The healthy scratch is many things to many people: a teaching tool, a punishment, an omen signalling a fading superstar, a slap in the face, a wake-up call.
Less than two months into the 2015-16 NHL campaign, we’ve seen benching used in myriad ways on a range of players — young and old, future Hall of Famer and future Hall of Shamer, star prospect and buyout candidate.
Here now we assemble a full squad of benched players. Our 2015-16 All Healthy Scratch Team rolls three lines and six defenceman deep (we’re sitting seventh defenceman Dan Boyle tonight) and is backstopped by a goalie who should be fresh considering all the work he hasn’t gotten.
A week into the season, Alex Ovechkin fell victim to the old a.m./p.m. mix-up on his alarm clock and showed up late for the morning skate. Superstar status means nothing under Barry Trotz’s rule, so the head coached benched the Great 8 for that night’s game.
How’d that feel, Ovie?
“It was suck.”
Despite being well enough to practice, the reigning Lady Byng champ sat out an extra game this week. Coach Bob Hartley figured Hudler needed more rest, but that surely had nothing do with the winger’s drop in production. Hudler had 31 goals and 76 points last season; he has just four goals and 13 points thus far in 2015-16.
New coach Dave Hakstol has not shied away from sitting established Flyers, and that includes both Schenn brothers. Strangely, Brayden went from sitting out a game this month to jumping into the top line.
“He has benched a lot of guys that have played a lot of games in this league,” Schenn told reporters. “He is obviously sending a message you got to be ready to go every night.”
No stranger to the healthy scratch, the underwhelming Montreal winger — a gamble signed after he was bought out by Carolina — has just one goal this season and watched “snipers” Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise light it up.
Despite a hot start — five points in his first five games — Dylan’s older brother was scratched for a game. Vocal about being “pissed off” by the decision, Strome was dropped even further. He’s now playing in Bridgeport.
Mike Babcock hasn’t hesitated to sit whomever he damn well pleases during Toronto’s rebuild, and that list includes regular forwards Daniel Winnik and the versatile Holland — who hadn’t been sat in nearly two years. He responded re-energized, posting six points in his first six games back in the lineup.
Fading star Lecavalier is getting a similar treatment under Hakstol as he did under his previous bench boss, Craig Berube. So what if he’s making $4.5 million and is locked up for two seasons after this one? He’s only played seven games.
With one goal on the season, the $5.5-million centre has seen his ice time gradually dwindle and was finally benched Monday. A prime example of when a free agency bidding war goes wrong, Panthers fans.
The touted 22-year-old sat around the press box for a while, playing just four NHL games this season (he played 63 last season). He has since been sent down to the AHL for conditioning and has lit it up with Grand Rapids: nine points in four games.
The durable 38-year-old sat out a game in Anaheim, his spot temporarily taken by rookie Adam Pelech, who has only played two NHL games.
Brother Brayden described watching Luke, 25, get scratched on multiple nights as “brutal.”
“It’s no fun for me going to the rink and it’s no fun for him. When you play on the same team as your brother, you want to be in the lineup with him each night,” Brayden told reporters in October.
This one was more educational. Coach Bill Peters sent his highly touted defence prospect up to the rafter for a game to freshen him up and observe the flow of the game from on high. Typical growing pains for a rookie.
The healthy-scratching of Carle — signed through 2017-18 at a, gulp, $5.5-million cap hit — kicked the trade rumours into high gear. Makes sense that GM Steve Yzerman would like to trade Carle, but he may fetch only slightly more suitors than Lecavalier at this point.
From team captain to hardly cracking the lineup of the league’s 30th-place club, Ference is a great guy who has lost a step. Now we’re seeing articles criticizing the Oil for not using a buyout on him. Edmonton still owes the blueliner $3.25 million in 2016-17. (Edmonton has also healthy-scratched defenceman Mark Fayne.)
The depth defenceman was called out for sub-par play by general manager Bryan Murray and then benched shortly after.
“I’m sure he could say the same thing about a lot of guys, so I’m not going to take it too personal,” Cowen said last week, upon finding out he was benched against Columbus.
Entering the season with three goaltenders on their roster backfired on the Flames when they couldn’t trade any of them and it took weeks until one of them seized the crease. Young Ortio, the odd man out for most of the fall, was eventually waived and sent down to the AHL after losing two games and posting a .868 save percentage.
The 23-year-old prospect shone in a support role last season, posting a .932 save percentage in 16 games as a rookie, but the entrance of Reto Berra has dropped Pickard to the third string. The Moncton native has seen just 47 minutes of mop-up work with the big club while shining in AHL San Antonio (6-1-4).