Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Youth Movement

I have been bored out of my mind over the last two weeks, the entry draft is far behind us, free agency has slowed to a crawl, arbitration hearings are the last exiting thing that remains. And we all know how boring arbitration is. Case-48 hours-decision-48hours-another decision. kill me now! So while this summer drags on I have been thinking of how Pierre Gauthier seems to understand very clearly that to be competitive in this league you need to have efficient and talented players still on entry level contracts. So i thought i would compile the top 10 Habs prospects that I am most excited to see at training camp, and beyond! Some who will have a chance to make the team, and some who will need a few more years to develop. Here goes...

1. P.K. Subban: After the stunning performance P.K. put on during the playoffs, I find myself more excited than ever to see this young hot shot defenceman play a full season in the NHL. He was thrown into 2 of the most intense series' this team has seen in years, where they were heavy underdogs, and he helped out by playing several responsible defensive minutes and contributed offensively as well. I see Subban being the most impressive rookie defenceman in the league this upcoming season.

2. Lars Eller: The mystery centerman acquired in the HALAK trade. As I listened to the team 990 on that wedesday, and heard that playoff ZEUS Jaro Halak had been traded, I fought sadness by drooling over the possible return from the youthful talent in St. Louis. When they announced Lars Eller was coming back our way, I was infuriated. Why not Perrron? Why not Berglund? Why not Pietrangelo? But that was then, after reading about Eller, listening to journalists talk about him, and hearing what the man who drafted him had to say, I could not be more excited to see this supposedly NHL ready two way centreman in a Habs jersey. Will he be the deserving successor of Scott Gomez or Tomas Plekanec in coming years? We will have to wait and see. He is a very exciting prospect.

3. Yannick Weber: This swiss offensive powerhouse has been up to the big club a few times over the last few years. He's had some good games and some bad games. In the end though, I truly believe that the Weber-Subban combination will be the future of the Habs on D, as far as offense goes. Defenceman naturally take a longer time to develop than forwards, as we have seen with young D-men like Gorges (who matured to NHL level at 24), and O'byrne (26) who is coming off his first succesful NHL campaign. Weber will get to see some serious time this season if there are any injuries, and with the departure of Gill and Hamrlik next off season, look for Weber to secure a spot in the top 6.

4. Alexander Avtsin: I may only be so intrigued by this player because he is a Russian who actually seems determined to play in the NHL. We got him to come over! And he will surely make less money here than in Russia, which is a solid sign that he is a competitive player, and wants to be in the best league in the world. This kid has size, speed and hands. With the offensive tools to be a successful NHL top 6 forward, he is an exciting prospect to watch. Let's hope we can create our own little Datsyuk.

5. Max Pacioretty: While Max is surely looking to everyone like another first round bust, you have to do your best to stay positive. He is still a very young player, who was drafted because he is talented. There was a stretch last season of 11 or so games where he was almost a point a game player, assisting, finishing his checks, skating hard and even putting the puck in the net once or twice. If he can find that kind of power forward game again that had me drooling for a whole 3 weeks, we have a great top 6 forward on our hands.

6. Danny Kristo: I haven't heard whether or not Kristo will be returning to North Dakota. At 20 years old I sure hope he will hurry up and get to the Hamilton Bulldogs. Doesn't the college route just seem like the slowest possible route to the big leagues? Regardless, this kid tore it up at the WJC for the U.S. team, and anyone who does that is worth a double take. This second round pick could look great in a Habs jersey sooner than we think.

7. Ryan White: White logged some valuable time last year at the NHL level, and he showed he can skate with the big boys. He brings and energetic crash and bang element that the Habs sorely lack. As long as Ryan can keep his game in the +, then I can see him being an effective fourth liner on a team that can really use a player of his skill set.

8. Jarred Tinordi: If Tinordi wasn't so painfully far away from an NHL debut, he would have been much closer to topping this list. The hulking player that the habs traded up to acquire in this year's draft is such an exciting prospect I wish I could just fast forward a few years. This D will be part of the leadership core of the Montreal Canadiens for a long time coming. I can already feel the Tinordi fever in the air. Just give it a year or two.

