This latest benching was the result of a long shift at the end of the second period last night. After being pinned into the defensive zone for the entire shift, Roslovic broke out of the zone in a limited 2-on-1 with Kent Johnson.
With both players dead tired, Jack skated the puck up the right wing. Just before gaining the red line, he did a spin-o-rama and flung a backhand pass blindly across the ice. His pass was well in front of Johnson, who was coasting to the bench on fumes; and went for icing. This forced a defensive zone faceoff with a group of players who had been on the ice for nearly 2 minutes. Rightly, Jack did not see another shift for the rest of the game.
At this point in time, this team simply does not have a suitable replacement for him in the lineup. The center depth around him is captain Boone Jenner, who’s spent most of his career on the left wing; then 19 year old Cole Sillinger (going through his own struggles), and role player Sean Kuraly. After those guys? Well, they would have to lean on another 19 year old (Kent Johnson), who has exclusively played wing over at least the last two seasons – or recall Brendan Gaunce again.
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There are no other NHL ready prospects. We don’t have anyone coming off of IR that can take this spot. In this regard, healthy scratching Jack is not going to help the team. But, it’s worth noting that when he was left out of the lineup, he came back looking quicker and more engaged. In that regard, it did make sense.
What you can’t have is a veteran player around the lineup who isn’t putting in a consistent effort. We can no longer look at Jack as a developing player – he’s going to be 26 in January. He’s in the prime of his career, and you can’t keep putting him on the ice when he isn’t giving 100% effort for the team. This kills the developmental progress you make with the younger players.
Ultimately, it’s hard to see this relationship continuing beyond his contract that expires after next year. My gut tells me that the team may be looking to make a move sooner than that, to not only give Jack a change of scenery, but also to improve their depth up the middle. They need someone who can kill penalties better than this … where was he going here?
The problem with trying to deal him now? Most importantly, they need centers, and would have to see one coming the other way. Secondly, his value is extremely low, even with a fairly palatable $4m AAV. You would be hoping to sell him based off of his finish last year, but not a lot of teams are going to be buying that. Maybe you can go to a team facing injury troubles, who might want a guy like this to fill the gap. That’s possible.
But again, you need centers to win in this league. They’re really in a tough spot right now. The best outcome for both sides would be Roslovic rediscovering his confidence and playing with the swagger that he finished last season with. They need him, and he needs to step up and show he’s an NHL center, once and for all.