|—||RMNB reader Matt, the only ray of sunshine in a dreary comments thread.|
Mike Knuble is back in the lineup for Game Four!
The notion that a hockey team fighting for its life in the playoffs, one in desperate and immediate need of three things—grinding, size, and net crashing—would continually bench a beloved alternate captain with 1,040 NHL games worth of….wait for it…legendary grinding, size and net crashing, is beyond comprehension. I don’t know if Mike Knuble has the PIN to Dale Hunter’s ATM account or whether he knows where some secret bodies are buried, but Hunter’s clear dislike for Mike and his work ethic is going to backfire big time.
As the first person to leave an anonymous comment on the Knuble Knights site a few months back saying “Free Mike Knuble,” I’m getting tired of defending him. But I keep hearing the same things over and over again: Mike is too old, too slow, too whatever. His best years are behind him, I read constantly. This is b.s. You don’t get to play 1,000 NHL games by being a sucky hockey player. Indeed, you get to play in 1,000 hockey games, something only 279 guys int he history of the league have accomplished, by being a pretty amazing hockey player. The notion that somehow Mike has forgotten how to play, or forgotten how to score, or forgotten how to put the puck in an empty net, is preposterous. Go to Kettler one day and watch how hard Mike practices.
Mike has gotten no playing time this season and has scored only a handful of goals. Dale Hunter uses the latter to justify the former, while those of us who defend Mike do the opposite. It’s a moot point now, as the season is over. We’ll never know which was correct—that Mike deserved his diminished playing time or whether the diminished playing time resulted in lesser goal scoring. It’s too late.
What’s not too late, though, is today. Right now. This team can do what scores of sports franchises have done over the past century, which is look to heir most seasoned veterans to pull them through a time of need. Or it can do what Dale Hunter seems to think is he way to go which is put a guy with Mike’s experience in the press box. When the Los Angeles Dodgers called Kirk Gibson to the plate, hobbling on one leg, it wasn’t because they thought he was washed up; it was because they knew what he could do. And the rest was history. And Mike ain’t nowhere near hobbled. CAn he beat a 19 year-old in a race? maybe not. But no one is asking him to be the fastest guy on the ice. We need him for other reasons.
As I said, Game 1 showed many glaring weaknesses (and surprising strengths, like Holby): we were outsized, we were out-grinded, we had zero net crashing. And what are the three things Mike can do for us? Grind, muscle and net-crash. Not only is he a great net crasher but he’s one of the best of all time. So what the heck is he doing sitting on the bench?