The Goose's Wings Have Finally Been Clipped: Nikita Gusev Will Watch Wednesday's Game Alongside Patrik Elias as a Healthy Scratch
He did it. He actually did it. In drawing the ire of a good portion of a fanbase that is (somewhat understandably) more concerned with spewing obscenities in the direction of the head coach than thinking critically about a single decision he makes, John Hynes finally took the oddly partial 'Handle With Care' label off a player whose play has been careless at best and panicked at worst.
Personally, I find myself flabbergasted by the backlash, even if it is being buoyed by the bias most have towards the bald dude behind the bench. It almost makes me believe that Damien Brunner was merely a catchy nickname away from his jersey sales taking flight, because the Goose's on-ice flight path has been about as "stable" as the marble-minded obsession that some have with the fact that he's scored a few times.
To be clear, I'm hardly "out" on a supremely talented player who is obviously adjusting to a new style of play in a rink much smaller than the one he's grown accustomed to. I still think there is a ton of potential to be realized pending his transition to NHL ice - that shouldn't be considered so time-sensitive, mind you - becoming less choppy than his skating and more clear than his understanding of the English language.
That said, if Nikita Gusev is currently passing anyone's eye-test than I have no choice but to believe their vision is more blinded by unconditional lust than the heart-eyes emoji. Put aside advanced analytics that read as follows while the Goose continues to lay eggs on both sides of the ice...
Literally the only stat that supports him playing on a nightly basis is goals. Two of those were put on a tee for him by the player whose spot he's been taking in the lineup (Bratt) and the other, while crafty, was the direct result of dumb luck as Panarin broke his stick on an attempted clear. With a Tampa team coming to town that made the Devils look like chickens with their heads cut off on multiple occasions last season, the last thing a team that struggles in its own end can afford to have in their Top-9 is an even more bewildered bird.
Simply put, this isn't Hynes finding another creative way to ride the "hot hand" of John Hayden (::insert eye-roll::). It's him giving an overwhelmed and turnover-prone player a chance to pick the brain of one of the brightest hockey minds in franchise history by watching a game through the all-seeing eyes of someone who spent two decades cultivating the perfect combination of skills and smarts at both ends of the ice...
Perching Goose alongside the friendly face and multi-cultural understanding of Patrik Elias, whose jersey rests eternally in the rafters, isn't just a a resourceful attempt to repair his game. It's also one that it approximately 1,000% better for his development than continuing to be babied up and down a lineup that's hardly been able to wipe its own ass defensively. The Jespers can't be the only offensive-minded, middle-six players who are held accountable for their mistakes and forced to learn from a luxury suite, especially since their mistakes haven't had near the cringeworthy look of a bird flying aimlessly in circles with a wounded wing.