Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Something Positive

In Stewart We Add One Helluva Player

Gone amiss in all the orchestrated confusion was the promotion of Greg Stewart yesterday afternoon. I read somewhere that Carbonneau personally requested Greg Stewart to bolster his forces – maybe the man does have some sense.


Privately (and Tobalev will tell you), I have been asking for the Stewart promotion from the very first time I saw him. I thought he should make the team in October (from his review):
Personally, I'd have Stewart in the team set up. 10 goals in Hamilton prove he is no passenger and one game in Montreal showed me he is hyped to play in the bigs. As poor Steve Begin falls apart bit by bit due to his rugged approach, it will be nice to have Stewart there to step in and offer a spark plug of comparable energy


Why I like him
I'll tell you why I like him. There are two reasons.

The first is this:



For all the Laraques in the world, you'd have never seen this fight. Stewart stood up to a true jerk and a cocky vet who thought he could get away with picking on a rookie. The way he punched was the only reason fighting should be allowed (to settle real game-derived disputes), and the way his teammates applauded is marked next to the indifference Laraque provokes.

Stewart would be scarier than Laraque because a) he would stand up for his teammates no matter what and b) he could fight anyone he liked (moreover disliked).


The second reason I like him is because he can play. Not only that he is puck hungry. When he doesn't have the puck he fights to get it, he plans to get it, and often he gets it. His hits are not for the end of year tallies, they are for the pursuit of that small rubber disc.

Not only is he puck hungry, but he can protect the puck with his body and as he showed with his single (yet brilliant) assist this season he is aware of his teammates while he does all this.

If he had soft hands in the least, there would be no Guillaume Latendresse in Habs lore. He doesn't, but he still merits his place.


Pedigree

Or perhaps: Petergree.

Being a member of the Peterborough Petes is to the OHL what being a member of the Montreal Canadiens was to hockey.

- They began as a farm team for the Montreal Canadiens in 1956
– It is the oldest continuous franchise in the CHL
- They have won a record 8 Memorial Cups in 53 years
– They are known as a “Junior Hockey Factory”: producing a record number of NHL players, including Eric and Jordan Staal, Chris Pronger, Mike Ricci, Steve Yzerman, Doug Jarvis and of course Bob Gainey
– Coaches of the Petes include top NHL coaches Roger Neilson, Mike Keenan and Scotty Bowman

That ain't no joke.

Greg Stewart didn't put up incredible numbers in junior, but being a contributing member of the Petes was probably enough to get him drafted. The fact he won a Memorial Cup as a veteran junior two years after being drafted was a certain bonus for the Habs. As usual, he didn't do the heavy lifting. but as we know champions take many shapes and sizes.

His coach then, a Petes legend himself Dick Todd, had this to say of Greg:
“When I took over last year they raved about his conditioning and strength,” Petes coach Dick Todd told Hockey’s Future this week. “Usually the draft is so well documented that you don’t get quality players later in the draft coming to junior so he was a pleasant surprise to the hockey club when they got him."


Rare Canadian find

If as Mike Boone so eagerly writes, the Canadiens are de-Russifying their team, then they had better hope that they turn up a few more Stewarts than they currently do.

Greg is a notable exception in an otherwise dismal record of finding and developing Canadian talent.

Timmins has selected 23 Canadian players since his hiring. If you exclude Carey Price (who was a lucky dip for the Habs with an unearned 5th overall pick) then you're looking at Lapierre, Latendresse, O'Byrne, D'Agostini and Chipchura from that span. With the exception of Lapierre, who plays like he deserves a place, the other players still have question marks over their NHL careers, let alone stardom.

Talk of Detroit often comes around to the success of late round scouting and picks. But while Timmins can poach Europeans late (Streit, Halak and S Kostitsyn), Stewart stands as the very rare Canadian (indeed North American) to play any important hockey from among 7 players. The rest are absolute duds.


Look forward to Stewart tonight. He brings quality with his grit. It's great to see.

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