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6 Players NHL Teams Should Bench

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2013

6 Players NHL Teams Should Bench

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    A slow start is never a good thing for any professional athlete.

    Slumps can happen at any time and nobody is immune. But when that slump comes at the start of a lockout-shortened season, it is even more distasteful.

    In some cases, a player who gets off to a slow start is playing well but just not having any luck. In other cases, he may be slightly off form or perhaps a tad out of shape.

    But each game that goes by means that the pressure increases. In some cases, it multiplies dramatically.

    Instead of throwing a player out there game after game, a coach may want to consider benching that player. Not as a punishment, but just to change his perspective—for one game at least.

    Here are six players that need a temporary benching to clear their heads.

Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

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    Ryan Suter is one of the two huge signings made by the Minnesota Wild in the offseason.

    They brought in Suter and Zach Parise to turn their fortunes around and become a Western Conference powerhouse.

    Suter and Parise each signed 13-year, $98 million contracts. That's a lot of cash and with it comes a lot of pressure.

    Suter is feeling that pressure. He has not scored a goal yet and has just four assists. He has a minus-seven rating through his first nine games.

    He was an All-Star last year after scoring seven goals and 39 assists for the Nashville Predators.

    Suter's ineffective play is not the result of a lack of effort. He is skating hard every game.

    The pressure is thick and heavy right now. Head coach Mike Yeo needs to give his high-priced blueliner a game or two off just so he can regather himself and get back on track.

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

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    Alex Ovechkin can't turn off the questions.

    Ovechkin's goal totals have been going down in recent years. He has not scored more than 38 goals since the 2009-10 season when he put 50 on the board.

    That was once a regular occurrence for Ovechkin. He scored 50 or more goals in four of his first five seasons.

    After scoring 32 and 38 goals the past two seasons, Ovechkin has two goals in the Capitals' first nine games. He also has two assists, a minus-two rating and does not have an even-strength goal this season.

    There's no question about Ovechkin's effort. He skates hard and will use his body to jar opponents on a regular basis..

    However, it seems like opposing defensive players have figured out that Ovechkin will skate up the left wing and cut to the middle the vast majority of the time when he carries the puck.

    Since his favored move is so well known, it is much easier to stop him. He needs to show some other moves with greater frequency.

    New coach Adam Oates ought to bench Ovechkin for a game to see if that can fire him up.

Brian Boyle, New York Rangers

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    Brian Boyle is not a huge scorer for the New York Rangers.

    But he is a key member of John Tortorella's team nevertheless.

    Boyle has one assist through his first nine games and a minus-two rating. A year ago he had 26 points and the year before he had 21 goals and 35 points.

    Boyle, a 6'7", 245-pounder, is a tough customer who can usually assert himself on the ice.

    Early this season, Boyle seemed to take the worst of it in a scrap with Adam McQuaid of the Boston Bruins (video above). He has not been as aggressive or effective since then.

    Tortorella needs to bench him one game so he can regain his perspective.

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Phil Kessel just can't seem to get going so far this season.

    A year after scoring 37 goals and 82 points, Kessel has yet to score a goal in any of the Leafs' first nine games.

    He's still just as involved as he has ever been for Toronto, but he appears snakebitten at this point. His wicked wrist shot has been just missing or clanging off the crossbar.

    There's clearly a ton of pressure on him. The Leafs are hungry to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season. It appears that if they do make it, they will emerge in the final days of the season as a bottom seed in the Eastern Conference. They don't appear to be a championship-caliber team.

    General manager Brian Burke, the executive who acquired Kessel from the Boston Bruins, was fired just before the start of the season. Boston used draft picks from the trade to select Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.

    Head coach Randy Carlyle needs to sit Kessel down a game or two so he can relax and use all the time and space he has before letting his wicked shot go.

Maxime Talbot, Philadelphia

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    The Philadelphia Flyers need a big year from Maxime Talbot.

    They are shorthanded defensively and if they are going to be a playoff team that has an impact, it appears they are going to need their best offensive players to compete like stars.

    Talbot was a big-time contributor last year with 19 goals, 34 points and 59 penalty minutes. In his first nine games, Talbot has contributed two assists.

    That's not good enough. Talbot is feeling the pressure. Head coach Peter Laviolette might be well advised to sit Talbot down for a game so he can regain his perspective and relax just a bit the next time he steps on the ice.

Mike Cammalleri, Calgary Flames

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    Mike Cammalleri has been a proven goal scorer in his career.

    He has scored 20 or more goals five times in his career with a career high of 39 goals in 2008-09. He has a deft touch around the net that allows him to deflect shots and jump on rebounds.

    Despite those soft hands, Cammalleri has yet to score a goal for the Flames in his first six games of the year. He also has a minus-three rating.

    Head coach Bob Hartley might want to consider benching Cammalleri for a game so he can get the hunger back and start scoring again.

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