Just The Facts: Michael Nylander Deserves Better

R LSenior Analyst INovember 25, 2008

In today's era, it doesn't take much to get on your coach's bad side.

A simple cough-up can earn you a spot on the bench. Who knows how long before you hit the ice again?

I shudder to think what's in store for Ryan O'Byrne in Montreal following the own-goal yesterday that cost the Canadiens two points. We'll soon gain the knowledge of the defenseman's negotiating skills, and just how good they are.

But what did Michael Nylander do to exactly tick Bruce Boudreau off in Washington?

The 36-year old started the season with six points in four contests. He was seeing time with Alexander Ovechkin on the power play, and things were looking smooth.

Recently, even with the injury to Alex Semin, the Swede has been demoted to third and fourth line duty. Donald Brashear and Brooks Laich? These aren't the kind of players that Nylander should be paired with.

Prior to his move to D.C., the veteran had two of his best years with the New York Rangers. In 2005-06, he totalled 79 points (23 goals, 56 assists), and followed it up with 83 points (26 goals, 57 assists) the following season.

Nylander had clearly established himself as one of the game's top playmakers. Had an injury not wiped him out for half of his 2007-2008 campaign, we may have seen similar results.

To his credit, he managed 37 points in 40 games before going down. His 12 points in 20 matches thus far this year aren't highly regarded.

But it's not the simplest of tasks to produce when you're seeing just a little over 12 minutes of ice time in certain matches. It came to the point where he was a healthy scratch for one game.

Recent trade rumours with the Chicago Blackhawks concerning Nylander's services shouldn't catch anyone off guard.

Perhaps putting the spotlight on Boudreau after he was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame the other day isn't the wisest of moves. However, I just can't help myself on this issue.

Nicklas Backstrom had an eye-opening rookie campaign with 69 points (14 goals, 55 assists). He found himself in the midst of a sophomore slump early on this year, and would still possibly be lost in it if every one of his shifts weren't alongside Ovechkin.

When Semin was excluded from the equation, I expected Nylander to play with Ovechkin and Backstrom. At the very least, seeing him split ice time with either of the two would have made me happy.

No, Viktor Kozlov gets the empty spot on the top line. To my surprise, he was actually awarded some power-play time with Ovechkin during a match with Anaheim a few days ago.

The result? Two power-play assists. If Nylander gets some chances to feed No. 8, the numbers will rise. Instead, Backstrom continues to reap the benefits of Ovie's partnership because of one good season.

Is it any wonder that the Capitals have seen defeat in four of their last five games? Semin's absence would be the first factor. Next would undoubtedly be Nylander's treatment from Boudreau.

To my astonishment, the Swede hasn't once complained or brought the topic up for discussion. He just simply continues to play his game and hopes Boudreau's eyes will open.

Just imagine the Blackhawks team if they attain Nylander. Offense isn't something they are lacking, and this would just be another log on the fire.

The argument could be made that Backstrom is superior to his fellow Swede in the eyes of the coach.  It's a possibility with the talent Backstrom possesses.

Would splitting the Ovechkin shifts be so terrible? Not in my eyes. It's the least they can do for Nylander.

Personally, I'm in favour of a move to Chicago. A much more spread out offense lies in Chi-Town, and Nylander's partners would have more to offer.

On the flip side of that coin, if these are merely rumours, it may be a cause for distraction. Nylander has a no-trade clause and there have been no mentions of him waiving it.

Motivation is another element that may arise from the talks. I don't see anything bad with Nylander's play, but I'm sure he sees room for improvement. Washington may be home to him, but he's being treated like he's trying to date Boudreau's daughter.

Regardless, he has insisted that the trade talks haven't gotten to his head.

"You can't think about it too much," he said yesterday. "You just have to deal with it, go out, and play. You can't pay attention to what they say in the papers."

"Nothing, no, he hasn't talked to me," Nylander said, referring to GM George McPhee. "I play here. That's how I'm approaching the situation. That's the way it's going to be. Whatever it says in the papers, that's out of my control to do anything about it."

Whether the Blackhawks are really interested or not remains to be seen. The fact is, Nylander may want to reconsider waiving his no-trade clause for a team that will better serve him down the road.

I'd rather see him alongside Patrick Sharp and Martin Havlat than Matt Bradley and Eric Fehr.

Wouldn't you?