Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Matt Kalman: Have you no sense of decency, sir?

So I'm reading through my RSS feed reader and an item of interest popped up: "Column: Horton has to show more, and Florida would be a place to start." Yeah, you're not reading it wrong. It's really a slag on Mr. New Bruin, Mr. Fought Dion Phaneuf, Mr. point-per-game until Monday when everyone sucked. So, Matt, what have you got for us about this season's possible 7th man award winner?

Appearance-wise, the Florida fans (however many of them bother to show up Wednesday night in Sunrise, Fla.) probably won’t recognize Nathan Horton.
Well, they actually might, since he's only been gone a couple months. He was one of their stars for the last 5 years. I'm sure Ottawa fans don't remember Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel plays in Boston with barely a whisper mentioned about him, right?
Unless something changes overnight, he’ll probably be sporting the same grin he has been wearing ever since he first joined the Bruins and escaped what he obviously deemed to be an ill-fitting situation with the Panthers last June.
Likely, yes, but the only reason Florida fans won't recognize that is that when Nathan Horton smiles, he turns people to stone. So there will be some statues in and around the Sunrise arena that recognize the grin but the rest are luckily far enough away or conveniently dressed like tarps.
However, there are evidently two Nathan Hortons when it comes to on-ice performance, and if the wrong one takes the ice for the Bruins it could bring back all-too-familiar memories for the small but loyal Florida fan base.
Finally, Matthew gets to the meat of his argument: Nathan Horton has played 19 games for the Bruins and has failed to win the Stanley Cup in each of those 19 games. Nevermind the fact that he's clicking on the top line or leading the Bruins in points and up until Monday night's snoozefest (literally, I was asleep) he was a point-per-game player. Let's see what he has to say here:
Horton’s numbers have been excellent through 19 games, as he has recorded 18 points, including eight goals. He leads the team in scoring and is on pace to top the 30-goal mark, which was what the Bruins optimistically set for his potential production when the season started. En route to that solid amount of production, Horton has enjoyed nights of physical forechecking and work along the boards, in addition to diligent backchecking. That’s the Nathan Horton the Bruins bragged about after they picked him up.
Wait, isn't that exactly what I just said? So what's the problem here, Matt? Did he refuse you an interview or not bite on some bait? What's the deal?
But then there are nights when the other Nathan Horton shows up — nights like Monday in Tampa, where Horton failed to record a point or even a shot on net. It was the third time Horton failed to shoot on goal this season, but this time his lack of an attempt led to his extending his season-worst goal-less stretch to four games.
Even when Gretzky set the scoring record for what will probably be all time, he still had a couple nights without a point. That's right. En route to 215 points, a record that will stand for a long long time, he had a couple of off nights. Now, I'm not saying that Horton is Gretzky - far from it. I am saying that Horton wasn't brought in to not only be point-per-game but also put the Bruins on his back every night and drag them to victory. Let's see how much further down the rabbit hole Kalman falls:
In the aftermath of Horton’s two prior shot-less outings, he bounced back well. He scored a goal at home against Washington Oct. 21 and did the same on the Capitals’ home ice Nov. 5. He was still a bit gun-shy in those two contests with just two shots on net in both, but at least he cashed in on his chances. We’ll find out Wednesday night how Horton responds to maybe his worst game as a member of the Bruins against the Lightning.
Horton played his 19th-best game as a Bruin Monday night. He went 0-0-0 and was a -1. He's been a minus in three games this season, including that November 5th game mentioned above when he was a -2. The other was his debut game as a Bruin where he had 2 goals and Rask had a spot of bad luck starting out. So yeah, his -1 rating in a 3-1 loss might be his worst game. Ask Thomas Kopecky about bad games (-5 in 17:12 of ice time) this year, maybe. 0-0-0 and a -1? Well, that could be a lot worse.
Not only didn’t Horton manage a shot on goal, he seemed disinterested. In fact, he looked like the player the Panthers carried the last couple of years who earned a reputation for passion-less hockey. Horton’s last seven games, actually, have left little to be desired. He has scored just once in that stretch and averaged just 1.57 shots per game. Shots on net don’t have to be an end-all indicator of solid play — and Horton did assist on all three Milan Lucic goals last week against the Panthers — but there has been little else to Horton’s play over the same stretch.
I heard he told the caterer he wouldn't feed the roast beef to his dog, either. Excuse me, I've got to go find my eyeballs - they seem to have rolled out of my head. Be back in a minute. Here, while I'm out, watch this video of Horton playing "passion-less hockey":
Oh, thank goodness! I found them! Under the fridge. Gotta get the dust off and we're back in time to savor what Andy Brickley just said about Horton while we read on in Kalman's atrocity:
Prior to this string of games, he averaged 2.5 shots per game in the 12 contests that featured his first seven goals. When you figure he averaged 2.45 shots per game on the way to 20 goals last season and 2.65 shots in 2006-07 (a 31-goal year), it’s obvious he’s only at his best when he’s putting that lethal wrister to use more often.
And in 08-09 he averaged 1.96 and scored 22. Yes, he obviously scores more when he shoots more but it's not a bad thing to have a high shooting percentage. Average around the league (by team) should be around 10...Horton's lowest percentages were 12.6 last year and 12.7 the year before when he scored 27.
Horton has to now prove that he can take the necessary steps to prevent an extended stretch of lifeless play from turning into an all-out slump. When he’s not scoring, he has to be creating chances, has to be making things happen with his body. That’s what he said he was ready to do on a consistent basis right after the trade and all through training camp. Now it’s time to show it. The Bruins don’t need another high-priced passenger in their lineup.
Passenger. Yup. That's what Kalman just said. He called Horton a "Passenger." Or called it into question, at least. Say what you will about Nathan Horton (unless you feel like writing up some dumb character assassination crap like Matthew has done here). Mr. Kalman, I believe you have locker room access. Can you do something for me? Can you go in there and ask Milan Lucic (or anyone else) if they think Nathan Horton's been a "passenger" to the Bruins?

