MONTREAL, QC.–How frustrating can it be when the management of your beloved Montreal Canadiens makes decisions, which you not only disagree with, but also put you in a helpless state of mind? Hasn’t every die-hard sports fan, at least once in their lifetime, wanted to be in a position of power?
In the recent piece titled Decisions, Decision? You Make the Call!, we invited you, our readers, to play general manager and submit your 21-player opening day lineup for the Montreal Canadiens. Thank you for your responses. Keep them coming!
The All Habs writers decided to take up the challenge and identify their picks. So we are here to share them with you.
This is also part of a Habs blogger community effort initiated by Scott Schmidt to choose the Habs starting 12 forwards. Well done Scott! All Habs is always glad to participate in collaborative efforts whether they be mainstream or new media driven!
A reminder, these are not predictions, but the choices of our panelists as they (temporarily) wear the GM’s chapeau of the Montreal Canadiens.
Steve Farnham, AllHabs.net
I’ve decided to do this backwards, from Hamilton, waivers, bench, to the starting lineup. What can I tell you, I was a goalie, and we are known to be a little out of the box. Oh and apparently, I am not allowed to simply say, “Because I said so” after my choices, so I’ll elaborate on my decisions. Working backwards:
To Hamilton (Pacioretty, Palushaj, Avtsin)
All 3 players going to Hamilton don’t have to clear waivers so this one was a no-brainer for me. I’m also pointing them out because they are in my opinion the best three potential call ups that the Montreal Canadiens have this season.
Pacioretty has done well, but not well enough to dislodge anyone on the Habs roster to avoid starting the season in Hamilton. In my opinion, he needs to dominate for a full season in the AHL before we can truly consider him ready for a full season in the NHL.
Palushaj has probably been the biggest surprise of the camp. He’s shown great talent, speed and skill around the net, but a full year in the AHL will do him some good as well.
Avtsin has in my opinion shown the best offensive skill set of all players at the camp. Although he was sent to Hamilton before playing any NHL games, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were called up during the season on an injury, if it were to happen to a top line player. At the same time, my gut tells me that a full pro season in the AHL would be best for him. The kid needs to add some weight to his skinny frame, and a full season in the AHL would allow him to gain a lot of experience on North American hockey that is still very new to him.
Waivers (Pouliot, I wish.)
#PutPouliotOnWaivers is the hash tag that I have been spamming on twitter for the past couple of weeks. Don’t get me wrong; I know it’s not going to happen. You don’t get rid of a first round pick that you just re-signed to a generous raise for absolutely nothing. Still, his heartless effort has me convinced that he can bring no long-term positive effect to this team. So all together now, #PutPouliotOnWaivers!
Lodge Seats (Maxwell, Darche)
What does not play in favor of Ben Maxwell is the fact that there are simply too many centers in Montreal. Still, we have a tendency to throw them all on the wing, so there might be hope for him. He doesn’t have a big frame yet I feel he could be a useful replacement in an injury situation. His feistiness has grown on me over time, and he’s definitely shown more heart and effort then someone like Pouliot.
As for Mathieu Darche, he’s a hard worker with limited talent. He accepts his role, whatever it may be, including watching games from the press box. Whether you agree with this or not, he and Lapierre are the only two French Quebecois forwards on the roster, and I’m sure that it will play into Darche’s favor to avoid being put on waivers.
And now the forwards…
Line 1A (Kostitsyn, Gomez, Captain Gionta)
Being on the final year of his contract, and from what he’s shown in training camp so far, Kostitsyn looks determined to have a solid year. We all know how effective he can be when he’s on top of his game, and I hope we find that Kostitsyn on a more regular basis this season. Gomez and captain Gionta would round out the line, a pair I would rather not separate. (Not many will)
Line 1B (Eller, Plekanec, Cammalleri)
Here comes Lars Eller. Although I would ideally have him as the third line center, center being his true and most comfortable position, because I’ve decided to put Pouliot on waivers, I’ve created a noticeable gap which I feel only he can address.
I also want Lars Eller playing with Plekanec because I feel this will give Eller the best possible chance of shining, Plekanec being the great playmaker that he is.
Sniper Cammalleri rounds out the trio I feel that with this 1A / 1B combination, the Canadiens have a solid 1-2 punch.
Line 3 (Moen, White, Lapierre)
Here, I’ve matched up three players which I feel can form a line, that will have all other 29 NHL teams hating by the end of the season.
Max Lapierre can show the occasional offensive brilliance, while when on top of his game, manages to get the opposing team off of theirs.