9. David Desharnais: This is a player who deserves to be much higher on EVERYONE'S list of exiting young kids. He posted 78 points in 60 games with the Bulldogs this year, a huge step up from his 58 in 77GP of the year before. If he was 3 or 4 inches taller, every Habs fan would be blogging and gossiping and raving about him. But the sad truth is that Desharnais is a top 6 kind of player, and considering how small our core of offensive forwards are, there is absolutely no way he breaks into the line up. If he wants an NHL roster spot, he better ask for a trade.

10. Louis Leblanc: I wish I could say I was more excited about this guy. But i haven't heard or seen much that is overly extraordinary about him. Hopefully he can actually make the WJC team this year so we can see him in action. Then maybe he will jump up to the top of next year's list. He's only here because you have to include any18th overall pick.

So those are the kids I am hoping can make a wicked impact on our team sooner or later. I am completely stoked to see all of them play asap! Is there anyone I left out that you think can tear it up?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Habs post UFA frenzy...2010-2011 roster

The Habs roster for the 2010-2011 season looks like it is all but set in stone. The signings of Carey Price and Maxime Lappierre are imminent. So we have to assume, barring any random trade involving Gomez, Hamrlik or the remaining Kostitsyn, these are our Habs. Here is what I think the lineup will be come October 7th:
Kostitsyn - Plekanec - Cammalleri
Pouliot - Gomez - Gionta
Moen - Eller - Lappierre
Pyatt - Boyd - Darche/Pacioretty

Hamrlik - Spacek
Subban - O'byrne
Gorges - Gill

The 3rd and 4th lines are more speculation than the top 2 lines. They could look much different than that. Lappy can play center...Boyd can be on the wing...who knows. Either way, I am pretty excited about next years team. And I believe, as scary as this may be, that the success or failure of the Habs depends completely on the quality of play we see from Pouliot and Kostitsyn. If one of the two players has a breakout season, and the other plays to HALF of his potential, the Habs will be a serious playoff team. We all know that Cammy, Pleky, Gomer and Gio will have good years, their numbers will be impressive. If Pouliot and Ak46 USE their size, SCORE big goals, PLAY with heart, and WORK HARD. They will have unbelievable seasons and the Habs will have 6 amazing forwards. Now I know everyone thinks this is a tall order, but is it really?

Pouliot had done NOTHING in the NHL before coming to the habs. In 65 NHL games with the Wild over 4 seasons, he had a total of 19 points. 19!!!! With the Habs, despite a shaky playoffs, he brokeout with 24 points in 39 games. The sweet taste of NHL point production lingers on the lips of Benoit Pouliot. He will have a good season playing next to Gio and Gomer next year.

Kostitsyn has gone from being the golden future star of the Habs to another underacheiver. With one year left on his contract, this is his ABSOLUTE FINAL chance to prove to the Canadiens that he can be an offensive force. The moose has size, hands, a shot and he's a smart guy. We all thought last year would be the year for Andrei, but his slow start and an untimely injury postponed his success. I believe that the departure of his brother Sergei, and more comfort with his linemates Cammy and Plek after a season of playing with them will spark him to earn a new, and respectable contract with this team. I think that the whole city is hoping Andrei will prove to us he wants to be a Hab in the future. We all become AK46 fanboys as soon as he starts scoring. He can easily earn a place in our hearts. All he has to do is learn from the work ethic of Cammalleri, Gionta and Plekanec. These guys can show him how to be a true NHLer.

And last but not least, le piece de resistance, Carey Price. When the Canadiens signed Alex Auld (??!??) to a 1 year, $1M dollar deal. They paved the way, AGAIN, for Price to take the keys to the city. In today's theme of optimism, I will say this. I believe in Price, we all saw how he matured in the playoffs and read the articles of his hard work and good team ethics. Carey Price could have an amazing year. I hope he does, I like him alot. And if he doesn't, Auld will not be pulling a Jaro Halak any time soon. So here's to crossing our fingers that Price becomes the next Roberto Luongo...and soon!

