Monday, February 01, 2010

Montreal Regular Season Imaging (MRI):

Cammalleri Will Be Sorely Missed

The other day Mike Cammalleri was checked from a few feet out from the boards right into them at full tilt. Forgive me for being squeamish, but I won't put a video up. Suffice it to say, the knee is a delicate joint meant to bend one way. He'll be lucky to come out of today's MRI scan with good news.

The result of the scan is rightly being looked at as an important juncture in the Canadiens season. If Cammalleri somehow escapes with a twist, no tears, then it will affect morale and Gainey's maneuvering accordingly. If (and it probably will, odds makers) it goes the other way and the damage is extensive, the effects will be opposite.

What it might tell us

In an unfortunate turn for those who want to book their spring holidays, nothing that happens today will tell us one way or the other what will happen to the Canadiens final tally in the standings, and that of the teams around them. If an injury can happen to Cammalleri, it can happen to any player on any team.

While clearly there's no remedy for the unsatisfying feeling of having to play/watch games to see whether a team will make the playoffs, this scan today should give us some pretty clear indication on what to expect from Cammalleri and what management thinks of this team.

How much will Cammalleri be missed?

A few have tried to put their proverbial fingers on how much Cammalleri will be missed from this lineup. Ya The Habs Rule! gives the statistical impact a good airing. He notes a few things about the Habs stars percentage of total goals, both in terms of his own goals and points.

I can tell you that all of that is true, but sadly for Habs fans, it actually underestimates the impact that Cammalleri has had this season. At Lions in Winter we have been recording each and every goal and scoring goals created for the season. While the points total shows our best goalscorer and second points producer; by goals created Cammalleri is a clear #1 on the team, and leads in many categories. Here's what I mean:

– Cammalleri's been on the ice for 77 GF, 49 at ES, 28 on the PP
– Next in GF is Plekanec at 69 GF and Spacek at ES with 45 GF

– He's been involved in 57 of those goals, scoring or assisting on 48
– Plekanec has been involved in 54 goals, with 54 points

– At any strength, Cammalleri is on for 4.21 GF/60
– Markov is just higher, but the next player is under 4.00 GF/60

– At ES, Cammalleri is on for 3.15 GF/60
– Next is Gionta at 3.11 GF/60

– Cammalleri has created 22.17 goals in total, 17.33 at ES, 4.83 on the PP
– Plekanec is second with 19.46 in total, 11.46 at ES, 7.75 on the PP

– Averaged that's 1.21 GC/60, 1.12 GC/60 at ES and 1.82 GC/60 on the PP
– Plekanec is 1.02 GC/60, 0.84 GC/60 at ES and 3.35 GC/60 on the PP

– By these numbers, Cammalleri is a top 10 offensive force in the league (though we haven't corrected players on other teams with the LIW numbers yet)

In short, he's the engine of this team going forward.

If there's a silver lining in losing Cammalleri, it's that our 5-on-5 game looked terrible with him in the lineup anyway and there must surely be a bottoming out point. What's more, Cammalleri hasn't been driving the PP and should be replaceable there.

But while someone may well jump in and start putting up better numbers in Mike's absence (Gomez? Gionta?), the issue here is that there is no replacing a 4.2 GF/60 player from the extremely weak talent we have in Hamilton, and there's no way a Bulldog jumps in and creates goals at the pace of a top-10 NHLer.

Irreplaceable. What I'd do instead

There's just no replacing Cammalleri. No single player on our team can replace his outputs, neither on the ice or by trade. But winning without Cammalleri should still be possible.

My first move would be to reverse the inane promotion of Matt D'Agostini. I don't need more evidence.

Second, I'd promote AHL 4th leading scorer Brock Trotter (presumably only held back for wont of adding too many small players). In a less obvious move, I'd also make space for David Desharnais and Ben Maxwell. As a line that's formed chemistry and found a way to fire in goals their transplant into the lineup would provide a line 2b.

Plekanec then finds Sergei Kostitsyn and Metropolit for line 2a. Plekanec will suffer in the scoring race (not a bad thing come resignature) but doesn't have to flounder trying to prop up Maxwell or D'Agostni, who on their own have shown little promise at the top level.

This is my pre-Olympic lineup. I then buy myself a ticket to the Games and scout Switzerland, Belarus, Latvia and other teams with unsigned talent. I make coming out of the Olympics with a possible forward a firm goal.

NHL trades? I'd keep ears open, but in losing Cammalleri I've suddenly become exploitable in a trade. I wouldn't want to make a trade I'm not at least initially going to consider a win (short-term and long-term).

It's going to be another tough February. At least this year we have fair warning and a two-week break.

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