Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Plan K: Turning around the Canadiens fortunes

A lowly blogger, I hardly have the hockey knowledge to go toe-to-toe with gurus like Carbonneau, Muller, Jarvis and Gainey, but I think I can make a diagnosis of offensive dysfunction when I see one.

While Carbonneau has been concerned in one way or another with getting Ryder going and putting together 4 lines that could score, what he has ended up doing is making 3 very average lines and Kovalev’s line. And while Kovalev is doing a great job, we all know most of his points come on the PP (he said it himself last week) and that his line could be doing better as well.

It’s never a good sign when the coach you are hoping to turn things around can’t put a rational though together (courtesy of M. Gagnon's blogue):
« On a déjà un trio qui fonctionne bien avec Alex (Kovalev), Tomas (Plekanec) et Andrei (Kostitsyn) alors pourquoi le défaire? On n’a pas assez d’offensive pour mettre tous nos œufs dans le même panier. Il n’y a pas que les points et le talent. Il faut aussi de la chimie et on espère qu’elle s’installera entre Mathieu et les autres membres du premier trio», a souligné Guy Carbonneau.

We don’t have enough offense to put all our eggs in one basket?!?!?

I would argue we don’t have enough offense not to.

I can’t say I like Carbo’s straight-line thinking on this one. I don’t think it will cut it to get us out of a slump. Something other than a half-game replacement for Ryder has to emerge from the braintrust and soon.

My thoughts on the matter are simple:

1) Get Koivu going
2) Let Kovalev play his game (give him linemates who will let him)
3) Take advantage of all our assets
4) Put an end to the 8 defensemen experiment

With the alleged recent promotion of Dandenault to the first line, I feel pretty confident in saying that items 1, 3 and 4 have been grossly neglected. I am not entirely convinced that Dandenault should really be in the line-up on a nightly basis, let alone getting time on the first line. It shows how far out of hand the situation has gone. But I think I have a solution. Simple. No trades, no call-ups.

The first change is to move Kostitsyn up to the first line. Hopefully this does two things: a) gives Koivu a winger who can keep up and score; and b) Allow Kostitsyn more shooting opportunities. While Kostitsyn isn’t entirely languishing on the Kovalev line, he has the potential to do more. The reason he isn’t, hasn’t been, is due to the nature of the play when Kovalev is on the ice.

Some might ask how tampering with the only line that is working is a solution.

In response, I would say that Kovalev succeeds based on his play alone and certainly does not depend on Kostitsyn for his success.

Moving Kostitsyn up to the first line leaves a place on the second line for another player. Usually I would suggest Ryder, but even I am becoming a bit sceptical of late. I do think, however, that Latendresse might be able to fit in here – and we certainly should not be afraid of breaking up a moderately effective Latendresse-Chipchura combination. It hasn’t been winning us (m)any games.

The first two lines in place for at least 5 games (I would suggest). I would then put an end to the ridiculous practice of dressing 8 defensemen. Dressing 8 D is no stroke of genius, not when you have the depth back there we do. As hockey players, our 5-8 defensemen are probably the worst players on the team, yet, proportionally they are receiving more chances at ice time. They have been unreliable offensively and unable to stem the tide defensively as well. This itself is a massive indictment of the system, which surely was put in place to help limit opposition chances and goals.

Then, assuming Latendresse or Ryder on one of the top two lines, I would populate the bottom two lines with the rest of the guys, possibly removing the 7th defenseman as a preference. It would probably look something like this then:

Begin – Smolinski – Ryder
Lapierre – Chipchura – Kostopoulos

I could tolerate Dandenault up front, as his change to forward is at least a reversion and one that seems to be permanent rather than experimental. I can’t take Streit up front, nor would I like to prolong the Brisebois debacle any longer now, thanks.

Brisebois in particular just brings nothing positive to the table and keeps on making rookie mistakes. Where others might learn from these, he will be retiring before we see any improvement in his play – so his roster spot is utterly pointless.

So, that’s it. Simple.

Kostitsyn to the first line and everything else will fall into place.

Whaddya say Carbo?

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