It's been almost a month since the last time I've posted on this board, it's good to be back and I hope you had a good time during the holidays. I didn't have the chance to watch all the hockey I wanted to (all the games that is ) since I started working during the evening during the week a month ago. It's now mid-season and I want to share my overall appreciation of the 03-04 Montreal canadiens. My report will be a lot like Guy!'s reports with grades and a comment for each players and I hope you will leave me some feedbacks (negative or positive). I will review only the players who played 10+ games.
Here we go:
Jose Theodore: He had a so-so start where he got shelled a couple of times (usually after a shutout) but he was consistant and played to where he needs to play for us to make the playoffs after his inconsistent start. I don't think he is back to where he was two years ago but he is very close and I do think the defensive system makes him look good. Still, he is definitely playing like a franchise goaltender as of late. A-
Mathieu Garon: He only played 8 game so far this season but still I feel he was good when we needed him. He was asked to play against some good teams and did well. Theodore is clearly the superior goaltender right now but I think Garon has the potential of a #1 goaltender and I feel confortable when Julien plays him. B
Sheldon Souray: Souray has been by far our best defenseman at both end of the ice. He is having a career year and I'm particularly impressed by his improvement in the offensive zone. You see that his head is working and he improved his offensive positioning and he is always finding himself room to unleash that booming shot something he was not able to do before this season. He still plays a physical brand of hockey and I can understand if he doesn't drop the gloves as he used to do as he is the most important defenseman of the team. To make it short, he plays like a top-pairing defenseman at both end of the ice and his impact on this team is priceless. See you at the all-star game Sheldon - A
Patrice Brisebois: Best of the RDs, while it may doesn't mean much for some, he is playing great for a player we didn't want at the beginning of the season. I have never such an inconsistant player though. If you look at the past four years, he had a roller-coster career as he was brutal, great, brutal and is doing great this year. For a player who couldn't play defense last year, he is playing a very simple and steady game for the most parts having a +12 so far and is on pace for around 30 points. Still soft and not worth 4 million, though. B
Andrei Markov: While some looks at his low offensive production as only a lack of confidence, I feel the defensive system put in place by Claude Julien is the main reason why Andrei is not racking up the points at the pace he was projected to do. Still, I think he improved a lot defensively and if he is able to mix his current defensive work while being the player he was on the powerplay last year, I think we may end up with something near Scott Nidermayer. It's only a small bump on the road offensively for Markov IMO, I didn't see him unleash his massive slapshot and do many offensive rushes. (probably because of the defensive system) Once he adapts his game to the defensive system, look out! - B
Stéphane Quintal: Some posters like to get on his back real fast because they want Komisarek to get ice time and like to scream trade him, bench him after a mistake even if they don't consider anything that he brings to the game. He is currently being over-used on the main pairing while he played steadily last year playing against 3rd-4th liners. Some may say that Souray is making him look good, true, but it doesn't mean Quintal sucks, it just means Souray is that damn good IMO. He was steady most of the season and started to drop the gloves lately, I particularly like his play on the PK where he was very solid so far this season. He played some putrid hockey as well but taking all things into consideration, he is still a decent NHLer. C+
Craig Rivet: He started playing better lately but he was really poor in all aspects of the game in most of these 41 games. He doesn't have the body to be an effective physical defenseman and all his skills seem to be average. He is better suited to a #5 or #6 spot and play aggressive while keeping things simple. C-
Francis Bouillon: I have a hard time understanding the ones who are saying Hainsey was better than Bouillon earlier this season. I think it is another case of the hype of a prospect versus the player who isn't a part of the long-term future like Quintal-Komisarek. He will never be more than a reserve defenseman but he earned his paycheque and the confidence Julien has in him. His passing and puckhandling skills are NHL caliber and has been effective while logging a lot of minutes this year. I predict it will be his career year and will play more than 70 games if not injured. I was surprised when he wasn't send down at the beginning of the season instead of Dykhuis but he is currently showing us why he earned every minute of ice time. Can be rag-dolled and is ineffective in front of the net but has the heart of a lion. C+
