Monday, August 13, 2007

Designing the Habs

Rumblings from the blogosphere include the need for the Habs to redesign their team, or at least tweak it to emulate the most recent Stanley Cup Champions, the Ducks.

This got me thinking. First about the obvious question:

Should we be trying to emulate the Ducks?

And, next:

If not, who should we be trying to model the team on?

Well, it's my opinion that we shouldn't be trying to model our team on the Ducks per se. I mean, the point on hard work is well taken, but big guys will be beaten if not supported by certain misters Niedermayr (S), Pronger and Giguere. It would be foolhardy to develop a team like the Ducks up front without being able to match what they have at the back. I think Philadelphia gives the best example of the big man experiment going horrendously wrong.

So, it's the right players (i.e., Niedermayr) in key positions that make the Cups flow? To answer my own question, Yes, that is the most important thing. Montreal in its history has already exploded the big-man game once when they unseeded the 1970s Broad Street Bullies and ushered in the era of offensive hockey. Obviously, it would be even harder to model a team on the 1976 Canadiens than on the 2007 Ducks in terms of pure talent and assets, but it does give an idea of what kind of players you need to make a perennial contender.

Of current teams with stats that we can compare to our current day Habs, which team provides the model for success then? I thought I would look at the Stanley Cup finalists from the past 5 years for some guidance:

Anaheim Ducks (2007/2003)

Goalie: Giguere – excelled in playoff run, depended on heavily
Main D: Niedermayr – top player in the finals, all playoffs
Main F: Committee – Andy McDonald scored 10 goals

Word to describe them: Tenacious

Ottawa Senators (2007)

Goalie: Emery
Main D: Redden
Main F: Alfredsson – best forward in the playoffs

Word to describe them: Explosive

Carolina Hurricanes (2006)

Goalie: Ward – key saves, supported by lots of goals
Main D: Committee – all solid, played well together
Main F: Brind'amour – outplayed all who matched up against him

Word to describe them: Cohesive

Edmonton Oilers (2006)

Goalie: Roloson
Main D: Pronger
Main F: Smyth

Word to describe them: Grinding

Tampa Bay Lightning (2004)

Goalie: Khabibulin – played very well when called upon
Main D: Boyle – played well behind excellent forwards
Main F: Richards – played all roles, earning Conn Smythe

Word to describe them: Talent

Calgary Flames (2004)

Goalie: Kiprusoff – carried team into playoffs and to finals
Main D: Regehr
Main F: Iginla

Word to describe them: System

New Jersey Devils (2003)

Goalie: Brodeur – the best goalie of all time at his pinnacle
Main D: Niedermayr – the defender of his generation
Main F: Committee – solid group, Langenbrunner with 11 goals

Word to describe them: Brodeur

Anaheim Ducks (2003)

Goalie: Giguere – excelled in playoff run, depended on heavily
Main D: Carney
Main F: Kariya

Word to describe them: Hot goaltender

Detroit Red Wings (2002)

Goalie: Hasek – out to win his first
Main D: Lidstrom – top notch D, top notch offense
Main F: Yzerman – pure desire

Word to describe them: Dynasty

Carolina Hurricanes (2002)

Goalie: Irbe
Main D: Committee
Main F: Francis

Word to describe them: Lucky

Of the ten teams, and based on the players we actually have (and hope to have when we account for all the improvement in our prospects that we are hoping for), then I would say we are closest to emulating Carolina 2002, Mighty Ducks 2003, Calgary 2004 and Edmonton 2006. Of course, as we all know they were the losers, and although the Ducks went on to win, it was a team reshaped by the lockout and subsequent Niedermayr signing.

The Hurricanes were the same group, and I think they probably represent the best franchise for us to model ourselves on. We already have our potential Brind'amour in Koivu, who often outplays his direct opponents, especially in the playoffs. We have our Cam Wards coming up, or so we hope. And we have a defense that could, if they play together, match what the Hurricanes were able to achieve.

So, if I'm Guy Carbonneau, I would be reviewing tapes of the Carolina Hurricanes circa 2005/6. They had a cracking regular season and followed up with a Stanley Cup. What could be better. Well, maybe making the playoffs the next year...

The Hurricanes with a stud defenseman, who ironically they had and chose to trade to LA, would be a perennial contender. If Markov can do what we all know he is capable of, we could be the Hurricanes of 2008. Trading for Erik Cole would help too.

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