Combined with crashers and bangers like Moen and White, I feel this line could act like a fuel cell feeding energy to all other lines.
Everyone seems to be falling in love with Ryan White and his play is such that I feel that the Montreal Canadiens are a better team with him then without.
Line 4 (Pyatt, Halpern, Boyd)
Finally, I have a fourth line which would get minimal ice time. Those who think that Halpern could be put on waivers following his late off-season signing I feel are mistaken. The simple fact he is right handed (which is hard to come by in hockey) will make him a shoe in on the fourth line. Combined with hard working players like Pyatt and Boyd, this line would act it a more defensive fashion.
So there you have it, my Habs forwards, which I would start for the 2010-11 season. Of course, add Pouliot in Eller’s place on the second line, that bumps Eller to the third line, I would assume that would then bump Moen to the fourth line, Pyatt goes back into the stands, and it’s possibly down to between him and Maxwell for waivers. Tough decisions lie ahead for the Montreal Canadiens, but in their place, these would be mine.
Because I have 14 forwards, I must now limit myself to seven defensemen in order to meet the roster limit requirement of 21 players plus two goalies. (14 forwards + 7 defensemen)
If you were around when the Montreal Expos were playing in the MLB, you’d be familiar with the French radio/TV announcer who goes by the name Roger Brulotte. At the time, and still today, he’s famous for the words he iterate anytime an Expos’ player would hit a home run, “Bon soir, elle est partie”. (Good night, she’s out of here!)
Well scream high and loud “Bon soir ‘il’ est partie” because Jaroslav Spacek just bought himself a ticket to waivers. Although he played surprisingly well in last year’s playoffs, especially against Alexander Ovechkin, he’s never been the offensive force we thought he would be in Montreal, and his defensive play has never impressed. So off to waivers he goes, and should he clear, it’s down to Hamilton and we clear his salary from the cap.
This one was tough. It basically came down to Weber or Picard. The reason I’m sending Weber to Hamilton is because Picard has close to 200 games played in the NHL so far in his career, and if I plan on giving Subban a lot of ice-time, and also allow O’Byrne to grow, I can’t afford to have a third defenseman on the team with little NHL experience. I like Weber, I like his shot, but he’s yet to impress me to the point that I strongly feel he deserves his chance in Montreal. His waiver exemption also plays into this decision.
1st Defensive Pairing (Markov, barring injury; Hamrlik):
Markov and Hamrlik have played well together in the past, and Hamrlik had a strong showing last season picking up the slack when Markov was injured. I don’t have much to say on this decision, a little bit of a no-brainer to me.
2nd Defensive Pairing (Subban, Gorges):
P.K. Subban on a different pairing then Markov gives the Habs much more continuous offensive support from its defense then if they were combined. Gorges’ rock steady defensive play should give Subban some space to work the magic we all know he’s capable of performing.
Bottom trio (Picard, O’Byrne, Gill):
Alex Picard’s offensive abilities add a lot of depth the Habs defensive roster. He’s shown in the training camp that he can also play well defensively, and I think he could make a great addition to the team’s roster. Should he not fulfill expectations, I have Weber in Hamilton ready to be called up anytime he’s needed.
It’s now time to play for Ryan O’Byrne, enough watching the games from the press box. He’s played very well in the training camp so far, and the “A” on his jersey he had a chance to wear for a couple of games was a nice show of confidence by the Habs organization. I would have done the same. *cough*
Hall Gill has shown just how indispensable he can be. His octopus like way of playing on the penalty kill proved to be of great value last season and in the playoffs.
Although I wouldn’t want to see O’Byrne paired with Gill, I think all three players can help the team, and I would find a way to have them all playing.
Michael Cammalleri – Tomas Plekanec – Andrei Kostitsyn
Lars Eller – Scott Gomez – Brian Gionta
Tom Pyatt – Dustin Boyd – Maxim Lapierre
Travis Moen – Jeff Halpern – Ryan White
To the perch: Benoît Pouliot, Max Pacioretty, Mathieu Darche
It was Claude Ruel who coined the expression « Y en aura pas d’facile! ». And picking my starting twelve was just so: not easy. Having 21 players under contract and a tight salary cap situation does not ease the process of picking.
Having Cammalleri, Plekanec, Gomez and our new captain Gionta on the first two lines was a no-brainer as such. The rest of my decision was motivated essentially by what I’ve seen up until now in the preseason games. Andrei Kostitsyn has proven his connectedness with real time and has presented his better side during camp and comforted me with my guess that he will have a good season, separated from his distracting sibling and on the last year of his contract.
I wish I could say the same about Benny and I’ll go directly to the point: he has been a disappointment in camp up until now, and newcomer Eller has shown to be a better fit (but mostly as wanting it more than Pouliot in this preseason), hence my pick for completing the second line. I really like Lappy as the aggressive, dynamic player he was during the playoffs and I feel the line he’d form with Boyd and Pyatt who were impressive on an energy combo earlier. White to me is a keeper, I’d already liked him last season, but this time around it would really pain me to see him go.
Unfortunately Martin is stuck with dead wood in the person of Benoît Pouliot (geez, only two weeks ago I had picked him as my “darling” as I exposed myself with some CHoroscope predictions on 25Stanley.com, just goes to show…) and to a certain extent Mathieu Darche. I was expecting to see the same drive, the same talent put on display by the young Franco Ontarian upon his arrival in Montreal but he seems to have fizzled out sometime last spring. I wanted to believe this could be explained by some injuries he said to have suffered during the playoffs, but right now nothing of the kind has been even presented as an excuse. Which brings the question of why did they allowed him such a raise in the off season…
As for Mathieu Darche, I still do not comprehend the « one way » in his « one way contract ». I have nothing against him, mind you he’s the only one I can truly identify with as he’s a McGill grad and French speaking, but… However, he costs less than MaxPac at this point and might be kept along in his place even if Pacioretty has a lot more to offer. Even Maxwell would have more to offer but since the center positions are all filled for the time being, he should be sent back to the Bullogs for the time being.
OMG. I’ve just eliminated two thirds of the French speaking players from the alignment. Just shoot me. But then again, note that I also thought last year’s acquisition of Paul Mara would be a significant one…
At defense, while waiting for the return of Andrei Markov, I expect the following top four pairings:
Jaroslav Spacek – Roman Hamrlik
Josh Gorges – Hal Gill (you don’t mess with a winning formula).
As for who’ll be paired with wunderkind PK Subban, my personal choice would be Ryan O’Byrne, but with Jacques Martin one never knows as he did tend to rely a lot on Alex Picard during the first preseason games. Yannick Weber could also be asked to stay around as the seventh D-man, for he has improved since last year and his powerful shot could fill the void created by the letting go of Marc-Andre Bergeron. However, I’m more inclined to see Picard sticking around and battling for Ryan O’Byrne’s position until Markov’s return.
PK Subban – Ryan O’Byrne
Michael Cammalleri & Tomas Plekanec - can’t have a team without them. And they’ve shown how well they can play together. This is one of the easiest decisions of this entire challenge.
Brian Gionta & Scott Gomez - as if I wouldn’t put my captain and his sidekick on the same line.
Benoit Pouliot & Andrei Kostitsyn - I haven’t decided which of these players would play on which line, but they’d both add a little size to either of the top two lines and help complete plays. Their potential motivation problems will hopefully be appeased a little bit by playing with guys who have experience and leadership skills.
Jeff Halpern & Travis Moen – We bought Jeff Halpern for a reason. And there’s no way Travis Moen isn’t making this team, if he has the man-parts to take on NHL baby Erik Gudbranson. I’m naming them together because they’re both sure bets, but they’d probably be on separate lines.
Tom Pyatt - He’s great for our supporting cast, and Coach J-Mart loves him, so he’s in. Maybe on Moen’s line.
Ryan White – After everything I’ve said about him, how can I cut The Great White? He makes the team for sure, maybe on Halpern’s line since Moen is capable of fighting five guys all by himself.
Maxim Lapierre – Only if he can be as good as he was at the end of the season. We have Ryan White now so he’d had better shape up, unless he wants to be replaced by the other Max.
Dustin Boyd – he’s my affirmative action, “choose a player we traded for” pick. But, again, Pacioretty’s waiting in the wings and he’s just a bit bigger, so the Boyd had better bring it.
Pressbox boys: These two have pretty good chances of seeing lots of ice time, in case Pouliot needs a night in the pressbox or Lapierre underperforms. I choose Max Pacioretty, who I have a lot of faith in for this season, and Lars Eller, who I think would make more of an impact than the guys I’d send to Hamilton.
To Hamilton: The rational GM in me thinks that Mathieu Darche isn’t an absolute necessity for the Canadiens (PR purposes notwithstanding) but he might prove useful for a callup. Otherwise, the Bulldogs will need a guy with Darche’s patience and experience. Ben Maxwell has been overshadowed by a lot of his peers, so I don’t think I’d give him much time in Montreal. You never know, though, because he’s been getting better, so I’d keep my eye on him just in case.
