Friday, July 04, 2008

Habs Review 2007-08:

Bryan Smolinski

The numbers

64 GP: 8 G, 17 A, 25 Pts, 20 PIM, -6, 89 Shots

Career best year – 1995-96 – Penguins
81 GP: 24 G, 40 A, 64 Pts, 69 PIM, +6, 229 Shots

2007-08 playoffs
12 GP: 1 G, 2 A, 3 Pts, 2 PIM, +1, 17 Shots

Career best playoffs – 1993-94 - Bruins
13 GP: 5 G, 4 A, 9 Pts, 4 PIM, -1, 30 Shots

Plays of the game: 2

Game pucks: 1

Domes: 10

3 Star selections: 2 First

The story

Where he started the season
We lost Bonk on July 1 2007 to free agency, so who better than another aging, former Senator with 'an offensive upside' to fill his skates. It was fairly obvious right from the get go that Bryan would be our 3rd line centre. The bonus was, thanks to his experienece, that if Plekanec or Koivu were to go down he had the scoring and passing abilities to be a top-2 line centre. Wait a minute, isn't that what we thought about Bonk? To me it was clear how Bryan's season would pan out; he would fail to register the amount of points we would want from a third line centre, we would convince ourselves that he was good defensively and was a good penalty-killer (due to his low numbers) and we would be happy to have his experience in the locker as a mentor of sorts for our youngsters.

Funnily, I started the preseason believing all that, but then at one point convinced myself that Bryan would be Kovalev's centre. How wrong was I?
8) Who will Smolinski's wingers be?

Durocher's answer: Begin and Kostopoulos. Possibly Kostitsyn.

My answer: Kovalev and Lahti.

The season
Interestingly enough, when the season started Bryan was on the 4th line likely making him the highest paid opening day 4th line Hab ever. The move was to allow Grabovski some time on the second line, but as we all know that didn't last long and soon enough Smoke was on the third line - a spot he would fill for most of the season. Smolinski seemed like yet another Hab who was just along for the ride this year as it is hard to remember many moments (good or bad) involving him. As predicted, he had pretty weak numbers - 25 points, he indeed saw a lot of time on the PK, but I would argue he was one of the worst on the team at that job and as far as the leadership and experience that is so valued in this league, well that wasn't evident until the playoffs. His numbers in the playoffs weren't that great either, but I think you would all agree that he, along with his linemates, formed our best unit against Boston and were still quite decent against Philly. He proved he knows how to play in the pressure-packed situations, a quality that isn't that easy to find anymore.

Highlights: His season looks pretty good in a one-minute summary. Albeit, even for some of these goals his involvement is minimal.

Smolinski by the numbers:

Lions' links on Smolinski:
10 Questions

Grade: C
Smolinski did an OK job as our third line centre, but he really didn't bring anything too dynamic to the role. He played the 'checking' role, but ended the year at -6 and his 8 goals weren't enough for me to forgive his defensive shortcomings. Our search for a Carbonneau type centre has not ended as Smolinski clearly has too much to learn in his own end. He had some solid moments on the PP (notably the 5 on 3 unit) as he was just one of a handful of Habs willing to step in front of opposing goalies and risk being hit by a Streit or Markov slapper (perhaps the rest of the team is still shell-shocked from being shot at by Souray). All in all, it was a mediocre season for the NHL vet, one that likely he and the Canadiens will soon forget.

Where we'd have him next season
As of now Smoke is still available to all 30 teams, but don't expect him to be back in Montreal in the Fall. We have too many players that are NHL-ready to jusify bringing him back as an over-priced veteran. The third-line centre should either be exceptional defensively or provide enough offence that the odd lapse in his own end can be overlooked - Smoke really has neither of those qualities anymore. His NHL journey should continue, however, as I am sure a team can find room for him as he is still a top-3 line centre on most teams, just not the Habs. We now have 12 forwards signed and ready that are superior to Bryan and a lot of those coming at a fraction of the cost, so I'm afraid it is goodbye.

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