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10-30-2003, 11:15 AM
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Clearing up confusion

I put this out as a guide to how I see the team, and as a guide for how to read my post-game write-ups. Once again, I claim not to be all-knowing or all-seeing, but I do believe I follow hockey closely enough to be able to spell out my thoughts with at least a modicum of credibility.

When you read those post-game thoughts, you can refer back to this posting and then, if you really think I was easy on the players, I'll be somewhat shocked. What I will list here is where I would rank every player on the Habs against the best in the NHL. In other words, this is the team, playing at its absolute best and marked accordingly. When I do the individual game rankings, I take their best effort as an A++.

Consider this example:

Theo I consider an A- league wide. He's not the best starter in the NHL, particularly with consistency problems, but his high calibre of play leave him at the upper end of NHL netminders. Brodeur would be an A+.

If, during a game, I mark him as an A++, it means that he played to his maximim ability - which means that during that game, he was an A- player in terms of the rest of the league. Follow?

And thus, if I mark him at a B level during the game, it means that league-wide his performance was about a D+. Sucks, huh? And that's more the mark that I think most of you expect to see. But I don't want to sit here and compare the Habs with the league, I want to compare each player with what the maximum is that they can bring to the table for the Habs. We're not at a point where we can be comparing ourselves to others, it's too depressing.

Therefore, overall marks would be as follows:

Theo: As mentioned, I believe him to be an A- player. Not a superstar (A+) and not quite a star, mostly because of his consistency.

Garon: I think he's a better goalie than most give him credit for, but he has to prove his mental capabilities and work on not throwing himself out of potision so he can square himself to shooters. B

Bouillon: He's small, yet plays his size well. He can move the puck with more efficiency than many others and takes the hit to make the play. That said, his abilities are limited leaving him as a perfect depth guy. I believe he's the best number 7 defenceman in hockey. C-

Hainsey: He still makes more rookie mistakes than you'd hope for, but he's learning. I've seen much more improvement in both his defensive positioning and his one on one play to at least give me hope. Of course, he moves the puck well, though he is prone to panic now and again. C

Brisebois: When he sticks to the basics, he's a solid #4, 5 guy on any NHL team. With the puck, he's an above average offensive guy who moves it well and knows how to orchestrate a power play. Off the puck, and when he's playing the simple game, he's good positionally, but not great. This year, he's added a littly physicality to his game, which is a bonus. B-

Quintal: Playing significantly up the depth chart with the Habs than he would on most other teams, this is a guy who knows the basics and that's about it. He's a good leader off the ice, but you don't really want him on the ice in those delicate situations. Positioning is usually good, but he's slow and tends to chip the puck rather than pass it. On a good team, he's a #6 guy, with 5 potential if you are desperate. C

Souray: Inconsistent, which is a shame. When he gives you his best game, he's big, strong, defensively aware, moves the puck well and plays a good physical game. Off his game and beware. Souray has to learn that he can't do it all, and I think he's feeling the pressure recently. A #3 on any team when he's at his best - and he still has upside. B+

Rivet: I guess it depends on which Rivet you get as to how good he is. For certain, he's a good leader, insofar as he gets on his teammates for not doing the job. He's a hard worker, even if at times it's work that's without direction. With his improved wrist we've finally seen some good physical play, but defensively he gets to running around too often. A #4 on a solid defensive corps. B

Markov: Easily the best Hab defender, by a country mile. As I've mentioned numerous times, his hand-eye coordination is second to none and his ability to cut out plays before they start is something that only the best defenders are able to do. He's a pro-active player which is quite rare, and if you take a look around the league, only the stars are able. That said, he still makes silly mistakes at times, then again, he's still learning. A #2 on his best days, and I think he still has upside. A-

(I'm only marking players I've seen this year so far, so for now Komi is out.)

Begin: What you see is what you get. Hard working pest who deals out the body as much as he can. His skills are limited and his defensive play holey, but his effort more than makes up on some nights. At his best, though, he's a C- player.

