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05-19-2008, 06:09 PM
Schooner Guy
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Here's something I posted on Hockey BBS a few days ago....

Lats numbers are impressive for a 20 year old former 2nd rounder. He's young, he has improved his defensive play and he seems to have a good attitude overall. However, here are two concerns I have about Lats that go beyond the numbers....

1) He's slow...very slow. Is there a place in the New NHL for such a slow skater to be an impact player? Perhaps. Jason Allison put up some decent point totals in his lone season with the Leafs post-lockout but the Leafs cut him loose because his lack of foot speed made him a liability in the New NHL. No other team picked him up.

2) I don't think he's self-driven. Lats seems to play his best hockey after a benching or a lineup shuffle. He then goes into hibernation where he has long scoring slumps, doesn't throw his weight around, and doesn't drive to the net. Lats is at his best when he's hitting and going to the net. One thing I know from being around the game of hockey for many decades is that you can't coach or instill warrior mentality into a person....either they have it or the don't. You might be able to push the right buttons and motivate someone to play as a warrior in spurts but it's very frustrating for a coach to wonder on Gameday which Latendresse will show up. Milan Lucic, another 2nd Rounder, comes to the rink with that warrior mentality every game. His coach doesn't have to push any buttons to motivate him.

So speed and drive are my concerns. Now to the numbers...

The regular season numbers are half-decent but Lats didn't produce in the playoffs (1 assist and -5 in 8 games) and found himself in the stands for 4 consecutive games. Lats also frustrated Brent Sutter at the WJC and ended up rotting on the bench as Sutter lost faith in him. The NHL playoffs and the WJC are the two biggest stages Lats has played in and he didn't produce. Lucic was a force in the playoffs as a 19 year old and was fantastic for Canada in last summer's Super Series...a true gamer. Lucic's coaches don't have to worry on gameday about which Lucic is going to show up.

The good thing for Lats is he is young and has showed steady improvement in his overall game (especially defensively). He has great poise with the puck for a kid (as was shown on that cross-bar he hit in Game 5 versus Philly), soft hands, and he's stronger than an ox. He can work on his skating (although that stride sure ain't pretty) and most young players are inconsistent.

Ryder scored 30 goals in back to back seasons and many Habs fans still questioned his value to the team because of his flaws, and thought we'd be better off without him. Will Latendresse's positive attributes (size, poise, hands) ever be able to compensate enough for his stinging flaws that hurt a team (speed, consistent drive)? Will he ever be good enough to be a strong asset on a serious contending team? Does his style fit in with the speedy core of youth and character that Gainey and Timmins have been assembling? Time will tell and time is something that this kid has on his side.

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