Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Helvetica Neue?

Yesterday's cuts didn't offer much surprising news. Career AHLers were returned to the AHL, juniors to junior and cards fell where they were expected to fall.

In some ways, this means everything is going to plan. I mean Latendresse, Olivier did not outshine Plekanec, but Latendresse, Guillaume is doing his part to hold a place. For me a singular disappointment is that we traded Corey Locke (Hamilton's all-time leading scorer and one-time CHL MVP) to help shore up the Hamilton back-line.

The intrigue in this whole training camp actually begins now, because those players who had a hope of making the team are all the ones still floating around. The next cuts will determine which prospects are fast-tracked and which are going to the incubator for another year. It will also tell me whether or not on teams like the Canadiens (with a roster largely filled out with NHL one-way contracts already) training camp is just a waste of time until the season begins.

As much as I like D'Agostini, Maxwell and Pacioretty. I think with Latendresse's attitude and performance turnaround, there is a single place to be won from camp. A conservative guess would put Chipchura in the mix. But Greg Stewart's single game against the Leafs last spring looms large in his favour.

Then there's Marc Denis, who after being one of the worst goaltenders in any hockey league last season, has a lot to prove. More than he can prove in an 8-game stint. He is here because they will use him again, but his stay is temporary i think.

The player who interests me most of those left is Yannick Weber. The story on him prior to the Florida game was that he was Swiss (hence the title for this piece) and that Mark Streit was his idol.

The story on him now that he has made the first cut is getting a bit more interesting. And while the pessimistic among us (and those who clearly want a ride in Brisebois' Ferrari next week) give him no chance at all:

Gaston Therrien: No place for Weber
Francois Gagnon: Not yet good enough to dislodge O'Byrne or Brisebois

I think Weber is in with a real chance here. I certainly wouldn't dismiss it out of hand the way the two journalists did. Not when the competition includes the illustrious shrug-master Brisebois.


There are several reasons for my view from the apparent lunatic fringe:

First, Weber fills an actual need on the Canadiens. With the loss of Streit on defence, the Canadiens rely on Markov for generating plays from the back, but are then faced with an immense drop off to Hamrlik and then another one to Gorges, Bouillon and Komisarek. O'Byrne for his part hardly factors into offense at all, as he is so tied up learning how to be a big defenceman.

Second, Weber is already better than Brisebois. He has shown he is dynamic, confident and can shoot without a flutter motion. And he holds the potential to get better over time, whereas we all know Patrice's potential that we spent much of last season hoping wouldn't be fulfilled again and again.

Third, Carbonneau has already shown us that he loves carrying extra defencemen on the roster, not extra forwards. He is comfortable in moving a D up to the wing, where the worst they can do is play like a D and rarely contribute any offence (Dandeanult), whereas a D gets injured, no way a forward is moved back.

I'm also not that excited about O'Byrne, to be honest. I have a feeling if it wasn't for his size he wouldn't be a factor in NHL roster-making. And, sure, you can't ignore that he is 6'5". But we need to make up our minds here, do we need Laraque or not? We want a few big guys, sure, but this team is built mostly for speed and needs the players to match.

In the best-case scenario for me, Weber would of course step into Brisebois' place and that would be that – the end of a long and tortuous relationship. I am not that naive, though, not after another summer of betrayal.

I do believe there is another alternative based on the feasible where Weber stays though, and that is where neither Stewart or Chipchura make the Habs right away. That way Carbonneau carries Brisebois, Weber and (is he still here?) Dandenault in the pressbox and inserts them when he pleases. In the spirit of keep the best prospect, it looks like the right move today.

Anyway, get a good look at Weber, because there will be injuries on defence (it comes with the territory) and he is now first in line to make the step up should we need extra legs. I just know we can't resist having a new Swiss player on the team, not now we know we are Switzerland's NHL favs (as Weber reported).

No comments: