MONTREAL, QC. — I think back to last September at the Canadiens training camp and the memories are vivid. The first thing that comes to mind is the feeling that I would get in the pit of my stomach as the Habs closed in on another season. I still wasn’t fully off the high from the previous post season — knocking off the President Trophy Washington Capitals, and the highly regarded Pittsburgh Penguins was something to relish for months.
But there was a lot of pre-season banter going into the 2010-2011 season; especially in the Twitterverse. Opinion was flying in regards to the opening day line-up that Jacques Martin might put together. Questions ran deep as to who was suited to remain with the team from the previous seasons roster.
Names that drew the largest amount of commentary were the likes of Benoit Pouliot, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Lars Eller. Did they belong on the big club instead of being handed a ticket to Hamilton or another franchise, and where was their place on the team?
The one name that was never off my radar was Ryan White.
I watched him shine in the pre-season games. I realized he was playing strong, in a great effort to make the team and enjoy a full NHL season. It’s been years since I’ve seen someone play with that much determination, and it impressed me to no end.
One of my Twitter followers challenged me (and a hand full of others) to weigh in on who we wanted to see in the forward category for last season. White was without doubt in my roster, and here’s the comments that I made about him at that time:
“White has been the brightest light of the youngsters during training camp and preseason play. He works hard every shift, and would be a great compliment to Moen.” ~ Iain Carnegie “A Different Kind of Controversy”
Not exactly words that shake the earth, but I submit to you that I may have had some thought behind them. Thought that perhaps Ryan White has proven strongly over the past 27 games he played as a Canadien in the regular season, and seven more in the playoffs against Boston.
I contend to this day that Ryan White is exactly what the Montreal Canadiens need in the place in which he sits. At 23 years of age, this strong 6’0″ – 200 lb. center from Brandon Manitoba is a bit of a beast. I won’t dive into every stat that he put up as a Canadien last season, when he finally got the call up from Hamilton. Instead, I want to bring attention to what he brings to the table in a non-statistical point of view.
Ryan White is the type of player that the Habs organization has been looking to acquire for years. Consistently there has been a shortage of skilled fourth line players with size and grit. The closest we’ve seen to filling that role are Maxime Lapierre and Travis Moen. One of that duo is no longer in Montreal – and with solid reasons.
There is no doubt that the system implied for use within the organization requires faster, competent puck handling players in the top six position — players that can force turnovers and make teams pay. But what drives depth within that same system requires third and fourth line players that can grind, throw body weight, and contribute in the point column as well.
White does more than that with his size alone. He has great hockey intelligence. He knows what’s happening on the ice at all times, and has a knack for being able to make plays happen. From an offensive point of view, he grinds away in the tough areas of the ice, and in doing so, becomes a play maker. His determination to prove himself to his team-mates as well as the fans ensures that he gives 100 per cent when his skates hit the ice.
His role is purely as a fourth line player — the perfect centerman for that position. Teaming him up with Travis Moen and Mathieu Darche can only energize the team and create points as well. I can’t remember the last time that I witnessed two players with the intestinal fortitude to challenge the blue paint, or rough it up behind the net as I see in Darche and White. When I add Moen into the picture, it makes me believe that once and for all, we might witness a fourth line that will both produce points and spark the rest of the team.
With a one-way contract at $625,000, Ryan White is a steal. It’s refreshing to watch a young man that has so much desire to prove himself. It’s something that the Canadiens should get used to as players like Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais are also on that short list.
I will forever remember March 20th, 2011. It was the final nail in the coffin that sealed the deal for me with White in regards to who and what he is as a total NHL package. Many will refer to it as his Gordie Howe Hat Trick. I prefer to refer to it as a well rounded fourth liner, doing his job.
In an 8-1 routing of the Minnesota Wild, White not only scored a goal, potted an assist, and took care of Clayton Stoner. He sent a message to both teams on the ice, and every other team in the NHL. He’s here to play the game fully and completely. He’s here to help put pucks in the net, get the puck to his team-mates so that they can do the same, and even more-so – stand up for his fellow players when the need arises.
His message in a bottle: “I have talent, I have determination, and I have heart.”
So who can possibly gripe about the signing of Ryan White for the upcoming season? No doubt – many! But for the rest of us who look at the game from a more level point of view …
Sit back and watch the magic happen.