Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Experiment 71: When will the Canadiens admit this is going nowhere?

To win you need many different types of players. Let's look at defensemen. In general, you need someone who can:

1. Break up the opponent's plays and retrieve the puck
2. Carry the puck or make a pass once the puck is retrieved
3. Block shots
4. Make sure opposing players don't obscure the goalie's view
5. Play the point on the powerplay
6. Play more minutes when the game calls for it
7. Hold possession
8. Anticipate plays and join in
9. Anticipate plays and when not to join in
10. Skate backwards

If you look through the Canadiens lineup, you can find a number of defensemen that meet one or more of the criteria. Markov comes out on top with 9/10 criteria, as he's not really a player you would rely on to clear the front of the net. Hamrlik can do it all, though is not the PP point man some of the others are. Komisarek ticks all the defensive boxes and can pass if needed to.

The next group the corps can realistically all do about 5-7 of the above with ease. Streit anticipates, passes and plays the PP point well. Bouillon takes more defensive focus. Gorges and O'Byrne give us a mix of average defense and decent enough passing/offensive instincts to pass as 6th defensemen.

Finally, we have Brisebois, who's profile would include could do better (or needs improvement) beside each task on the list above – including skating backwards. It was said in the summer and it can be said again now: Brisebois does not bring anything unique to this team. Nothing.

Now, it's clear that we here, as well as other bloggers are not Brisebois fans. Not in the least. However, I think we have been extremely restrained and polite as a group about this spare part. In writing this piece, I am declaring the time for unusual tolerance of this experiment to come to an end, and soon.

With that out of the way, we can now reveal that the Habs are a better team without Brisebois playing – not just more enjoyable to watch.

Prior to his injury, the Habs won all 4 of the games in which Brisebois was resting. When he was in the lineup, the record was 10-11-4.

While he was injured, the Canadiens had their most successful road trip in years, compiling a record of 7-2-3 over the month. This was a timely turn in form, as it allowed the Habs to re-establish their position near the fore of the conference playoff rivals.

After his comeback, he did help get us a win, but also played in that loss to NYR, going 1-1-0, before his frail (unsuitable for professional hockey) frame took another hit.

He sits for a game, and bingo, we win. In what turned out to be a defensive jewel for us – in which our defensive stinginess saved us while we missed chances up front. Defensive stinginess? It definitely sounds like he wasn't involved with that...

So, in sum, with Brisebois:


and without:


I'm not suggesting that all of the losses were the Breezer's fault. You just can't blame the 6th defenseman for losses. It's not their job to carry the team. I just look at the stats and wonder, that's all.

I wonder whether goalies play differently when other defensemen are out there. I wonder whether forwards spring further up the ice in anticipation of a pass actually making it to them. I wonder if Hamrlik can focus on playing for one.

Most of all, I get back to wondering what, if anything, Brisebois offers to this team.

Veteran leadership? Apparently not needed as they have shown they can win quite handily without him.

Powerplay point man? I think Markov, Streit, Kovalev and co. have that well under control at the top of the league, thanks Patrice.

A quote for the media? I'll give him this one. But really? Is this what the organisation has come to?

As far as I can tell, when he plays it means a) prospects O'Byrne and Gorges can't play or b) Streit has to play forward, where though he excels, he ends up costing his own development as a defenseman (where we have less organisational depth) and costing one of our forwards a chance to play.

I admire the Canadiens for wanting to do right by Brisebois. wanting to send him off the right way. But, let's suggest they just buy him a nice vintage race car and have done with it shall we?

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