Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Canadiens Search For Scoring:

Call Up Veteran Darche

Yesterday all the media outlets announced, then confirmed that McGill alum Mathieu Darche had been called up by the big club ahead of the contest against St. Louis. It turns out the two people who voted for Darche in the survey are the winners. D'Agostini who received one vote (probably from himself) will be the loser...

It's a move that reflects the need to do something, anything, to get the other half of the team interested in this fight for points. It's a simple move that could do just that.

Proud day for McGill Redmen hockey

This promotion is a proud day for McGill Redmen hockey, and indeed as a former non-hockey playing sportsman for all Redmen. Already having the distinct honour of being the 10th McGill alum to make the NHL, Mathieu Darche will be now be the third graduate of one of Montreal's other historic institutions to play for its most historic institution.

The first players from McGill to don the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge were Jack McGill and Nels Crutchfield (Hockey Legends story) in the 1934-35 season. The last McGill Redman to play was McGill as he finished up in Montreal in 1937.

But the McGill links go further than that. Ken Dryden went to McGill University in 1973-74 (in the midst of his NHL career) to finish his law degree. He didn't play for the Redmen, though I'm sure they wouldn't have turned him down.

Before you scoff too hard at me lauding McGill, consider for a second the significance of that Redmen team. Started in 1877, it was the world's first, and now oldest, organized hockey team. The team from 1877 played in and won the very first organized hockey game to ever take place in the Victoria Skating rink (now a car rental business). Thought their NHL numbers look thin on the ground (especially recently) Redmen have also won the Stanley Cup 35 times, and that's not including coaches like Mike Babcock. And some NHL trophies owe their names to some Redmen alums too: Art Ross, Lester Patrick.

The Habs decided they would tap the local resource last spring when they snagged rising coaching star Guy Boucher from the Q. Boucher then reached back to McGill to recruit his associate and last year's Redmen coach Matin Raymond. they both in turn probably had a say in bringing in Darche. The trifecta of Redmen have done something in Hamilton, as the shaky team that we saw on the ice last season with Lever at the reins is now second in the AHL and vying for the goals against lead with defencemen we all thought were offense only and goalies we had written off as hopeless.

If the Habs can tap just a little piece of the Hamilton/McGill magic (maybe Darche knows of a system?) then reporters may soon be dreaming up playoff scenarios once again.

Just what he was signed for

I liked this signing all the way. In the summer, noting how Darche was signed before many homegrown players, I suspected the Martin Raymond hand at work. I think my initial feelings on the signing have been confirmed with his play so far in Hamilton:

The Canadiens signed Mathieu on July 2nd, before they even put pen to paper with any of their own RFAs. In what may well be an AHL only signing, I think the Canadiens have picked up a nice piece here. And, if injuries do happen and you stare down the left wing depth chart and start to realise there isn't one, then it will be a relief to have Darche in the pocket for a call-up. After all, he has played over 100 NHL games, with one 73-game season 2 years ago. The timing of the move shows me Gainey was targeting Darche and was worried that other teams might also be interested.
As most suspected, this was indeed a depth signing – one to ensure depth in Hamilton as well. But with injuries coming and solutions (at least ones the organization is willing to test) are running out. Darche was always the insurance against this, and the Habs are cashing it in now.

Darche here for scoring, but not on second line

People around the team have been a bit excited about the mini slump endured by Plekanec and Cammalleri on the first/second line. While this has been an important factor in our recent difficulties, it's not the only problem.

As Tobalev noted in the previous game reports, and the Incredible Zero award acknowledged, tertiary scoring going as dry as the Mauritanian desert is just as big, if not a more troubling problem. Between "I try, so don't get at me" Pacioretty and "I was once a media darling" Lapierre, I think it's fair to say we expected more. I think Darche may just be the medicine to a) put Pacioretty where he belongs and b) wake Lapierre up from whatever he is currently doing.

Veteran reporters with more grudges than energy for reporting have already dismissed Darche off-hand as a career minor leaguer. While it is certainly true, what perhaps hasn't been considered is that he's been a pretty darn good minor leaguer, and one whose career was perhaps hampered by being developed by the most inept organization in recent NHL memory (the Doug MacLean Blue Jackets). Now, I wouldn't go as far to say that he would be a star today. However, one must question the eye for talent of that organization whose lone NHL survivor 9 years after joining Syracuse in 2000 was given a mere 34 games over 3 years in the NHL – this at a time when Patrick Traverse could have been a difference maker for the team.

The belief in Darche as a scorer is part borne from seeing him play and part borne from seeing him lead 5 of his 9 AHL teams in goalscoring. It's also got a bit to do with the fact he's the G/game leader in Hamilton right now. Here's the basic low-down on the player from hockeydb. Highlights to note include 73 games played with the Lightning two seasons ago (his first sustained chance in the NHL) and all the 30+ goal seasons in the AHL.

I believe that the second line could benefit from having Darche, but may just catch a few good games with Bergeron while waiting for Sergei. Anyway, even if I'm wrong about Darche and he doesn't score a single goal – nothing is lost. He merely then adds his name to the lengthening list of players providing that unique set of statistics.

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