Ron Hainsey: Hainsey and his hype/potential can do all the end-to-end rushes in the AHL if he wants, that's not want we need here in montreal. He was constantly being beaten along the board and is work ethic wasn't good enough to outplay a reserve defenseman, that says it all. I'm starting to believe the rumors about him partying too much in Montreal and his lack of serious about polishing his own game. You don't make the big show only on potential Ron, if we are still talking about potential in his third year of professional hockey with all his talent, it probably means you don't work hard enough. Oh and BTW, his +3 indicate that the Habs had a fast start not that Hainsey was pretty good defensively. C-
Mike Komisarek: He wasn't given a real shot yet IMO and did OK in the few games he plays, did not prove to be good enough to take the spot of Rivet or Quintal, yet. N/R
Michael Ryder: All I can say is WOW, this kid is currently leading the rookie race in points, is our most effective winger and plays each game like a veteran. He does need a bit more defensive polish but will do with more experience. He also has a great versatility and can play all forward position. I am very excited about Ryder because he improved each year since his first professional season and I really hope there is still room for improvement. Nothing flashy, just very effective and good all-around player thanks to his work ethic, He can do it all, pass and shoot the puck like a top-6 winger, hit, crash the net etc. He is on pace for 50+ points and will most likely be the best forward prospect developed by the Habs since Koivu. I'm looking forward to see him at the Young Guns game. A-
Ribeiro: He is racking the points and took the place of perreault for most of the season. His work ethic is inconsistant and is almost always a nuisance without the puck and sometime when he has it as well as he tend to hang up too long on the puck leading to countless turnovers. You can't deny the talent though and I consider this year to be his first real year in the NHL and I hope he will look forward to improve his play without the puck or I don't want to see him as the Habs second line center. B-
Kilger: He did have a good game tonight but overall he was plain useless. I can't believe doctors who are saving lifes everyday are earning about 5-6 times less than this player. Size is the only reason why he is still in the NHL, he seems to be enjoy his big bucks and play decently once every weeks. He brings nothing to the table to be fourth liner and doesn't have the work ethic to be an NHLer plain and simple. D
Begin: He is listing at only 5-11 and 195 but you can see this guy has more strenght than his weight/height are showing. He brings valuable grit and on-ice leadership and has enough hockey sense to play a regular shift. His work ethic and physical presence on the third line seemed to inspire his linemates and you don't have the choice to follow someone who as likeable and who work as hard as Begin. I look forward to see an ''A'' on his sweater when Juneau retires like his note. A-
Saku Koivu: Our captain is playing exactly how we want him to play. Grit, leadership, a point per game pace and a warrior in every sense of the word. He is once again playing the best hockey of his career. A-
Darren Langdon: He has better hockey sense than I initially thought, he isn't a liability and doesn't make costly mistakes. He started to take bonehead penalities lately but overall his presence in the lineup is important and is a great and respected fighter who will take on all heavyweights if needed. I don't have any problem giving him a one-year contract next year. B+
Jason Ward: His skating will always be an issue, I recognize his work ethic and grit but I don't see him as much more than a fourth liner who can fill in on the other line on occassions. I don't think he would have been on the starting lineup of half of the NHL roster this year. I hope he continues to improve his skating to move up the depth chart though because he has a decent amount of skills. C
Pierre Dagenais: Another case of bad skating, he brings nothing but scoring skills to the table and size. Like Ribeiro, he is almost always useless without the puck and could use more meats around his bones (6-5 215 is lanky). I feel he will find himself in the AHL sooner than later, he is a reserve forward nothing more IMO. C-
Richard Zednik: He is on pace for 25+ goals once again but he still refuses to pass the puck regularly and is extremly previsible. It is clear that Koivu was making him better and was maybe pushing him a bit more than Ribeiro to play better. Overall, I wasn't impressed. B-
