Sunday, 27 March 2016

Quick Thoughts on Slater Koekkoek's Role... or Lack Thereof

Anton Stralman's injury (a fractured left fibula) could not have come at a worse time for the Tampa Bay Lightning.  With the postseason right around the corner, Tampa is without its number-two defenceman, a guy who is arguably the most underrated rearguard in the National Hockey League today.  It's not a good situation.

GM Steve Yzerman responded by calling up Slater Koekkoek, his team's 10th overall pick from the 2012 draft.  Koekkoek, by all accounts, has performed well in Syracuse by utilizing his swift stride and puck moving abilities.  Yzerman undoubtedly viewed him as a player who could/would step in and help to fill the void left by Stralman's massive presence.

Unfortunately the coach had other things in mind:


Maybe Koekkoek hasn't earned it.  Maybe he hasn't paid his dues.  But, how's he supposed to do either one of those things without being given an opportunity?  As the old joke goes, you need experience to get your first job but you need a first job to get experience.  And, it's not like his (admittedly limited) time in the NHL has been a colossal failure, either.  In fact, the opposite is true:

 The sample size there is obviously tiny, given that he's spent almost no time in the NHL this year, but do those numbers not leave you curious about what he might do with a little more ice time?  The thought becomes even more enticing when you consider that an Anton Stralman injury likely means more ice time and responsibility for guys like Matt Carle and Andrej Sustr, two players who have shown that they are better suited for a more limited role.  What's the argument against at least *trying* something with the big, puck-moving man with a fun name?  I can't find one.

Here's hoping the coach decides that Koekkoek's skills are better suited for a role on the ice than they are for the role of benchwarmer.  If Cooper is legitimately a little chilly behind the bench, I recommend running down to the local hardware stores and picking up one of these:


Koekkoek has more important things to do than warm the bench, things that he is likely more than capable of doing.  It's time to give him a chance.

As always, thanks for reading.

(Statistics cited in this blog are courtesy of Puckalytics.com, a premier source for hockey analytics.)

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