While we're at it, who are the high-priced passengers in the lineup right now? You did say "another" so let's figure out who it is. Highest priced forward is Patrice Bergeron, and I don't think he's exactly having a bad year. He slotted in just fine up top with Krejci out, which actually helped Wheeler prove he's a better player than we thought. Next up for forwards is Milan Lucic (ha!), then Marc Savard (arguably, yes, but ask again when he's on the ice), Michael Ryder (having a hell of a contract year), then Horton and Krejci. Nope, no passengers there. Everyone else is Seguin (rookie doing work), Marco Sturm (See also Marc Savard), and a bunch of forwards making under 3 million. None of the forwards are "high-priced passengers."

On Defense, there are two guys making over 3 million: Norris-trophy winner and Captain Zdeno Chara (4-5-9 +10 - not a passenger) and Dennis "Dikembe" Seidenberg (7 assists, +5, 4th in the league in Blocked Shots - not a passenger). Nope. Okay, so it's gotta be a goalie, right? Sure! Tim Thomas is earning his cash money and Rask is being paid like a backup and soaking up losses (including one where he played a 3-1 period and got the loss). So, nope, not seeing any passengers here right now.
There’d be no better place to do that than in the BankAtlantic Center. The day after Horton and the Bruins downed those Panthers in Boston last week, he contemplated what playing in front of the Florida crowd might be like when asked about the possibilities.
Ah yes, the pre-written storyline. Player returns to team that drafted him and had him for a while. Gaborik back to Minnesota, Kesselmania, and now Horton to Florida. I bet he says something like "I appreciate the fans, and I have great memories, and I want to come home with the win" or something like that.
"I don’t know what it’s going to be like. It’s different. Obviously, it’s nice when you get the win against them. But it’s definitely going to be a little bit weird being down there,” said Horton.
Horton spitting mad fire. Throwing big heat against Flori-what? Oh, okay. Maybe he didn't. Whatever, he pulled from a different quotebook.
It’ll be a lot weirder if Horton goes out and plays the spirited hockey he started the season with. The folks in Sunrise probably don’t remember what that looks like. And the Bruins don’t want that Nathan Horton to become a distant memory.
It actually would be pretty weird if he came out and scored like crazy. In each of the afore-mentioned returns, the returning scorer put down a paltry 0-0-0 in front of his former hometown crowd. Of course, Gretzky broke a scoring record in Edmonton but I don't think it was his first game back.

As for that last part, Matthew? I think Mr. Joseph N. Welch, head of the council for the Army during the McCarthy hearings said it best:

"You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

Well, Matthew? Do you?