He is not, however, the "Dauphin", the Golden Child that some people would pretend that he is. The ridiculous coverage that preceded his return to exhibition play this week was seriously misplaced.
One quote about Higgins from HabsWorld, gives you an idea of what I mean:
Chris Higgins is that unique player that has first line talent but plays like a fourth liner; a player who plays as if every shift is his last. He is in many ways the most versatile forward on the Habs roster, he excels on the power play, he is a threat on the penalty kill, and he can play all three forward positions. But more importantly it is how he plays the game.
I like Chris Higgins. I like the way he plays, I love that his education has made him into a mature leader at such a young age. I greatly enjoy his intelligent and modest comments which stand out so much from his peers hyperbole.
But, let's be clear about what Chris Higgins can do for our team.
In his first two seasons, the greatest thing he has done has been to find chemistry with just about anyone he has played with. He works hard, skates fast and can pass and shoot with quality. At the same time, he has scored 23 then 22 goals and 38 points in each season. In fairness, he did miss 21 games last season, but his prorated totals would only be 29 goals and 52 points.
It is my opinion that he will grow into a better player, and even reach higher totals, but he will never be the focal point of a team. The reason: his game is straightforward and 2-dimensional. I don't mean that in a derorgatory way - many players choose the up and down game, and many with great success. Many goalscorers would be thrilled to be called 2-dimensional, as they're probably used to the 1-dimensional tag (ahem, Michael Ryder). But the fact remains, Higgins needs to play with a center who can take the other team's top checker. He is not a zig-zagger and would be contained if he was playing with lesser lights. It is Koivu who elevates Higgins and not the other way around.
Coming off several years of starvation for a winger that could score and play hard (post-Recchi or the Dackell years as we like to call them), we have to be careful not to burden poor Higgins with the weight of the team's goalscoring.
Exaggerating the worth pf players like Higgins is the symptom of a syndrome that has affected the minds of many hockey fans (including those in Montreal) - grinder-worship (aka floater-loathing). The flaw here is that hard work is not enough. You need talent. Heck, Dackell worked hard, so do the Blue Jackets.
If it's goals we want, it's talent we need. Higgins will give us 30, maybe even 40, but he will never give us 60. But don't be confused, Higgins only provides a small step up in talent from Savage and Rucinsky. The talent we so missed for a near decade is found in our whipping boys, Ryder and Kovalev. If we continue to deride Ryder, who is only one season more experience than Higgins, but is the better goalscorer, as well as Kovalev, who is the only player with the talent to get a sniff of 50 goals on our team; we risk setting the team back a long way. As fans we have to learn that floating is part of goalscoring, and that digging it out of the corner, means you can't be in front of the net.
Higgins is a heroic digger, who can score when he gets the chance, but he's not got the killer goalscorer in him. He doesn't want to be the best goalscorer in the league. He wants to be Mr. everything. He said it himself:
“Chris replied, in a very confident voice, ‘I want to be a 40/40 (goals/assists) man with a big fat (Stanley Cup) ring on my finger.’
Let's celebrate Higgins for what he is. Applaud as he reaches 30 goals and 60 points this year. Let's put away the messianic language when we talk about him.
And, let's also appreciate our talent: Koivu, Kovalev and Ryder - since taking their contributions for granted and, heaven forbid, losing them would show us what a team of hard workers without enough talent can do (again!).