Laraque, Chipchura, Pacioretty
I don't have as much to say about Georges Laraque as I might about a first liner here. For one thing, his statistics are terrible. He puts the brakes on most offensive moves and has a terrible Corsi. The one thing I would pull out from these stats is that Jacques Martin must use Georges less, because with the amount of shots against he is on the ice for, it is unlikely he'll turn in another season for 2.23 GA/60.
To estimate Georges only real value to the team (eliminating chippy play from the opponents) would be a difficult undertaking. But, I think we all saw enough from simple observation to know the intimidation he offers, if it is there at all, is not significant.
Tobalev on Laraque:
Signing Laraque was quite possibly one of Gainey’s worse moves, which in itself is saying a lot. Georges, quite simply, is a pre-lockout (maybe even pre-1990s) type hockey player. The trouble he has skating and handling the puck is not nearly made up for by his 5-10 staged yearly boxing matches. The worst part is that that when he fights those players he deems worthy opponents he doesn’t really do much. I haven’t seen him really punish anyone unless you call hugging a guy and trying to get his shirt over his head a punishment. 2 assists in 33 games and no fights that were momentum-swingers meant we essentially played with 19 (18 when Patrice played) players for almost half the season. His money and roster spot could be much better used for players like Chipchura, Weber or Pacioretty.
However, Gainey’s well-documented fear of being proven wrong may just keep Laraque off the waiver-wire this season and in Montreal. He will thus be there to play a style that no one (fans and fellow players) really cares for anymore. A fight based on emotion or frustration (aka a real fight) is something you won’t see from Laraque this year, which is why Sergei is a way better fighter. In an ideal world, he gets sent down (and even claimed by someone else) and we rid ourselves of the remaining two years of his contract. Like I said, though, Gainey is as likely to do that as he would be to start Halak is back-to-back games. Look for Georges to post up 1-3 points, 20-50 games and about 10-15 x 5 meaningless penalty minutes.
Where Laraque will start 2009-10: On the ice vs. the Leafs
Where Laraque will end 2009-10: On the reserve (injured or healthy)
Points: 2 G, 4 A, 6 Pts
There was no worse player on the Canadiens last year than Kyle, not even Price in Edmonton. The statistics I show you here are not at the level required to get an NHL call back, not even close – it seems everything he did last season in those 13 games hurt the team.
However, there may be a few positives here:
1) Low PIMs
IN 49 NHL games now, Kyle has amassed a mere 15 PIMs (and we know that 5 of those minutes were coincident for fighting). It's quite disciplined for a rookie and could be one attribute that eventually wins him another try.
2) His average stats last season were taken from a small sample
This is a bit of post-rationalization (excuse making), but Kyle needs it. That pie of blue and purple is hideous and needs to be banished, but one must think that just as D'Agostini's goalscoring levelled out eventually, so too would have Chipchura's defensive largesse. The season previous and Hamilton do provide some basis to suggest that could happen.
Last season, when Kyle eventually got another chance to skate with the Canadiens, the 2004 draft pick needed to make an impression. His stats clearly show that he did – but not the right one. Another chance this season, and he must banish the purple, and most especially that hideous turquoise which shows him to be a defensive liability. It's not a good look for an aspiring shutdown forward.
Tobalev on Chipchura
Kyle was drafted, way back when, as a defensive forward and I for one am not ready to give up on that vision. He was the type of guy (Captain of Canada, well-spoken, etc.) that seemed to fit into the type of team the Habs were (and are for that matter) trying to build.
So why then has it taken so long for Chips to make it in the NHL? Why hasn’t he been given more chances?
The answer is that he has been given his chances, over and over and the bottom line is that he has failed to deliver; but it’s not entirely his fault. I trace it back to confidence, both his and possibly the coaches’ confidence in him. Coaches ask young goalies to tend the net, young PP point-men to play on the first unit and young scorers to play on a top scoring line. It is, therefore, quite unfair that Kyle has never really gotten to show his true worth on the 3rd line as a true defensive forward. Each, and every time, he gets called up it is to serve as an injury replacement and to do spot-work on the 4th line. If we don’t give him chances he’ll, quite simply, join the long list of ‘could’ve’ been prospects on the Habs. I for one am willing to give him a place this year and a proper chance. I mean is that too much to ask for a guy who put up 35 points (14, 21) in 51 games in Hamilton and who was a mind-blowing +28 for the season?