Andreas Dackell: He is the most under-rated player of the Habs IMO. He is a foot soldier, consistant maybe not his physical play but his board and PK work are top-notch every night. Sure, his best days offensively are behind him but he is still a valuable defensive winger. B
Joe Juneau: Inconsistant. Some games he looked too old out there and ineffective and other games he looked like a good defensive center. His offensive skills from his 100-point rookie season are long gone and it's most likely his last season. He tries to play his role at the best he can with the gas he has left. B-
Niklas Sundstrom: He looked invisible for most the first half of the season and started to play better lately to form a good defensive line with dacks and juneau. Sunny seems to be playing better with gritty player though. The second half of the season will determinate where he fits on he team. The jury is still out. C
Yannic Perreault: Thumbs up to Julien for using him as a faceoff and offensive specialist instead of a regular scoring line center. He is on pace for 20 goals and still the best faceoff man in the game, typical perreault. He clearly doesn't fit in Julien's gameplan and I hope he'll get traded soon enough even though he showed more jump lately. C
Jan Bulis: After his 40-point season, the expection were high for Bulis offensively, I prefer seeing him as an elite third liner, I particularly like his mix of speed and anticipation and he fits well with Koivu and Ryder even though we clearly see he isn't regular scoring line material. He didn't rack up the points so far but I think we should be satisfied with him being our best defensive forward. B
Marcel Hossa: He simply didn't work hard enough as well IMO. He was effective along the boards true, he was used as a top-6 winger for a very long time with little result and he isn't exactly tearing it up in the AHL. Once again, those who criticized Gainey/Julien for sending him down were wrong. We saw that Hossa has a lot of tools but he doesn't seem to be able to put them all together, confidence and work ethic are issues. C
Donald Audette: GOOD RIDDANCE. F
My Top 5 (grades)
Finally, I give all the credits to Julien, who had the balls to take some controversial decisions and I like how he used his player so far. How he used Perreault and how he lowered the defensive responsibilities of Brisebois. The defensive system is effective and the chemistry is great and we just have to look at the work of the defenseman protecting Theodore to realize that the team is united. Thumbs up to Gainey who understands the value of 4th liners like Begin and Langdon as well as for shutting down the boobirds. Congrats to Julien and Gainey as well for bringing the attitude of rewarding hard work and punishing the ones who doesn't work hard enough.
I feel many will disagree with my opinions but I think it's the purpose of this board, I hope some of you will make reports as well, I always enjoy reading them.
Last edited by Mathieu Lavergne: 01-05-2004 at 06:41 AM.
I agree with your point on Quintal. He has been a rock solid player on the PK, but I feel he's struggled a lot otherwise. It may be a case of overhyping prospects, but I do feel Komisarek is more effective on the even strength right now. He's simply better at moving the puck quickly up the ice--which has been a major weakness in years past, and in some games this season.
Komisarek also plays a meaner game which seems to have an impact. Notice how Montreal plays two spirited games when Komisarek's in the lineup over the weekend, but played gutless hockey against the Stars on Wednesday? I'm not saying that's all Komisarek, but when there's a certain amount of players that are willing to play a strong, hard-hitting game, it starts rubbing off on the rest of the club.
Added to that, Komisarek is more willing to clear the crease, is a far superior skater, and is harder on the opposition along the boards. Right now it looks like a lot of effort for Quintal to even bodycheck an opponent, and he doesn't use his lower body strength when hitting. As such, his hits are generally ineffective (well, outside of the hit on Savard).
Other than that, I agree with your rankings. I like Sundstrom's play a bit more than most, though.
i like your evaluation , in particular for the defense's players.Like you , i am not convince that Hainsey / Komisarek are better than Bouillon/Quintal by now ;may be they will , but not already.
i also think that Ribeiro deserve a better note that the one you give .Ribs 've played with Audette , Perreault , Dagenais ,Hossa ,and Zednik...is still gets points since the start of the year, and slowly learn to play a better defensive game.
I don't think he 's a part of the future of the team because there is a lot of talent in the farm team, but he put number in his stats and he's still +3 ...