So considering that our top 6 looks good, we have a new shiny toy named Subban on the back end. And the golaie controversy has been "solved", I think we will see a good team next year. Lets look at it this way. At least our only offensive player ranking doesn't look like this: Gaborik, Prospal...a la NYR. And at least we didn't sign Gonchar to a 3 year deal worth $5.5M when we clearly have to rebuild...a la Senators. And at least we didn't bring back 2 players we ousted in the last 5 years...a la CGY??!!!???!!!!! The Habs are in good shape!

Now lets all start a petition to start hockey one week after July 1st. Waiting until October really hurts.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Plekanec' mega deal

A few days ago the Habs announced the signing of Tomas Plekanec to a 6 year $30M dollar deal, with an annual cap hit of $5M. I have to say, in a lot of ways i'm relieved. The amount of UFA's we've let walk away for nothing in recent history is criminal. If there is one difference i'm seeing between big Bob Gainey and Gauthier, it's that Gauthier is not afraid to pull the trigger. So i'll list you a few reasons why I like this signing. And why i think it's ridiculous that so many fans are upset with it.

- Plekky is OUR player. We drafted him, watched him develop, and saw him turn into an unbelievable two way player. This guys is our top penalty killer, not to mention our top scorer, whose totals would have been much higher had Cammalleri and Kostitsyn not missed a combined total of 40 games. When other teams draft players that turn into great 70+ point centers, we Habs fans drool at their scouting talent and player development, and are quick to criticize our management and coaching. Well here you go, a player we developed into a ferociously talented player, and we have him for the next six years, while he's in his prime. Enjoy.

-While the term of the contract is questionable to some extent, monetarily, we got Plekky at a bargain. On the free agent market, especially considering Marleau re-upped in SJ, and he was the best center left out there, he would have undoubtebly received a Cammalleri-esque $6M dollar deal. Plekky took a home town discount in a big way. He loves Montreal, and we should love that about him.

- We're getting a guy who we know very well, and we know he has serious chemistry with Mike Cammalleri, they should be quite a good duo for years to come. And if we can get two big COMPETENT wingers to go with the duo's of Plek-Cammy, Gomez-Gio, we have a pretty serious offense. Too bad Byfuglien got snatched, we should have pushed harder on that one. Maybe Pouliot and Kostitsyn can get the job done...let's get a qualifying offer out to Pouliot already, whats the hold up..?

- Last but not least, the ONLY thing I am confused about with this signing is the term, and here's why. We just traded our playoff hero and sureshot goaltender Jaroslav Halak essentially for Lars Eller, who is apparently a lock for 2nd line center of the future. I don't see why we went out and got a good, young, big center if we were going to commit to Gomez and Plek for the next 5+ years. I figured Plek would get a 3 year deal, give Eller some time to develop into a strong NHL player, and then plug him into the position at 24 years old. Then again, you look at teams like Pittsburgh and Philly who have amazing depth down the middle and have offensive guys like Giroux and Staal in 3rd line center positions. This could be an interesting advancement for the Habs...3 good offensive centers. I guess i'm just used to the Habs barely having ONE good center that it's hard to imagine 3.

DRAFT TONIGHT!!!! enjoy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Alright let me start by saying that in NO WAY do I think that the Habs got the long end of the straw in this deal. Halak goes to St. Louis and we get Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. Halak just carried this team on his back through two playoff series', and helped us beat two of the best teams in the NHL. Because of Jaro, we went on the most convincing cup run this cup starved city has seen since '93. So the return for this special goaltender is underwhelming. However, the deal is done, so let's talk about what it can do for the habs.

Lars Eller is a former 13th overall pick, one of the highest draft picks we will have in our system. While Eller hasn't been a bombshell anywhere he's played lately, when a guy is picked 13th overall there is a reason he went so high. I'm sure we will see some offensive benefits from Eller in the near future. He made his NHL debut last season with the Blues and netted 2 goals in 7 games. Look out...

As far as Schultz goes, I don't really know anything about him. He's a 20 year old who has played a few seasons in the WHL. I'm predicting a good sized dude who can throw a punch, and whose little offensive prowess in the juniors never comes to fruition in the NHL...a la Gregory Stewart. Here's to hoping i'm wrong...

Either way, what's done is done, we'll find out how things turn out on the ice next year.