Rooting out dumb plays

BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

It will not be the reason the Canucks do, or do not, make the playoffs.

It will, however, go down as an ill-timed move by a player with a reputation for such transgressions. It was more stupid than ill-timed, actually. Nice work Jarkko Ruutu.

Monday night against Anaheim, Ruutu's penchant for poor timing was on display again.

Anaheim had opened up a 4-0 lead only to see the Canucks kick into desperation mode. They scored late in the second to make it 4-1, then again early in the third to make it 4-2. The crowd was pumped, the team was feeding off that energy and a comeback was not completely out of the question.

A penalty to Eric Weinrich put some of that momentum on hold, but sometimes a successful kill can provide a boost. But with 10 seconds left in his minor, Ruutu ran into J.S. Giguere and the Canucks were shorthanded again. Ruutu's role on this team is to agitate and in this case he was successful - his teammates and coaches were ready to kill him.

The Canucks managed to kill the penalty but having to spend an extra two minutes trying to prevent a goal rather than score one interrupted the flow.

Did it cost them the game? No.

Did it get in the way of the comeback? Absolutely.

The role of the agitator is not easily defined. Ideally it is a player who has ample amounts of energy, passion and an innate ability to piss the other guys off.

The successful agitator's plus/minus should be reflected by penalties drawn against penalties taken. You consistently play on the edge, doing your best to goad the opposition into responding, without getting sucked into the penalty box yourself.

And for the most part, Ruutu does a decent job. He yaps, pokes, prods, sticks, face washes - all part of the job description.

The problem is when you forget what your role is, and too often Ruutu loses sight of it.

When you play on the edge, it is too easy to go over it. Ruutu's job security will be an issue if he can't cut down on the dumb penalties. Special teams play such a significant role in today's game and while you desperately need players that can kill penalties, you don't want too many players that take them.

It is fair question of Dave Nonis as to whether he needs Ruutu, Matt Cooke and Alexandre Burrows - three players who play similar roles. But there is one member of that trio who would be the first to go if I'm the GM. And it's not Cooke or Burrows.


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