If there’s one thing we saw in last night’s 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s that we know have a battle for the 6th defenseman spot on our hands. Don’t get me wrong, both of these guys are still staying with the big club as either the 6th or 7th option. However, both want to start on October 8th, and it is still to be seen who has the upper hand.
For me, Hale looked good on Tuesday in Dundas. He fought Cody McCormick, and played a smooth and solid game. His assist on the only goal of the game by Patrick Wiercioch was crucial into contesting the Buffalo Sabres in that game. Last night, despite his horrible clear of the puck led to the first goal, Cowen seemed controlled an involved in the game. For me, Cowen brings more skill to the ice than Hale does, although David has more experience in the NHL.
It was the same situation for Erik Karlsson last season, where he stayed with the big club and although a tepid start, finished the season brilliantly. Management and fans now seem to think Jared is NHL-ready, and starting him will only be better for the club and Cowen in the future. If you start David Hale, Cowen can’t go to the AHL and instead stays in the press box, where literally he learns quite: nothing.
And then there’s Brian Lee. So far this pre-season, I don’t see anything that would make me start him. He played a better all-around game in Dundas against Buffalo, but his previous two starts on D were horrific. Ironically, last year’s training camp say Brian as an invisible duckwad. This year, you can’t help but notice him. And although I’ve said this many times despite the one-way contract he has, this is his last chance to impress no matter what, and if he cann’t change in time for the end of the weekend, Binghamton is next. Or possibly the dreaded waiver wire.
If we say the first two pairings will be Phillips-Gonchar and Carkner-Karlsson, with Chris Campoli playing as the 5th defenseman, there’s no reason to worry who will be the one that starts. Sure, Cowen will have his rust on the first game (although he’s already played an NHL game), Hale didn’t play in the last 39 games last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, there has to be some rust there.
Without a doubt, I would start Cowen on Opening Night, October 8th. If a young rookie does not take risks in his first games, he won’t advance. We have living proof, again by the name of Erik Karlsson.