, for the most part. Some things will work, some things won't. Nolan brought in Gallant for the powerplay, Chabot for the PK. So two new coaches with many new players. This leaves a lot of adjustment to be made to get everything working. Which means that we will likely see some tweaking . . .
In practice, Bill Guerin
has been seen on line 3 with Hilbert and Sillinger.
has been seeing time on line 1 with Comrie and Fedotenko.
Hunter does a bit of everything, and his 2 way play might be what the doctor ordered. Both Tank and Hunter really have some depth to their game, and Comrie might benefit. The only issue is Hunter's speed, which can not stack well with his linemates. His strength is some hitting, fighting for the puck, and also deflections.
Guerin's dangerous shot falls to line 3, which might be more of a scoring threat. It's not a demotion for Guerin, just a shuffling. He would have moved to line 2 just to shake things up, but Vasicek, Bergie and Satan are actually clicking at the moment, and thats nothing to start tinkering with.
Will this shuffle find it's way to Washington on Thursday night? Not necessarily. But interesting nonetheless. With so many new faces on the top lines, it is inevitable to try to find different variables to see who and what jives, and who thuds.
The Return of Shawn Bates:
Bates has been practicing with the team at a much higher speed and activity. Last year, in coming back from his groin injury too soon, he re-aggravated the problem. So this off-season and camp was all healing process to get back into shape. What this does is likely, with Jon Sim being out for the season, put pressure on line 2 and 3 players. At Bate's best he was a serviceable 2nd liner, but his role is much more in the 3rd and 4th variety. Last year he regressed to a 4th liner, and barely at that. So the question is - Which Bates will be here this year? And how long will it take to get him to find that level which he hasn't had since Nolan took over the team?
There are those who feel he will replace Hilbert or Bootland. This is despite Nolan's effusive words like: "Hilbert really hits the post well" or "Bootland would make an excellent paperweight". Ok, maybe they weren't EXACTLY those words. But, if you look deeply at some lines, there are some who really make you go hmmmm. Can it be possible that those like Kip Brennan
and Blake Comeau
see some time this season? Bootland has been kept because he has some edge, fists and has a more rounded game, and been happily giving his all. But Kip has better fists, and those like Comeau have more skill.
In any case, Bootland is the odd man out with Bate's return. Bates will be eased in, and if he plays well could see more time and responsibility . . . if he stays healthy.