Monday, July 14, 2008

Habs Review 2007-08:

Mark Streit

The numbers

81 GP: 13 G, 49 A, 62 Pts, 28 PIM, -6, 165 Shots

Career best year
This season

2007-08 playoffs
11 GP: 1 G, 3 A, 4 Pts, 8 PIM, -1, 19 Shots

Career best playoffs
This season

Plays of the game: 12

Game pucks: 3

Domes: 32 (9 at Forward, 23 on Defence)

3 Star selections: 1 First, 3 Second, 1 Third

The story

Where he started the season
After posting a very impressive 36 points in just his second NHL season the only question out there was - defenceman or forward? Mark himself wanted to play D, there was no question about that. That all of course makes sense as that has been his position for his career to this point (many years). The team, however, are always on the look-out for 3rd and 4th line scoring and in Streit they had found a blue-liner that could outscore any of their current 3rd or 4th line players. From my perspective it was simple: Streit playing D opens a spot for a player such as Latendresse or Begin, but more importantly likely takes away any chance of Brisebois seeing any serious time in the line-up. He would indeed start the year as a defenceman playing alongside Bouillon on the 3rd pairing.

The season
If you thought that Souray's departure would hurt the Habs powerplay, or that Streit's 36 points the year before was a fluke, you couldn't have been more wrong. Mark posted an eye-popping 62 points this year, the 3rd highest total among all Habs players, and also, among all the league's defencemen. He wasn't, however, just a standout offensively, as he did play very well defensively all year as our #4 defenceman.

Look at his point totals, look at his highlights, remember what he could do with Markov at the point and you begin to realise: Mark was a huge reason that we ended the year with the league's best powerplay, the best record in the East and managed to score the second most goals of any team. The word underrated can't even begin to describe Streit's play, which is why, somehow, he didn't seem to always fit into Carbo's plans. After expressing his interest to play defence time and time again, Carbo was rebuffing. He was used more frequently as a forward towards the end of the year so that, you guessed it, Brisebois could play D. It seems that Carbo's debt to his old friend kept one of the league's best defenceman from plying his trade for a good chunk of the season (and most of the playoffs).

The most interesting part for all keen observers was what you would see when the going got tough. During both the regular season and the playoffs, whenever we needed a goal, or good solid defensive play, Guy would turn to Mark and ask him to play D. It made me (and others) wonder why the coach would allow the team to get themselves into situations that were clearly a result of having Breeze-by, and not Streit, playing D. You see, Carbo seemed to know in his heart of hearts that he would rather have Streit on the ice if he wanted good progressive hockey when mistakes were out of the question. The puzzle was why he kept coming back with Patrice at the beginning of the next game. As for Streit, he handled a very difficult and unpredictable situation very well and performed admirably as both a forward and a defenceman. As evidenced by his 32 dome appearances (which is among the top 7 for players), the guy can play.

Highlights: If you want to know why Streit got a huge payday, don't rely on this. It shows little of his excellent puck control at the point with one touch passes to boot. It does show how good a shot he has, though

Streit by the numbers:

Lions' links on Streit:
Streit Ahead: Of Scouting and Gambles
Experts Share More Wisdom
No, No. Not Streit
Underestimated And Underappreciated
Needs And Wants

Grade: A+
This year was nothing but excellent for the Swiss skipper. He was a class-act all year as he was asked to play pretty much every position in all situations. He proved to be invaluable to our team as, unlike Dandenault, we really could use him however we wanted and we knew that he would always deliver. His career-high 81 games also showed that he is indeed durable enough for a full NHL season; contrary to what naysayers had always said. What Streit did this year (and in part last year too), was create a new sort of position in the NHL. In recent memory, I have never seen a better example of a defenceman being able to play forward than Streit. Having him on our team was a true gift as players with that much skill and adaptability don't come around often (or ever). His versatility ultimately led to questions about his value as a defenceman, when really, his versatility was one of the Canadiens greatest weapons of 2007-08.

Where we'd have him next season
To me Mark represented one of the best draft picks of all time - league-wide. It was really one of the Habs' greatest moves of the past 15 years and almost as soon as he came, he is gone. What is the point of making steals of picks if you are just going to give up on them when they get good? I mean, wasn't this beyond the Habs' wildest dreams, isn't this what we are hoping for? A player that they found was tearing up the league. Here was a defenceman drafted in the 9th round, 262nd overall finishing 3rd in defenceman scoring just 4 years later. A team is lucky enough if a draft pick taken that late ever even features in one NHL game.

Unfortunately for all of us Mark won't be back with the Habs next year as we deemed $4M/season to be too much for a player of his calibre. To me it is outrageous that we let this gem go. After all that he has done for the team at basically league-minimum salary I thought we could at least reward him with a big contract. And, if you look at contracts these days 4M is a relative steal for Mark. Streit will go on to have a great career as he still has many good years ahead of him and I am sure this is one signing that we will regret to have not made. The lack of coaching imagination we saw in the playoffs has been mirrored in the lack of imagination from management in letting Streit go.

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