Lineup Changes: Stefan Matteau Back In, But Is It The Right Call?

With Ryan Carter sidelined by some form of upper-body injury (read: likely concussion), the Devils suddenly have a hole on their third line. Enter the Devils’ apparent Mr. Fix It this season, Stefan Matteau.

Via Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice:

Rookie Stefan Matteau is skating in Carter’s place on the third line with Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. Matteau, who will turn 19 on Saturday, has been a healthy scratch the last three games.

Here is the breakdown of the players on the ice today:

Forwards: Alexei Ponikarovsky-Travis Zajac-Ilya Kovalchuk; Patrik Elias-Adam Henrique-David Clarkson; Stefan Matteau-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier; Krys Barch-Andrei Loktionov-Bobby Butler.

Corey Griffin

I’m not quite sure how often I can bang this drum, but is this really the best development plan for the Devils’ first-round draft pick? It’s not so much the fact that he’s moved around in lines pretty much all season. That part, I get. I think that when he plays it’s good for him to experience playing with the top offensive forwards while also playing in lower-pressure situations on the fourth line and then on more defensive-minded shifts with Bernier and Gionta. But to be shuffled in and out of the NHL lineup and serving as somewhat of a “replacement player?” Does he stick around as the extra forward until Dainius Zubrus is healthy and then get sent down to the AHL? I just don’t see the benefit in him spending two games in and then three games out.

Matteau is the future of the Devils, and along with Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique, will represent this franchise for the next seven-plus years. So why are we jerking him around? Wouldn’t it better for him to play every night rather than not know where he stands? I get the whole idea of him learning by watching and the theory that he’s got NHL-level talent, so why not let him test it against NHL players in practice and occasionally in games. But I find it wholly counterproductive to have Matteau play eight minutes a night for two games and then spend the next three games sitting in the press box when he could be playing 15 to 17 minutes a night with Albany against competition that, although not NHL caliber, is still strong enough to test him and develop him.