Ryan O’Byrne-Josh Gorges
I’ve paired the boys from BC, because an off-ice friendship could maybe benefit the team on-ice. Maybe I’m a little naive, but I think that some time with Gorges (who developed more quickly and is pretty easygoing) would help O’Byrne to break out of his funk and finally reach his potential. I’m hoping this happens sooner rather than later, because Jarred Tinordi will come along soon enough and maybe show him how it’s done.
P.K. Subban-Roman Hamrlik
I’ve wondered who’d make the best linemate for PK. Something seemed off about pairing him with Spacek (and pairing Gill and Hamr), and putting PK and Gill together is asking for trouble. They wouldn’t get anything done because they’d be pranking their teammates and cracking jokes 24/7. Roman Hamrlik is a little bit less chatty than Gill, and he’s been in Montreal for longer so he’ll help guide PK through a potentially challenging rookie season.
Jaroslav Spacek-Hal Gill
This line probably wouldn’t get much ice time against the younger and faster teams, because speed was and will continue to be an issue for both players. I’d probably shuffle my lines once I bring in my seventh defenceman:
Drew Doughty – er, Yannick Weber.
We’ve seen lots of potential from young defencemen this year, but I have a soft spot for our sweet little Swiss player. Weber’s got a great shot and would be a great addition to special teams. He also skates with more finesse than a few of his teammates. Unfortunately, that means he doesn’t play with enough grit. He can get around his opponents but they’re not scared of him. I’d probably put him under Hamrlik’s wing, hoping to see the same mentoring he gave to Dion Phaneuf back in Calgary.
(Note: this does not mean that I hope we lose Yannick Weber to the Leafs. I’ll need a box of tissues and a blues harmonica if that happens.)
Andrei Kostitsyn — Tomas Plekanec — Mike Cammalleri
The key to this line will be the willingness of the coach to leave them alone to re-discover their chemistry. Injuries and constant line juggling were a detriment last season.
Brian Gionta — Scott Gomez — Lars Eller
Eller is an ideal compliment to this line. He adds a physical dimension and net presence that has been missing while giving up nothing in the skills department.
Max Lapierre — Jeff Halpern — Ben Maxwell
These players could provide exactly what is needed from a third line: a strong forecheck, the ability to shutdown the opposition, and scoring touch to contribute offensively. Note that all three are natural centers.
Travis Moen — Dustin Boyd — Ryan White
The ultimate energy line who would deliver punishment everywhere on the ice. They are best able to pressure and fatigue the opposition.
Pacioretty has been inconsistent in training camp partly due to injuries, but he could be interchangeable with Ben Maxwell on the third line and would bring more physicality. Pyatt could be added to the fourth line in place of White when a more defensive presence is required.
Ideally Mathieu Darche could help out in a mentoring role in Hamilton if he is not picked up on waivers by another team. That seems unlikely. His lack of foot-speed means he is the odd man out in Montreal but with his character and heart, he could be an excellent role model for younger players.
Strangely, Benoit Pouliot‘s fate has been tied to the success of Guillaume Latendresse. Saving face is the only logical reason for his huge contract increase in the off-season. Unfortunately Pouliot has not shown the effort required to stay with the Canadiens. Send him to Hamilton on a conditioning stint or trade for a mid-round draft pick.
Jaroslav Spacek — Yannick Weber
Weber has a cannon that could be the focus of penalty-killers creating space for the Habs first or second power-play unit. His defense is much improved. Spacek will be logging plenty of minutes while Markov and Hamrlik recover from their injuries.
Josh Gorges — Hal Gill
They are the best penalty-killing and shut-down duo. But don’t expect Gill to be as effective as he was in the playoffs if he is being over-used to the tune of 20 minutes per game.
PK Subban — Ryan O’Byrne
A nice combination of simple, stay-at-home and wild, unbridled offensive enthusiasm. The key to this pairing is reining in Subban ensuring that he is more responsible and disciplined.
Alexandre Picard can be a serviceable seventh defenseman providing a steady 12 minutes of defense when he is called upon. Unfortunately, given the defensive mix, he doesn’t offer anything that is not already in the line-up.
Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik are both recovering from knee injuries. Hamrlik is day-to-day and Markov is expected back towards the end of the month. When Hamrlik is back, it is essential that he is used more efficiently. This year, he shouldn’t be deployed on the power-play.
Alex Henry would give the Canadiens an enforcer but offers little else. On a team that is built on speed with a touch of team toughness, he is a luxury that can’t be afforded.