Early look at next season... (merged)
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05-04-2008, 07:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Weaknesses to address next year
First off I want to congratulate the Habs. They were one of the top 8 teams in the league this year. That's saying alot considering we were at the other end of the totem pole last year. Also, the future looks bright. With all the young guns on the team and in the pipeline, we have something to look forward to.
But what do we do for next year to improve on our top 8 finish?
1) Strength down the middle. Every winning Hab team in the past had strength in the centre position. If you look at this year's team we had a mish-mash. Koivu-Plekanec are a fast, crafty duo but a little undersized. I'm still not sold on trading one of them but if we keep both, we have to do something with the other two centres. Lapierre, I like very much. His only problem is consistency. In these playoffs he didn't play with a high level of intensity throughout the games. Next year this weakness has to be addressed. Smoke should be gone next year and Chipchura should take his place. So down the middle we have:
I'm wondering if that is enough to put us over the top, considering Koivu will be one year older. Plekanec will have gained one more year of experience so that will be a wash. If we keep those centremen we may have to address a size issue in the top 4 wingers. Later on that point.
2) Goaltending. This year again, patch work. We weren't really sure what we were doing except that Price was our goalie of the future. Next year the coaching staff and MANAGEMENT should work out a strategy where they go with both goalies: Price and Halak throughout the year. I'm not saying splitting the games 50-50 but something close to it. We saw what happened to Price in the playoffs this year. This mistake should not be repeated next year. Both goalies should be tested and rested. This way we don't put ourselves and Price in a no win position. We have two excellent goalies and we should place ourselves so we can use both when the time comes.
3) The top 4 wingers. Well, the way Ryder was treated chances are pretty good that he's gone. Kovalev and A.Kostitsyn are an excellent match with Plekanec. They have size, skill and speed. I would not touch that line. Higgins and S. Kostitsyn with Koivu are not a good playoff line. It was proven this year. Although Koivu plays like a goliath, he's still only 5'8. One of those two wingers need to be replaced. And we need a winger with size on top of skill and speed. Sorry, Latenderess does not fit the bill. He is slow, usually out of position and rarely uses his size at the right time. I'm really disappointed with his development and i blame management and the coaching staff for this. He should never have been brought up so early but they did and what did they teach him? He has not improved one iota since he came up. You only need to look at Lucic of the Bruins.I know they're not the same kind of player but that's the way Gui was sold to us - a powerforward. But he isn't and never will be. I'm afraid Gainey has another Kilger or worse yet Dagenais on his hands. So we're left with getting a powerforward to replace Higgins/Kostitsyn. I'm not saying trading one of them. The one that's replaced can move to the third line.
4) Defence. please, please no more Brisebois. He is soft, slow and is constantly caught out of position. He should not be resigned. I don't care how much experience he has - it's the wrong kind of experience. The other five are a very good core. With one (hopefully) full year of experience O'Byrne should fit in and round off one of the better defence corps in the league.
5) The system. I really didn't notice it during the year but it was pretty much evident in the playoffs. Something tells me the coaching staff has a system in place where the players react a certain way in a certain situation without thinking. They just react - no thinking.
Boullion's giveaway last night was an example of that. He was taught to pass the puck to the other corner. And he did it without thinking or looking.
If you take a look at when the Habs are in their own zone they're constantly shooting the puck around the corners without looking. During the year that worked cause most teams didn't scout the Habs properly. But in the playoffs that was a tendency that the opposing team noticed and used against us. This system is not only in our zone. We used set plays in the offensive zone - again without looking. The cross ice pass is one example. How many times did we get caught on a 2 on 1 because of cross ice passes without looking. I think the coaching staff should give the players more options in their decision making.
Anyway, those are my thoughts and again I want to tip my hat to the Habs. It was a good season. Let's hope for a great season next year.
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