Needing more from Simmonds

When the even-keel, fatherly Terry Murray publicly calls out a player, you know he’s really not happy. Today, Murray took a relatively benign question about Wayne Simmonds’ production (or lack thereof) and scoring chances this season and issued a fairly strong-worded analysis of Simmonds’ play through the first three games of this season. Simmonds has zero points in three games, and had only one shot on goal before his three-shot effort against Atlanta on Tuesday…

MURRAY: “I need Simmer to be a better player than what he is right now. We’ve had a couple of meetings, he and I, and the assistant coaches have sat down and reviewed some video. The most important thing for him is to get his feet going, get skating better, on a more consistent basis. When he’s playing that straight-line game with an edge, with grit and battling along the boards, that’s the best kind of player. Right now, he seems to be a little hesitant in his game, and as a result you get caught in between and it looks real bad. I’m hoping for a big effort tonight on that side of it. That’s the focus that we want him to go into this game with. Simply move your feet, stay on top of it, and I think other things will fall into place.”

To me, Simmonds looked better in the third period of the Atlanta game, but otherwise I wouldn’t disagree with Murray’s analysis. Murray was also asked whether Simmonds’ struggles were related to chemistry issues with new teammate Alexei Ponikarovsky, who has filled the left-wing role alongside Simmonds and center Michal Handzus…

MURRAY: “I want the line to be better. I think Poni has got some habits there that we’re addressing with him, that we want to see. With the puck, we want him to have the puck longer. He’s a big guy that can protect the puck on the cycle, hold onto it for four- or five-second stretches and work the opponent down deep in the offensive zone. That was the strength of that line last year, but it is not related to Simmer and what we just talked about. That’s on him. That’s the focus that he needs to put into it, as an individual, and get himself on track.”

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