Kirk Maltby on the Penalty Kill?

Cable BollenbacherContributor IJanuary 18, 2009

Kirk Maltby...on the special teams unit. Why?

I usually am not at all quick to criticize Mike Babcock's coaching abilities, but this move makes no sense to me at all. Maltby has been with the Wings as long as I have been watching hockey, and I have always liked him.

He has scored some great clutch goals, many of which came during the playoffs. Additionally he seems like a great guy, always quick with a smile. Sadly, being a nice guy doesn't cut it for being a hockey player, especially not one on the team that has been the cream of the NHL crop for the past decade.

I was at the game this past week when Detroit visited Dallas, and found myself constantly wishing aloud that Maltby would get benched. Detroit spent entirely too much time on the penalty kill throughout the game, and I was horrified to see Maltby on the PK unit.

What should have been a routine clear by Maltby failed to leave the Detroit zone and shortly led to a Dallas goal. Yet Maltby was sent out again and again onto the ice with Dallas holding the man-advantage.

It made no sense to me that a coach, as obviously as tough Mike Babcock (who barely lets top-five scorer Jiri Hudler on the ice), continuously sends Maltby into action.

What makes this especially hard for me is that I know the caliber of the players that are currently in Detroit's minor league system. Ville Leino and Darren Helm have both greatly impressed me.

Leino was one of the leading pre-season scorers for the Wings, yet hasn't seen the ice in a NHL game yet. Darren Helm proved himself capable during the playoff run that culminated in Detroit's Stanley Cup victory.

Every time I have watched Helm, my jaw has dropped, simply because of the great amount of effort he exerted. He seemed to be eager to prove himself, and despite his low scoring total, was full of energy every shift he served.

His speed alone was enough to make me cross my fingers in hopes of him cracking the lineup. Yet instead we have Maltby, one of the oldest members of the team, playing with all the symptoms of the horrific disease of lethargy.

His lackadaisical play has, in my opinion, not been at all worthy of a spot ahead of Leine or Helm, and definitely has not warranted play on the special teams unit.

I am a fan of Kirk Maltby, but the point is that he should be making way for the young guns instead of lazily enjoying the last two years of his contract. At the very least, he should not be on the PK unit that has struggled so much.

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