Thursday, July 10, 2008

Habs Review 2007-08:

Christopher Higgins

The numbers

82 GP: 27 G, 25 A, 52 Pts, 22 PIM, E, 241 Shots

Career best year
This season

2007-08 playoffs
12 GP: 3 G, 2 A, 5 Pts, 2 PIM, +1, 34 Shots

Career best playoffs
This season

Plays of the game: 12

Game pucks: 7

Domes: 35

3 Star selections: 3 First, 5 Second, 3 Third

The story

Where he started the season
Higgins had a very strong finish to the 2006-07 season and we all had high hopes for him this year. He had developed great chemistry with Saku and Ryder and so it was there that he would start this season. He had scored at a pace of 0.29 goals/game in his first season and followed that up with 0.36 goals/game in his second year. I had a lot of confidence in Chris and thought a jump above the 0.4 goals/game mark (32+ goals) was well within reach. One thing that really caught my eye before the season started was the fact that he was appointed as an assistant captain. He was a 24 year-old American and he was wearing a letter on the most storied hockey team in the world – things were good. The team had so much belief in this former 1st-round choice and it was obvious that Chris himself was now sharing in this belief.

The media, however, was a different story. With Chris, expectations were being blown out of all proportion before the season. It was as if the writers had never watched him play before, or at least were unable to remember how he played. Future 40-goal man was all over the place – and probably somewhat unfairly attributed to one quote from Chris himself. As this review points out, and as we did before the season – the nice thing about Chris Higgins is that he is a known quantity. We knew he would work hard. We knew he would shoot and score enough. But we had also seen the limits of his talent.

The season
Chris' season can be summed up in a couple of ways. Firstly, he was consistent, yes he had slumps, as all goalscorers do, but his play stayed more or less the same throughout the year. Secondly, this was the year that Chris could have scored 40 goals, easily. He ended up with career highs in both goals (27) and assists (25), but those numbers could have been way better. He became the king (by a hair over Latendresse) of the missed opportunity. I lost count long ago of the amount of given goals (posts, broken sticks, flat-out misses) that Higgins missed. What this all taught me was that he isn't really a natural goalscorer, but is instead just a smart player. He understands the game so well and can read the play like a true offensive weapon. He manages to get himelf into the right spots at the right times and if he had the hands of a Michael Ryder he would be the star of this team.

His play in the playoffs, like that in the regular season, was solid. He has proven to be a great energy guy, good in his own end and a very valuable forechecker. What didn't happen in the playoffs, however, was the level of play needed to win series. This was only his second playoffs and he did manage a respectable 5 points, but he wasn't really the leader that I had hoped he would be. I will point out that his 5 points did come in the last 7 games of the playoffs. By no coincidence these were the only 7 games in which he played alongside our captain as Saku was injured for the first 5 games.

Highlights: Chris celebrates goals like he knows more are coming, let's hope many more are...

Higgins by the numbers:

Lions' links on Higgins:
A Tale of Two Cities
Changing the Ethic
New Canadiens Website
Chris Higgins: Aspiring 40-goal man
A Sort Of Homecoming: New York Islanders Preview
Hossa, Sundin and Higgins
First, But Not Home and Away
Round 1: Montreal - Boston

Grade: B+
Giving Higgins the 'A' was a success in my opinion. He really emerged as a leader on our team this season and will be the foundation of our team for years to come (unless of course we trade him for a rental player). He always gives intelligent interviews after the game and has become very popular with fans. This year may have been the year we realized that Chris is no 40-goal man, but that he is indeed a valuable player. He brings so much more to our team than goals and, quite frankly, had he only scored 15-20 I would still see his value on the Habs. Another piece of good news is that Chris improved yet again this year and it looks like this trend will continue in the coming years. I see him as a complete player as he excels in all aspects of the game – on and off the ice. Gainey, Carbo, Muller and Jarvis are great leaders to have on a team and I believe that Higgins is a direct product of mixing with such leaders.

Where we'd have him next season
Right now, it looks like it will be between Higgins and Sergei for a spot on Koivu and Tanguay's line. I personally think that either player could do equally good work on the 1st or 3rd lines. Higgins, in an ideal world, is probably more of a 3rd line type player especially in the way that I want to see the Habs use a 3rd line (I think the time of bad players on the third line is over). My hope is that we add one more winger (Selanne, ideally) to play with Saku. That would leave both Higgins and Sergei to play on the 3rd line, likely with Chipchura. One thing that is certain in Chris' case for next year is that he will bring his best every night. Wherever he may play, I know that he can be counted on to do his best and to accept his role – after all isn't that what an assistant captain should do.

No comments:

Post a Comment