Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Latendresse Vs. Pouliot

Season Preview All Over Again

In the style of the beloved season previews, I offer to you Benoit Pouliot's belated preview next to the now very optimistic-looking one we did for Latendresse in September. While it certainly shows we lost a good player who many of us thought had some promise, it also reveals some surprises about the new Canadiens forward.

Guillaume Latendresse

08-09 (MTL)56141226+4121.102.0511712.045
07-08 (MTL)73161127-2231.071.8111613.841
06-07 (MTL)80161329-20530.951.7312113.247

Even-strength profile

  • Above average offensively at even strength

  • A rare green patch on the Canadiens – above average in GA at even strength

  • Below average on preventing chances against the Montreal end

  • Neutral CORSI: -0.2 (2nd on the Habs)


Stats notes

You could go many ways in interpreting these stats. Many numbers show clear decline, despite the progress that Gui is touted for. On the other hand, there is some stability within them too. The things to note:

1) Gui shoots straight
It's perhaps not that surprising that the skill that got him to the NHL is the one that stands out. 12.0% in an off year is not a stat I'd ever sneeze at.

2) Good production at even strength, considering
About a goal every 60 minutes of ice time is a good average to carry in you NHL career. Considering Gui's been bumped around lines a lot, not been given primo PP time and played with chance sink Kostopoulos a lot last year, then I find that encouraging. Hopefully he keeps up the pace.

3) Wonky even strength profile
As much as I'd like to think that Gui is one of the best defensive forwards on the team, the fact that I do have eyes helps me over the feeling. His profile shows us the danger of taking things out of context. Last season, Gui played at all the right times and missed the worst Price/Halak had to offer. Has it skewed the profile? Is Guillaume really 2nd best in Corsi? Perhaps the Canadiens lost all those games because he was injured? Impossible to tell for certain in a one-off experiment, but again, we do all have eyes, and sense.

As we've mentioned, 2009-10 is a big season for Latendresse. Because let's face it, another 14-16 goal campaign, while fine, certainly doesn't add to the lustre of the future 30-goal man argument. And, if it is to be 15 goals a year from here on in, then someone, somewhere is bound to surpass him, at least in terms of potential.

His shooting accuracy teamed with a new approach to shooting more should help. His defensive game and any improvement in the purpose of his hitting will make this line a very threatening one.

Tobalev on Latendresse

For some reason I am excited about Latendresse this year. Maybe it is because I see him as the best of the players from my home province, maybe it's because he is one of the longest serving Habs, or maybe it is because I actually sense a big season coming on. Whatever happens with goals and assists, Latendresse is still a player that wants to play for the Habs and generally tries pretty hard, despite some talent shortcomings.

Unfortunately for Gui, however, nothing is guaranteed. There are signs, after all that point to him not having that great of a season. His production levels have been stable for 3 years, he seems to be getting slower and he may very well get crowded out of the top-6/PP.

On the positive side, I think his new status on the team (best Quebecer) will help him, especially early in the season. Many fans and new teammates will look to him now as a leader and not just a prospect. If he can get in Martin’s good books and get himself onto a scoring line early on then I could see him there all year. If he makes the most of these chances when provided, the outlook could brighten in a hurry – I really think he could score 25 goals.

The more likely scenario, however, is that he gets bounced between the top 3 lines and into/out of the PP (thanks to injuries, slumps etc.). This will hurt his production and that is why I think he’ll likely top out at 30-35 points with most of those coming as goals.

Where Latendresse will start 2009-10: Carrying the torch for millions

Where Latendresse will end 2009-10: With a new appreciation for what he can do in this league

Points: 21 G, 24 A, 45 Pts

Benoit Pouliot

08-09 (MIN)375611+1210.681.513414.718
07-08 (MIN)11213-1001.241.861020.00
06-07 (MIN)3000-1000.000.0010.00

Even-strength profile

  • Below average offensively at even strength

  • Top 10% leaguewide in GA at even strength

  • Well below average at creating chances

  • Negative CORSI: -9.9


Stats notes
The first impression when looking at these stats side by side is something like: "My goodness, we were fleeced..." But as we know statistics do need interpreting. And, as we all recall, Guillaume's stats from last year flattered him. As this was a trade, we'll do this a bit differently, pointing out a few differences I think it is absolutely vital to note. Note also, that being a Habs fan who wants to view this trade in a positive light, I'll leave the negative comparisons to you readers to make:

1) Shot totals
Prior to this season, Benoit Pouliot managed a measly 45 shots in 51 games. Guillaume had that many shots in his NHL career well before his 20th birthday. It's worth noting because whether it be linemates, coaching or something else, Pouliot has just never had the chance to let loose his shot (of similar accuracy based on %) compared to Gui. Is he a Sergei Kostitsyn who holds and hold and holds? Perhaps, but the scouts in 2005 didn't think so.

2) Defensive numbers
Guillaume from his profile showed a good defensive player (though we mentioned this was puzzling to those who had observed him). Pouliot really does one up him. Now before you go and say that Benoit has benefited from being on the Wild, do first consider that his 1.53 GA/60 was third on the team after Boogaard and Kolanos. Other young forwards like Clutterbuck (2.11) and James Sheppard (2.84) lagged behind his defensive responsibility greatly. What's more only Pouliot came out positive on +/- from the youngsters. Not all bad from the guy with 14 previous games under his belt.

3) Games played
I alluded to experience in shots. Well, Pouliot (from the same draft year as Latendresse) has played 167 less games in all. This is also critical for waivers. Benoit Pouliot signed his first NHL contract in May 2006 at age 19. As such, it set the clock on his waiver exemption to 4 seasons or 160 games (whichever came first). Given that he's nowhere near reaching 160 games anytime soon, it means the time limit on him seeing waivers will be the outset of next season. Of course, for the Canadiens, this provides another player they can ship up and down to Hamilton (like Sergei Kostitsyn, Pyatt, White, etc.). Guillaume Latendresse would have had to clear waivers to go to Hamilton, which had been the case since his 160th game early last season. No matter how few goals he scored, how badly he sulked or how much he needed a wake up call – Gainey's hands were tied on Guillaume. Don't underestimate this factor in the trade that just occurred.

A simple glance at the stats says loss for Gainey in this file. But under a bit more scrutiny, Gainey has manufactured a bit more flex with his roster by simply trading one 2-goalscorer with potential to do more for another. When injuries heal, I truly think this flexibility will tip the balance in the Habs favour, espeically if Sulkatron-2000 was going to react to benching anything like he reacted to be being traded.

Statistics adapted from nhl.com, behindthenet.ca, Olivier

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