Kyle will play in the NHL this season, but how much (and even where) may still be in question. The log-jam of ‘defensive’ veteran forwards in the system, to me, means that his chances will be slim. You have to believe, however, that this is his last shot with Montreal and if he doesn’t have a good first half (Hamilton or Montreal) we may never hear from him again. I do, though, see him playing between 30-50 games this year, but his numbers will depend on where he plays. So, in reality his NHL (at least in MTL) future will depend on injuries to players like Gomez, Plekanec and Lapierre - not the way you want to make it as a permanent player in this league, but at this point he’ll have to take what he can get. If he does see considerable time on a top-3 line look for him to get 10-20 points and to be a positive (likely over +10) type player. He may even, this year, take steps to becoming a future leader (even captain) on this team.
Where Chipchura will start 2009-10: Pressbox
Where Chipchura will end 2009-10: Pressbox, with 40 odd games to his name
Points: 5 G, 9 A, 14 Pts
Max is the player down the bottom here who actually didn't merit the position. His stats were a mix of very good, with some areas of concern (though not many):
1) Favourable offensive results when he's on
You can't dispute the red side of the graph. When Max is on the ice, his lines make up better than average NHL offensive lines. On the Canadiens, this particularly applied to Kovalev and Plekanec who enjoyed his company.
2) High events (chances) player
Judging by the bottom half of the pie, Max is the type of player who may be on the ice for some of the most exciting periods of end to end hockey we all love. Easy to say as fans, but is that the type of player Jacques Martin will love?
3) Not second line goalscoring
Though his linemates may have put up 2nd line numbers while he was on, max for the most part did not. 3 goals with the centres he got to play with wasn't great – even worse when you consider it was actually 1 goal in his last 30 games. His 5.3% shooting percentage was also not very top line.
Pacioretty's stats, while prettier than most, are still perhaps not at the level they should be at for a promotion to a top 2 line on a team we hope will do something. Training camp will have to be very impressive from him if he hopes to unseat Guillaume's 1.00+ G/60, Sergei's versatility or D'Agostini's raw numbers in the NHL.
Tobalev on Pacioretty
Remember how we all thought Max was great when he came up around Christmas? Remember those great numbers he put up when playing with Kovalev? Does it shock you then when I tell you that he scored 3 goals in 34 games? Is it just me, or did people get a bit too excited about this kid? He didn’t even play that well in Hamilton when you think about it – he only scored 6 goals down there. He did get quite a few assists on the farm, but what we really need for our top 2 lines are guys who can score, not guys who can exclusively pass. The good thing is that he is still 20 and he only has one way to go: up. I am not writing him off at all, but I am not nearly as excited as I would be if we had a legitimate offensive prospect right at this moment.
I think that Max’s season will be very much like last year in that he will split his time between Montreal and Hamilton. He isn’t quite good enough to be a lock with the Habs yet, but is definitely in the mix as one of our best young forwards. His numbers all depend on how many games he plays in Montreal, and scoring once every five games is something that I think is within his grasp. It would be good for him if he could find a niche on our third line again as he did last year. His 2-way play does actually impress me (more so than Gui’s or D’Agostini’s), so it is conceivable that he will be groomed as a permanent 3rd-line solution. Whatever may happen at the start of the year he just has to work hard because eventually he will get his chance, but if he fails to impress this season in Montreal, he will have more chances in the future.
Where Pacioretty will start 2009-10: Hamilton Bulldogs
Where Pacioretty will end 2009-10: Montreal Canadiens
Points: 7 G, 10 A, 17 Pts
If I'm a coach/GM, these 3 are not in the starting night lineup. I classed them all as reserves, but I witheld Pacioretty so that he could hone his skills in Hamilton, not sit in the pressbox in Montreal. Laraque, for me, is an inferior option to Stewart anyway. And when you add Moen to that line, the combination willing to move around a bit more makes more sense to me. Chipchura simply played himself out of the running last season. He will need to grab the bull by the horns on the first injury replacement duty to win back his favour. And, Max, as I explained is only excluded for his own development concerns – half a season, or the whole year, in Hamilton should allow him to learn to star at a different level and help him grow his confidence for his next NHL stint (where he'll be asked to score on more than 1/20 shots).
Statistics adapted from nhl.com, behindthenet.ca, Olivier