Langdon: Fists on skates is what it boils down to. Sure, he'll work hard on the ice to try and justify his spot in the lineup, but really, he's only here to be muscle. D

Ward: Shame his skills are AHL quality, because his effort is NHL+. For those who think he should be a top two line player in the NHL, I think you're dreaming in technicolour. He wouldn't even make some teams. D+

Sundstrom: Wonderful skill level that he never seems to use anymore. Here's a guy with lots of talent who just doesn't seem to care anymore. Actually, I think it's more a confidence factor, but no matter how you look at it, he's a disappointment. He's got decent O skills and good D skills as well but he just ain't using 'em. As he is now? D+ If he could put it all together? B-

Juneau: He's lost more than a step, but he makes up for it with wonderful hockey sense and hard work. His positioning defensively is superb and players and fans could learn a lot from him. He also has a very good eye for the ice, with or without the puck, and that's helped keep him in the game when the legs just might not be there anymore. B-

Dackell: Here's a guy with some skill defensively and some skill offensively, but he doesn't excel anywhere. His effort is never low, but it's never as high as it could be. If there was an average player anywhere, this might be it. C+

Bulis: High intensity player who gets better and better with each game. Imagine the point count of Yashin if he had even half the work ethic of Bulis? He's got good offensive skills and is slowly becoming one of the better defensive players in hockey. B+

Ryder: A kid with a lot of potential. He's always making chances for himself and knows where to go in the offensive zone to get the job done. Defensively it's a shame he's played with Perreault and Audette, because I think he's playing at half intensity, not knowing who to cover for first. He still has a lot to learn to round out his game, but he's got a strong future in the NHL. C+ (I expect this to be a lot higher by the end of the year.)

Perreault: Face-off king. Sweet hands. Work ethic of a sloth. Defensive awareness of Dan Marino. Where do you put a player like this? Is he a legit number two centre? No. Can he anchor your checking line? No. Is he bad enough to be on your fourth line? No. You just have to surround him with excess and hope he can keep up. C

Audette: Well, how do you mark this guy with one grade? I mean, he's two people at once, they guy who is offensively aware, and the one who stops at his own blue line when coming back. At least, that's how it was a few years ago. Now he doesn't even have the offensive touch anymore, he's just a guy who skates fast, but doesn't get anywhere. C-

Hossa: He's come a long way from the first game this season. Julien has played him well and his confidence is the real winner here. He's going to be a player in this league, though a first line one, I would doubt. He's got second line written all over him. Board work that's impeccable and a laser for a shot are augmented by a rapidly improving defensive game which is good to see. B-

Ribeiro: Sublime skill on the puck. Dismal skill away from it. If only he could work himself into a player with just a little more leg strength and then concentrate on improving his defensive game, he's be a solid, solid number two centre. As it is, the only way he'd ever succeed there at the highest level of the game on a Cup contending team is if his wingers were gargantuan. B

Zednik: One of our only stars? I don't think so, he's not there yet. One season does not a star make. I saw elements last game of the Zed that should be closing in on being a star, but he's still got a fragmented and independent game. Perhaps he needs to take the pressure off his shoulders and just play, but I think his best will come when he's got Koivu to help him out. He needs to prove this year that he's a real first line player, and not just a very good second line player. B+

Koivu: (Despite having not seen him this year, I feel after watching most of his career I can make a solid assessment.) Underrated by both the league and Hab fans. Here's someone who was voted by his peers a couple of years back as the best guy with the puck in traffic. He's got wonderful offensive skills and can backcheck particularly well. What's even better is he knows how to play both physically and emotionally, which lends to him being one of the better centres in hockey because he does those things every shift. Some call him no more than a good number two centre, I beg to differ. His point total last year was lower than it could have been - remember he came off a year with cancer and hit a wall during last season. Ask Mario, even he hit a wall. Koivu is a number one centre in this league, and he's in the top half of those number ones. A superstar, no. Star, yes. A

Well, there you have it, and as you can see, players with significantly lower marks than I give them in games. So, before you complain about those marks in games, take into consideration that the marks you see above are the highest I would expect in these guys. If they get lower...

Well, I think you see that a great many players fail on a regular basis if you compare them league-wide.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion.

A concerned fan.

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