The Montreal Canadiens play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night, this will officially mark the halfway point of this 2010-2011 hockey season, this also marks the point where we like to look back on the first half of the season analyze ponder and more importantly “grade” our team and their players. The 1st half of the season was very entertaining, we have seen the Habs go from the team to beat in the first thirty games (18-10-2) to the team that can be beaten in the last 10 (3-6-1) So just how are the individual players performing, we take a look as we give you our Mid-season report card.
Tomas Plekanec : A
Night in and night out #14 gives us his 100% offensively and defensively, the only thing this guy really needs is a better winger to play with, and to drive the net a little more and he’d have that extra plus, however he has proven to be worth every penny of his new contract.
Michael Cammalleri : C+
Cammy has been one of those players that have been hard to “peg” this year, he gives his effort every night and every shift but despite the effort sometimes you don’t even notice he’s on the ice. I believe that he has been one of a number of players that has been frustrated by the constant line changes as well as being forced to play with the enigmatic Scott Gomez for the better part of the 1st half of the season. The result has him shooting the puck with less than great accuracy, making bad decisions and taking selfish penalties. Hopefully upper management will realize that this guy is an “impact” player and they should be taking better care of him!
Brian Gionta : B-
The newest captain of the Montreal Canadiens had a very slow start to the season, which was part of the reason that Jacques Martin put him on a line with #14 and #46 (much to the dismay of Mike Cammalleri) a move that would get the desired result. Gionta has the heart of a lion wrapped in the body of a mouse, and more often that not the lion heart comes through when it matters most, which is what is to be expected of our captain. He is one of the few players on this team that drives the net without any concern for himself despite his stature.
Andrei Kostitsyn : D+
One of the most deceptive players I have ever seen, all the talent and size to be a superstar with absolutely NO desire to put in the effort required. The reason for the + after the D is simply because I have to question the coach with this one after the first 10 games of the season he had a team leading 13 points and it’s at that point when JM decides to change his line mates, It’s finally working with this guy, and you change his line mates!? And to add insult to injury you switch him from right to left, because Pouliot isin’t working out, then you go and bench him for the lack of results. I have made it no secret over the last 3 seasons that watching AK46 for over the entire season is like watching the entire wizard of Oz movie; In search of a heart, in search of a brain, in search of some courage…and in the end he finds himself at home! If you like him, revel in the last part of the season, because he won’t be coming back.
Scott Gomez : D
It’s well documented that SG really elevates his game in the second half of the season and into the playoffs. And after the first half of the season with only 21 points and a -7 considering the amount of cap space this guy eats, we can only pray that the tendency holds true this year as well. The main issue as I see with Scott is that he likes to bring the puck up-ice with speed and flair, the problem being that he never attacks the middle and which more often than not means he’s either shooting the puck into the corner, or turning the puck over!
Benoit Pouliot : C-
Some may believe that I’m being too generous giving pouliot a C- however, I really believe that it’s not his fault that he was drafted high, and he’s simply not a top 6 guy. It’s that simple, his problem is that he’s simply not aggressive enough! If he would be willing to get his nose dirty, with his talent he would probably be a Canadien next year….guess who won’t be here either.
Jeff Halpern : B-
A lot of this grade has to do with the first 30 games more than the last 10, however the entire team has been struggling during the last 10 games including Jeff. #15 has proven to be worth every bit of his contract, as a matter of fact Halpern’s roll previously held in years past by the likes of; Radek Bonk, Brian Smolinski, and Dominic Moore I believe that Halpern is the best I have seen and I’d like to see him stick around.
Mathieu Darche : B+
What can you say about this guy, he’s found a new lease on life and it just so happens to be with the Habs. He’s your prototypical plumber, he goes to the net, he’s in the corners and he’s a hard worker, the kind of player that any coach loves to have at his disposal.
Travis Moen : D+
For whatever reason, Moen had found himself on a line with Gomez and Cammalleri for a good part of the first half of the season, as sure as I am the he doesn’t belong on the top six, I wish that someone would tell JM and travis that. His job is to be gritty that’s all, yes with his size, he made room for Gionta and Gomez in the Washington series, but this was a good decision at the time simply because of his size, not his skill. The result of all this has Moen playing without a clue as to what his “role” is! “Travis, look at some Ottawa senators tapes, there’s a guy there named Chris Neal…That’s YOUR job, you’re a Pitbull not a Poodle”
Lars Eller : C
With the amount of pressure this kid must have felt coming into Montreal as the “KEY” piece in the trade that sent Jaro Halak to St-Louis, I have no problems with his play or the effort this kid brings. At times Eller has shown us that eventually he WILL be a top six in this league, either with the Habs or another team. Eller gets a C because the results, or lack there of fall squarely on the shoulders of management! It would seem that PG doesn’t want to send #81 to the minors for some much needed development for the way it will make HIM appear, in reference to what he gave up to get him. Take a look at Pacioretty, and the good that Hamilton has done for him… Another huge egotistical mistake being made by JM and PG!
Max Pacioretty B-
Considering that Max came in at the head of the worst stretch that this team has had all year, weighs heavily in the grade I have given him, he came in here after not only calling out the coach 2 months earlier, but also thrust onto a line with the enigmatic Scott Gomez, and seemeds to have given Gomez “new life” Since his arrival whether or not it was timing, it seems to be working. The only thing he needs to work on is his finish, which will come, in time. The confidence that #67 was missing last year, is in full effect right now and I firmly believe that MP will be a top 6 in this league for years to come.
