Luc Robitaille was mad about his highly-publicized benching in Colorado last week. As a future Hall-of-Famer, he should be mad. Not at Red Wings head coach Dave Lewis for making the call to scratch him in favor of agitator Sean Avery but at himself for his complete inability to put the puck in the net.
Robitaille is a scorer, plain and simple. He’s too slow to backcheck and he doesn’t play defense in any zone. To be a valuable asset he must score goals.
But he isn’t.
Robitaille has four goals in forty-five games this season. Only Igor Larionov (3), Pavel Datsyuk, Jason Williams (3) and Boyd Devereaux (2) have fewer goals among Red Wings forwards.
It’s not that he isn’t getting the chances. Robitaille is fifth in team shooting with 97 shots on goal and his average ice time (14:06) is eighth on a team loaded with talent.
Robitaille has played on lines with some of the game’s best playmakers. He’s been centered by both Sergei Fedorov and Igor Larionov and has played on both wings at times.
Luc has had his chances, but his scoring percentage of 4.1% is worst among Red Wings forwards.
His plight was exemplified with about 6:30 left in Sunday’s match with the Vancouver Canucks. Robitaille was fed a pass as he skated down the left side but he fired the puck high and wide of the gaping net. His only appearance on the score sheet was in the form of a dumb slashing penalty midway through the third period.
Robitaille is not an agitator or a grinder. He is a scorer who’s not scoring.
He is in the final season of a $4 million per year contract with the Red Wings and has said that he wants to finish his career in Detroit.
Kirk Maltby is only being payed $1.25 million and he has as many goals shorthanded as Robitaille has overall.
The Red Wings have veteran leaders already and young players ready to take on more ice time. Barring any injuries, the Red Wings will have at least one forward as a healthy scratch until the return of captain Steve Yzerman, at which point there will be two forwards in the press box.
The Red Wings would be smart to cut loose the dead weight that Robitaille has become and clear up roster room for Devereaux, Williams and Sean Avery. They do not need Robitaille this season and they will not re-sign him this summer.
Because Robitaille is not providing anything for the Red Wings now, he sould provide something for them in the future in the form of draft picks or prospects acquired via trade.
Last year the Philadelphia Flyers highly overpayed for former Red Wing Adam Oates at the trade deadline. As the playoff push comes up this season, the Red Wings might be able to swing a similar deal with an Eastern Conference team.
Philadelphia, Washington, Montreal and the New York Islanders are all rumored to be looking for a scoring winger, perhaps any of them could be sold on the idea that Robitaille just needs a change of scenery.
At the very least, Robitaille should be benched. If at all possible, he should not finish this season as a Red Wing.