Thoughts on the upcoming season
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10-03-2006, 10:32 AM
E = CH²
Join Date: Apr 2004
Thoughts on the upcoming season
A long long melting pot of rambling is ahead, read at your own risk
First of all, I'm very happy to be back and able to discuss and watch the habs with you guys. I'm very very excited about the upcoming season and think no matter where we end up, we'll have a very good entertaining product to watch because of our very well balanced offense. I like the fact that we're giving shots to young players like Latendresse, Perezhogin, Plekanec and Higgins. The good thing is that with some well established offensive players we have a lot more freedom to do it this season. Players such as Kovalev, Koivu, Samsonov and Ryder will be expected to carry most of the offensive load this season which really gives a whole lot of room for the young ins to be in their shadow and be productive members without too much attention being put on them. Also most of those young players already had an important role last season and were given a chance to develop and show us good stuff. So it's not like we're breaking in 3-4 at the same time. As much as I would have liked to believe otherwise last summer, it wasn't possible to bring in Latendresse, Kostitsyn, Perezhogin, Higgins, Plekanec all the same time and still give them spots on the starting line up. We first broke in Higgins, Plekanec and Perezhogin. This season is Latendresse's turn and hopefully later this season will be kostitsyn's.
I also like the general direction the team has been headed in for the past 2 years and what Gainey has done with this team.
I've cried a lot over the past 2 season over some players (Sundstrom, Ribeiro, Théodore, Dagenais), and felt they really didn't belong here with their inconsistency and lack of either grit/effort/overall abilities. Most of the problem players are gone now though, you know, the ones that made you sit there and curse when the team was losing. Those players were, in the playoffs, most of the time no shows and would crap the bed for half the season or more despite being given so many chances to prove otherwise.
It's always been a work in progress. Sometimes you're so into it that you feel changes are not forthcoming fast enough which make you wonder if either you're just not getting it at all or if it's the management that has their head up their butt or a mix of both.
For exemple, I was a bit disapointed when I saw we had resigned Sundstrom and Dagenais and when I saw Theodore's fat contract last summer (2005). But we did trade Theodore last season, and also got rid of Dagenais. I felt those moves were done too late but they did come.
I was disapointed when we resigned Ribeiro this summer, but then Gainey traded him for help on D, which I felt was really needed. We didn't resign Sundstrom, whom I felt brought very little to the table despite what many said. Sundstrom has always been the kind of player that was just there along for the ride and everything that's wrong with the hockey of today. The kind of player that never really tries to make a difference but would rather not be a factor. All you could say about him is that most of the time he was doing the right plays. He'd sometimes score an important goal or pass, or sometimes screw up a play at important times but he never really made a difference on the team. You could just imagine what was going on in his head after a shift where nothing bad or good happened : Phew, I was a non-factor again. Guys like Bégin, Murray (Yes I repent, I was wrong on Murray) make a difference. This is the kind of players we gotta shoot for on our bottom lines. In your face type of guys that make the game tougher for the opposing team. Not players like sundstrom and dackell. Especially true when you're lacking size and/or grit on your offensive lines. You just cannot afford to have players like Sundstrom on your bottem lines if you do.
We also got rid of Zednik last summer. I was always sort of on the fence on Zednik. I always like the fact someone on this team would shoot the puck, but I was always cursing him for screwing up those easy set ups and shooting the puck when an easy goal would have been scored with a good pass. Zednik essentially had the less playmaking abilities of the whole team but he really helped us with his finishing skills. It made no sense to replace him with a lesser player though so he was a keeper all those years. Now that we got samsonov and that our kids are improving, he had become really expendable. As for Bulis, well, I always hoped he'd improve a little and make better use of his speed but the fact of the matter is that this guy will never be a top 6 forward on a good team and he didn't want to be a 3rd liner. He could have been an useful player for us still but the season he spent in europe really screwed up the opinion he had of himself.
I really appreciate the fact that we went with forwards that either have :
1) A boatload of offensive talent : Kovalev, Samsonov. These guys might not put out the same performance night after night, but they have so much natural talent that they'll be fun to watch play when they turn it on and when it's clicking for them on a given night. Even when it's not, they can still pull off one redeeming play that can put us ahead on any given night.
2) Make up for slightly less talent and/or experience with consistant hard work : Higgins, Plekanec, Koivu. Ok I feel a little reluctant to put Koivu in there because he does have a lot of talent AND experience, but I feel most of his success come from his hard work so that's why he's in there. These guys don't have as much talent or experience as the ones I named above but you feel like they always work very hard to make things happen. They are not there for themselves but rather for the team. Unlike players like Zednik and Bulis. Guys who were after their 20-30 goals bonus first, who didn't accept the roles that were given or the lines they were put on and who would shoot the puck when a pass would have been better and vice/versa.
3) Make up for a lot less talent with even more hard work and grit : Murray, Johnson (I think?), Bégin. This is the type of players you need on a bottom line. If you don't have too much offensive talent, you better be a pita to play against. No more small, soft non-factors like Dackel, Juneau and Sundstrom please.