Tom Pyatt : C+
Tom Pyatt is a reliable player with not too much of a downside, and not too much of an upside, the perfect player for JM. Which is why he’s played 33 games so far this season. I do believe that this guy should be used sparingly, and that we do have more talent in Hamilton that we can attempt to insert instead of keeping Pyatt in a regular role, simply because he’s the coach’s pet.
** Considering the status of Dustin Boyd, and David desharnais, it would be unfair to grade them**
Roman Hamrlik : B+
What can you say about the hammer, this guy is the “real deal” a veteran player that’s logging about 24 minutes a game due to the loss Andrei Markov, and has responded to the added pressure with flying colors. Despite his age I constantly find myself not noticing RH when he’s playing which is exactly what I want from this guy, And I hope the Canadiens can re-sign him for a couple of years at about $3M hopefully with the addition of Wisniewski he will be able to play less minutes in order for him to be ready for a solid playoff run.
Jaroslav Spacek : D
Jaro came into camp about 15 lbs heavier than he should have been, and it showed in his play on the ice, he was by far the worst “D” on the team, making turn over after turn over, and being responsible for far too many opposition goals. His game seemed to have been raised a notch at the beginning of December when he was paired with Hamrlik, but once again his not being in game shape combined with the loss of Markov has caught up to him, and as of late he’s looking like the player we saw in October and November. The only reason he’s a D and not worse, is that I believe the coach is using him in a roll where he shouldn’t be used, Spacek’s assignment should not be against the top two lines of the opposition, he’s too old and out of shape.
Josh Georges : C+
Usually one of my favorite players, the epitome of unsung hero, we have come to expect Josh to be one of our best out there on the ice, the guy you want to see when the game is getting gritty and you need to go to war. Unfortunately, this is not the Josh Georges we have seen this year but I give JG a pass because he has been playing with a very bad knee injury, that he should have had operated, but decided to play anyway, because not only is he a warrior but he’s in a contract year!
Alex Picard : C
Picard has shown us that he can be a solid 6 or 7 on this team, he is a “situational” defenseman in my opinion, he’s the Tommy Pyatt of the defensive corps, used in situations where you need to rest some of your other “D” and insert him in the line-up as need be, as Edge will say “he’s a Fire Extinguisher!” The only issue I have is that JM sometimes over estimates his abilities, and it ends up hurting the team, but I wont fault Alex for that.
P.K Subban : C+
This kid will be eventually one of the premier defensemen in the league…But for now, he’s a raw talent that needs to be cultivated. I have seen flashes of what can only be described as BRILLANCE, and at times I have seen horrible mistakes, but this is what the learning process. P.K has a great nose for the puck, he drives the offensive zone as well as any other offensive “D” that I have ever seen, his enthusiasm is nothing short of infectious, and his attitude is something that can be as encouraging as it can be offensive. He hasn’t looked the same since he was benched at the beginning of December. As long as Jacques Martin keeps playing with this kid’s spirit I don’t believe we will ever see the best of him. What #76 needs to do is learn to make the right decision as to when to attack, and when to hold back, and that will be the difference in him being a good player and him being an elite player.
James Wisniewski : B+
I really like what I’ve seen from this guy so far he’s a strong “D” with an excellent offensive side, tough as nails, and a cannon of a shot and won’t hesitate to drop the gloves! He does need to work on his defensive game, which means he might actually benefit from the JM system. An excellent guy in the room as well which bodes well for his future with this team.
Hal Gill : B-
Probably the only player that I would give such a high rating to being a -8 he is one of the reasons that the Canadiens have the best PK in the NHL, Gill is a good solid stay at home defenseman, who gets himself in trouble by not anticipating his line mate’s moves. The worst we have seen from HG is when he’s paired with P.K. the worst pairing that one could ask for, fast and flamboyant with slow and sound. Hal needs to study some tapes to anticipate his team mates moves, not just his own.
** Do to his injury, I won’t comment on Markov**
Carey Price : B
Carey Price is the only reason the Canadiens are still in 2nd place in their division, he has shown us (especially in the first 30 games of the season) that he has the caliber to be one of the best in the world. His movements are swift his positioning perfect when he would have a weakness, he would work on it in practice and fix it! The reason that I haven’t given him a higher grade is because of the last 10 games, he hasn’t been making the “key” saves to keep the team in the game, and he seems to be a little mentally fatigued, call it underlying problems in the room or whatever, a goaltender’s job is to stay focused, and when he’s not focused, the team usually loses.
Alex Auld : C-
Although he hasn’t played very often, and his numbers might make you believe that he deserves a better grade, his role is that of a “back up” that was not going to see very much action, that takes A LOT of preparation and work in practice. It’s harder than you would think to be the guy that plays the least and could be called in to play at any given time, but I think back to the games he has played, and he needs to be better.
Canadiens Team Grade: C
So the team on the whole gets a passing grade, as the last 10 games do not reflect 100% of the first half of the season, but it does represent 25% of the 100% and even though teams are going to struggle every now and then, they way they were struggling was not just a question of bounces but a question of morale and effort. I still believe that this team can compete with any other out there, and they’re going to have to prove just that with a very tough stretch ahead!
Go Habs Go!