Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Habs Review 2007-08:

Tom Kostopoulos

The numbers

67 GP: 7 G, 6 A, 13 Pts, 113 PIM, -3, 98 Shots

Career best year – 2003-04 – Penguins
60 GP: 9 G, 13 A, 22 Pts, 67 PIM, -14, 101 Shots

2007-08 playoffs
12 GP: 3 G, 1 A, 4 Pts, 6 PIM, -1, 24 Shots

Career best playoffs
Rookie (same as above)

Plays of the game: 2

Game pucks: 0

Domes: 7

3 Star selections: 1 First, 2 Third

The story

Where he started the season
I didn't really understand this move last July. Yes, we had just lost Mike Johnson, but did we really need to replace him with a very similar player (minus the offensive potential)? I think what Gainey wanted was depth, depth with NHL experience. Tom, however, had only ever played for non-playoff teams and didn't really excel in any particular stat category. It would be interesting to see where (if) he would fit into our team. With so many youngsters coming through it almost seemed like a backwards move to give a player like Tom a roster spot.

The season
When Tom was introduced to the fans at the annual golf tournament he gave an interview in french - a move which I think was the smartest thing a player of his calibre could ever do. He, mostly because of that (and subsequent broken-french interviews), became a fan favorite and quite unexpectedly, a household name. He started the year on the third line, but after going -3 and pointless in his first 5 games some people questioned his usefullness. Then in his 6th game, he gave up the puck (quite carelessly) to Jason Spezza which allowed Ottawa to tie (and eventually) win the game. Fans (and bloggers) alike were not impressed with our new acquisition and were calling for his head. However, from that moment on, it seems Tom's season really turned around. He found a spot on the team beside fellow summer-signing Bryan Smolinski and the two played well together for a good part of the balance of the season. He became the fighter on a team of no fighters, a pest on a team of timid forecheckers and he earned a spot back in the fans' hearts. He didn't blow anyone away with offense, but he had some moments.

Highlights: Some hits, more hits and playoff goals. More than we expected.

Kostopoulos by the numbers: Canadiens.com

Lions' links on Kostopoulos:

Grade: C+
One thing that I admired about Tom throughout the season was his effort-level and determination. Unlike players of similar talent (Begin, Dandenault, Lapierre etc.), he was able to hold onto to his roster spot thanks to his good attitude and hard-working style. His play really picked up in the playoffs, which I was most excited about. A 29 year-old who was itching to see some post-season action, Tom didn't waste anytime in making his presence felt. He was a big part of what was our most effective line early on in the playoffs. He scored 3 playoff goals (4th best on the team) and was the OT hero in game #1 against Philly. If his regular season had been a bust I would call his entire season a success just based on his playoff play - it was that good. He understands his role well on our team and never tries too much. Some players (those who fancy themselves as scorers) have a hard time accepting their roles on the 3rd or 4th lines which is why when you get a player like Kostop (and Bonk in previous years), who knows and plays his position, you should hold onto them.

Where we'd have him next season
Tom is signed for another year and in my eyes has a guaranteed roster spot. Ideally he would play on our 4th line as I would so much love to have 3 legitimate scoring lines. Players like Higgins and Latendresse are the types I want to see on the 3rd line - scorers that can hit. Tom would make a nice trio with Stewart and Lapierre on a high-enery, mucking line. The thing that is nice to see about Kostopoulos is his desire to play, and succeed, in Montreal. You can't buy attitudes like his - they are invaluable. I think it is very important to use him as best we can next year and forego the 1st - 3rd line experiments.

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