4) Are very young and promising : Latendresse, Perezhogin
The great things about our forwards is that for the most part we have people that aren't too predictable. Remember those night where we had tons of chances last season but we never could buy a goal ? We had so many one-dimensional players. Players like Ribeiro and Bulis who can't shoot the puck to save their life unless it's a gimme. You just knew Ribeiro was going to end up in the slot and either pull off a weak *** predictable shot/feint or make one too many pass. You just knew Zednik and Bulis were going to end up pinned against the boards and lose the puck to the other D or the forward that had backed up. The players we got rid of either had no imagination or simply didn't have the skills to pull off the move we needed them to.
I just love how we gave a chance to Latendresse this season. He probably wasn't ready last season but it was a close call. If he wasn't ready, it was only his maturity, because he had the tools to succeed at the NHL level last season IMHO. You do need more than that though so it's understandable he didn't make it. But not over someone like Dagenais or Sundstrom. That's what stung the most when we cut him last season. You just felt that he would have been more of a factor than these two, for the better or worst.
I love how we gave Plekanec more responsabilities this season by trading Ribeiro who was never a good center for Kovalev honestly. I expect this line to really show up good stuff.
I love how we haven't given up on a kid like Perezhogin yet. I feel though that he's under close scrutinity by the management and coaching staff and that he won't get much of a chance to play with good offensive players this season unless we consider a Perezhogin-Bonk-Latendresse line as a 3rd offensive line or something like it. I thought Julien was way too harsh on him last season and might have screwed something good. He was producing at a very very good pace with Kovalev, and making things happen on the ice. He was taking bad penalties and had other flaws, but his overall contribution was greater when given a more important role. It's hard to tell if his development was hindered or if it will make him a better more responsible player though. Hopefully the later. Or I might just have seen stuff that was never really there
It's definately not all perfect. We do have a lot of question marks. I'm looking at our goaltending and hoping that Abby can bounce back and become a team player (didn't like his comments in the last playoffs, nor his general comments so far). I'm hoping Huet can repeat altough.. he had such a great half of a season that it's hard to believe he can. The good things is that we don't have a long term situation contract wise in the nets and we have 2 goaltenders to rely on that won't get special treatment because they have a big *** contract. We would keep playing Theodore when it was obviously not working, we even fired the coach because he had given up on the "team's MVP" ugh.. If Huet chokes, we'll go with Abby, plain and simple. And Abby will be hungry to take over Huet's spot. We do have options, and we don't have a prima donna in nets. Huet is an incredible team player, you have to love his attitude. Even with all the attention he had last year, you could see him deflect the praise on his teamates and listening to him you never felt it was an act either. He doesn't want to be a star and we don't need one. No matter how Huet performs, I'll always have more respect for him because of his attitude than a guy like Theodore.
We also have a lot of question marks on D. Will Komisarek keep improving slowly but surely ? Will the D as a whole be healthy this season ? If not, is Patrick Traverse really an option, I mean... What about Streit ? He never really impressed me last season. He had good moments but you're just unsure if he can have more of those more consistently if given more time. It seems Markov hasn't had the greatest of pre-seasons so far altough I have no doubt he'll bounce back.
On O, we can only wonder if Bonk is going to come unto his own this season and be better defensively or more of a factor offensively. Not that we are relying on him too much but he does have size and it would be nice to see him use that to his advantage. Not asking him to be the 2nd coming of Lindros, but there are ways to use your size to your advantage without being physically dominating.
Can Bégin's body sustain the crazy strain that his style of play requires for him to be successful ?
Is Downey really a necessary evil ?
Will the media calm down on the unbelievably sick and disgusting Latendresse hype ?
I mean yes, he's got an interesting package.. of skills. He does have big, um, size. And his game really translates well on ice as well as on the screen, his lips are .. whoa..
I'm expecting RDS to have a little window in the corner of the screen focused only on Latendresse a la Mario when he made his come back... I mean, there's no way he warrants that much attention yet. He just doesn't and if he was from anywhere else in the world he'd get at the most half of the attention he's getting now. It just cannot be good for the team or for the kid to have that much attention on him. What happens if he hits a wall at any one point during the season and pucks don't go in, and referees get on his back and send him to the box all the time ? Can Carbo really decrease his ice time without drawing undue attention on himself and the team ? Will the media ever realize fans aren't there for the drama but more for covering the team ? *ramblings over*
In closing, it's good to be back. We have a long season ahead of us. I'm putting a buck on the side that it's going to be a more enjoyable season than last one no matter where we end up in the standings just because of the fact the players are more interesting and this will feel more like a real team rather than a bunch of individuals than in the past. Last season we did have team players, but amongst them we had prima donnas and me me me type players. I don't feel we do anymore and this is, at least for me, more exciting in and of itself.
Have a good season everyone. If you disagree with me don't worry about pulling out the tar and feathers, let's keep it respectuous though
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