Thursday, June 26, 2008

Habs Review 2007-08:

Kyle Chipchura

The numbers

36 GP: 4 G, 7 A, 11 Pts, 10 PIM, -1, 36 Shots

Career best year
Rookie (same as above)

Plays of the game: 1

Game pucks: 0

Domes: 3

3 Star selections: 0

The story

Where he started the season
Chipchura was another major piece to the Bulldogs' championship puzzle last year and because of that hopes were high. He was also Carey Price's Team Canada teammate at Christmas time and led our country to gold as captain of that great team. The word was that he was mature beyond his age and had the hockey smarts associated with such players as Gainey, Carbonneau or Jarvis - a real can't miss. All of this hype and some sound play in the pre-season earned him a roster spot and it was on the 4th line that he would start his NHL career. We had him as the best shot to jump the ranks – even ahead of Price – in August.

The season
In his first 16 NHL games, he looked right at home. The Habs were getting results and Kyle was an active contributer. His numbers in those 16 games were quite decent as he was +6 and had 2 goals and 3 assists, he was even holding his own in the face-off circle. As the rest of the league started to get back into mid-season form, however, Kyle started to fade. He was being deployed as a checking centre, but would often fail in his quest to shut down opposing stars. His last 20 games of the season saw him go -7 with only 6 more points. A decision to send Kyle to the farm was made just after New Year's and was one that would stick for the rest of the season.

Chipchura by the numbers: N/A

Lions' links on Chipchura:
Canadiens rookie camp
Chipchura and the Invisible Ceiling
Locke and Halak given their chance

Grade: C
I wouldn't say that Kyle's season was a failure. It definitely didn't end the way anyone would have wanted it to, but at least he played half an NHL season and saw what it was like. People often forget (after watching him speak) that he was only 21 at the time of his demotion and that he has a long career ahead of him. He showed to us all that he has great defensive potential and an offensive upside which may one day give us 20 goals and 25 assists. It takes a lot longer to learn defence in the NHL than it does offence so I think what happened to Kyle this year was completely normal and in all honesty he did a very good job.

Where we'd have him next season
Chips will be back and will certainly still be in Gainey's long term plans. Here is a player who can play the type of game that we have asked both Bonk and Smolinski to play over the past 3 seasons. He is the type of player that you think could lead a team and that could win a Selke or two - no wonder our braintrust loves his potential. The experience he got this year will help make the transition to the NHL much easier next year and I fully expect him to stick around for more than half of the year. His spot won't just be handed to him in the Fall as we really do have depth at forward, so being a top 13 guy will be tough, but I think Kyle has the drive and attitude to secure one of those spots and run with it.

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