Monday, January 25, 2010

You Asked For It

Habs Demote Slumping Wingers

I say you asked for it, I asked for it too. The players vying for 54-games of futility have been demoted to Hamilton to either find the remnants of their talent or acclimatise to minor league play before a career in Switzerland.

The demotion of Pacioretty and then D'Agostini capped a week of movement from Bob Gainey and his team, finally recognising that hoping for the best just no longer seemed to be working.

No Pacioretty till next season

Count me among those who don't want to see Pacioretty in Montreal until at least next season. This has nothing to do with the guy, or indeed the NHL player. He is efficient and an example to his teammates from the blueline (ours) in. But at the end of the day, you don't draft in the first round to get a slightly better version of Mathieu Dandenault.

Whether Pacioretty has talent enough to be more than a glorified checker is yet to be seen. But it has to be seen. Apart from a truncated AHL season and short NCAA career, Max has no formation in playing offensively outside US high school. His effort was endearing at times, but he was having as much trouble piecing together what he should and shouldn't do to succeed as I was having watching him. Now in Hamilton, there will be less eyes, far less critical eyes and a league set up for exactly Max's need.

Leave him for a sustained bout. Let him stew, let him revamp, let him thrive. Then let's see.

D'Agostini needs an intervention

D'Agostini isn't that different from Max, except that he is. Older than Pacioretty, smaller, less willing and a lower draft investment mean that there's much less organizational will behind D'Agostini. In short, not many ever expected him to succeed, and so no one will lose sleep over seeing this come to fruition.

D'Agostini, for whatever reason, never understood the gravity of this situation as it affected his career. Alleged overweight at the outset of camp, he was meant to be in a tight battle for a top job. Given his chance with Gomez and Plekanec, he always looked like he'd rather be somewhere else.

It made you want to scream at the TV: "Wake up kid, your career is slipping away."

Hamilton is a different challenge for Matt. No contract at the end of the year, Matt is struggling to keep his head above water. There may be some coddling in Hamilton, and that's because Guy Boucher seems to live for reclamation projects like this, but the Habs can just as easily move on. Someone needs to impress this important lesson on Matt himself, though I'm worried that nothing will get through to the player after 4 months of high-level coaching and people willing him on.

The other problem for D'Agostini is that there isn't a big future for him in the NHL as a checker. Lapierre is better, Sergei is better, Pacioretty is better, White is better, Pyatt too, the Canadiens have depth in forwards who can play, if not score. His way back comes through goals and assists, or at the very least making room for linemates who can take the stats. I wish him luck in finding his way there. At this point his odds on a contract are slim to none.

Lapierre escapes

Loyal readers will know that LIW is keeping track of the biggest duds this season. Pacioretty and Dagger were contenders, but Lapierre has found ways to surpass them in futility on so many nights.

Max, then, can be thankful to Mike Cammalleri for providing the call, and Mathieu Darche for providing the breakfast in bed. He has been roused just in time to avoid D'Agostini's fate.

I'm well ware that cap and other restraints make the possibility of sending this kind of message to Lapierre less than realistic. However, stranger things have happened. And Lapierre, despite the undying love from RDS, has not been relaunched for long, and he hasn't been better than Pacioretty on most nights. I'm glad he doesn't need to use these demotions as a wake up call, I'm glad he stirred before it was too late.

Maxwell recalled

Of Gainey's moves, this is my least favourite. When Trotter and Maxwell were overlooked for Darche, I saw great sense. Pacioretty has been spoiled, Sergei before him, D'Agostini might be beyond repair. All projects were held in the NHL because a quick start and a shallow team made it easier.

I'm sure Maxwell deserves a shot, and he wouldn't want it differently. However, with things progressing so well in Hamilton, the Canadiens risked developing prospects in a successful environment for the first time in decades. The incubator can do wonders for growth – both skill and confidence. I'm just a little bit worried that a season and a half is not enough to make a top two centre from a 20-goalscorer in the WHL.

Then again, Andrei Kostitsyn has a place, and so do 11 other forwards. Perhaps Ben is just getting a glimpse of the big league for some added inspiration.

Gainey's week of action

It's too bad it took losses that we could all see coming to actually stir our GM into action. Whoever said patience was a virtue?

I don't know if anyone is keeping count, but Gainey's revamp in the season is approaching his revamp out of season. Since October, the 2008-09 incumbents have lost Guillaume Latendresse, Georges Laraque, Kyle Chipchura and now temporarily Pacioretty and D'Agostini. At least we know that Gainey coach probably didn't put the crisis of Spring 2009 down to one of the remaining 5 or 6 Habs...

Anyway, I want to know what you think. Will Pacioretty grow wrist strength? Will he develop into more than his preview suggested? Will D'Agostini ever recover? Will Lapierrs keep his play at the new level, or will he slip again? Will Maxwell benefit from a stint in Montreal?

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