By Ed Kimberley
It has been an up and down season for the Blaze so far and although the roster has some game changing talent, there are other areas which have caused fans discomfort in their seats. The two issues highlighted by many, including current and former Blaze coaching staff are secondary scoring and a weak defence.
In light of the second problem, it largely hasn’t been the current line-ups fault. The Blaze have battled injuries at the blueline all year and without the likes of Benn Olson (who has sat for a lengthy period following injury), the toughness at the back has suffered. Opposing players on the power-play are encroaching deeper towards Mike Zacharias in net, causing a lot of problems for the talented American netminder. Former coach Luc Chabot attributed this to the defence “not playing tough enough” in an interview during the Blaze loss to Sheffield on Saturday. Opposing skaters weren’t scared to play against the Blaze defence and that they need to stamp their authority in the zone they were defending.
Enter Mike Egener.
I wrote about the hole Egener would leave following his fight with guillain-barré syndrome and they never really replaced him like for like. While I expect he will be a few weeks away from the full Egener who terrified opposing players and was a rock in his own end, it is a good move by Coventry to bring him back. Who better to replace Egener then…well, Mike Egener. There has been talk about even giving him the Captaincy that he would have worn had he been able to come to Coventry. Doing this, however nice a gesture would be a massive show of disrespect to Ashley Tait, currently wearing the Captains badge and currently very much in form playing with the top line of Ginand and top Blaze point scorer Adam Henrich.
The first problem was secondary scoring. The Blaze are relying heavily on the above-mentioned top line who have combined brilliantly. Bringing in Shea Guthrie is simply superb. Rumours were that he was Sheffield bound to further increase their frightening strike force. Guthrie is very much the missing piece in the Blaze offensive puzzle. He is a smart playmaker who possesses good hands and is a good passer. He also can shoot the puck which he proved when he scored 35 goals in his first year with the team. Having a player as versatile as Guthrie will undoubtedly provide the Blaze that missing link as his versatility can work with players the Blaze already have.
The one drawback would be Guthries injuries. However, on a line with grinder Kevin Harvey to do the physical work, watch Guthries’ back and be able to keep up with the Carelton Place, Ontario natives blistering speed will be a force to be reckoned with. Their other partner in crime is a moot point. Now that the Blaze have added Egener and Guthrie, they are either carrying spare imports or will have to cut someone when Olson returns. Personally I would have Harvey on a versatile line with Guthrie and Tanaka, a speedy 2nd unit to back up Tait, Henrich and Ginand that plays with grit, is solid on the forecheck and will undoubtedly boost the secondary scoring numbers.