One of the things I like to track on The Chart is the team’s scratches. It’s easy to keep track of the injuries — like Mike Commodore’s knee and Jan Mursak’s ankle — since much is made of their rehabilitation and dates that they’re set to return. A little more under the radar, however, are the healthy scratches.
It’s something I’ve been keeping track of for years. Generally speaking, it’s the youngsters (Kindl last season, Meech the year before) that are getting the bulk of the press box passes. But, if the entire roster is healthy at the same time (which is unlikely), an NHL team will have three healthy scratches each game. Last season, there was a rotation. Or, more accurately, a few different rotations.
It wasn’t until we were into November that it became clear, thanks to all of the injuries up front. Beginning November 5th — and continuing until the 26th — the healthy scratches among forwards looked like this:
Miller — Eaves — Miller — Eaves — Miller — Eaves — Miller — Eaves — HUDLER — Miller.
On the 26th of November, Mike Modano’s wrist was sliced by a skate blade, effectively ending his season, necessitating the use of all spare forwards. Until Draper was ready to return in Early December (the 3rd), when the rotation switched to this:
Draper — Eaves — Draper — Miller — Draper — HUDLER — Draper — Miller — Draper — Hudler — Draper.
Kris Draper was an every-other-game scratch, and then Miller and Eaves rotated for the first couple games, before Jiri Hudler was inserted into the rotation, and Eaves was removed. It had nothing to do with Eaves’ hat trick, as he was removed from the equation on the 5th, and his goal-scoring outburst was on the 29th.
Fast forward to the end of February (Eaves was hurt, but Modano was able to return), and the new rotation went like this:
Miller — FRANZEN (who was probably hurt) — Draper — Miller — Draper — Miller — Draper — Miller — MILLER — Draper.
For the first time, someone was a healthy scratch in back-to-back games, but it seemed clear: Kris Draper and Drew Miller were your two players battling for the last spot in the lineup. A precedent that was set a few months earlier when Eaves seemed to have played his way out of the rotation.
There were a slew of injuries as the season wound down, but the final seven games of the regular season saw a pattern, of sorts, emerge:
Miller — Draper — Miller — MODANO & DRAPER — HUDLER & MILLER — Draper — Eaves.
Somehow, Patrick Eaves made his way back into the rotation, perhaps because it’d been 51 games since the last time he was scratched without an injury — and he was, essentially, in a similar contract and playing situation boat as Drew Miller and Kris Draper.
In the playoffs, Mike Modano was the odd man out, with a rotation taking place around him. The healthy scratches for all eleven post-season games:
Modano — Modano — Modano — (none) — Modano & Draper — Modano & Draper — Modano & Miller — Modano & Miller — Modano & Hudler — Draper — Modano.
One thing was for sure — Patrick Eaves had become an everyday player, even when there were no injuries to speak of. He had found a way to vault himself above Drew Miller, Kris Draper, Mike Modano, and even Jiri Hudler.
And now, this season. It’s only five games old, but Eaves seems to have become the new Draper — sitting every other game while others are rotated around him — particularly if you believe that he was actually a healthy scratch in game 1 and not suffering from remnants of a leg injury:
Brunnstrom & Eaves — Brunnstrom & Holmstrom — Brunnstrom & Eaves — Brunnstrom & Miller — Brunnstrom & Eaves (tonight).
We can’t be the only ones wondering what’s going on. Obviously, Jiri Hudler is having a fantastic start to the season, and the top six seem to be set. The third line of Helm-Abdelkader-Bertuzzi is wonderful and starting to click, so it’s understandable that Coach Babcock doesn’t want to disrupt the budding chemistry. The fourth line, however, is a complete hodge-podge that hasn’t looked the same for two games in a row. There are four players (five, if you count Brunnstrom who hasn’t gotten into a game yet) vying for the three slots on that line. Cory Emmerton has played in all of the team’s games so far — possibly because he’s a natural center, and because he’s having a great young season. Tomas Holmstrom are Drew Miller are the others that are in a dogfight with Eaves.
Holmstrom and Miller, though, are scratched 50% as often as Patrick Eaves, a man who eight short months ago played his way out of that kind of rotation and into everyday land — ahead of Drew Miller.
It’s certainly possible that Eaves is still a bit banged up from his pre-season injury, when he blocked a shot against the Penguins in early October. But it’s worth keeping an eye on… maybe he’s in the doghouse.
The Wings are doing a great job of spreading the scoring wealth. In the 13 goals scored through four games, there have been ten different goal scorers. In fact, everyone that has played in a game — at all — has at least one point, except for Brad Stuart (who has played in all four) and Patrick Eaves (who has played in two). That can’t be it, can it?
The only two players that aren’t PLUS players are Stuart and Eaves — who aren’t exactly minus players, either, coming in at Even. Eaves has taken one penalty, has won half of the faceoffs he’s taken, and logs an average of just over ten minutes of ice time per appearance — which is less than anyone else on the roster, save for rookie Cory Emmerton (9:16).
Tomorrow’s game against the Capitals should be Patrick Eaves’ third game of the season (unless he truly is injured… or truly is in the doghouse), and he’ll be joined by Fabian Brunnstrom who will be playing for the first time this season. Something tells me Eaves will want to become the eleventh different goal scorer and prove that he belongs in the lineup everyday. Something that he proved last season, but seems to have been forgotten.
Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger, Getty Images