Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Battles, Cuts and Intrigue

Martin's Mind By Ice Time

In the world of new statistics we are told that we can tell a coach's mind to a certain extent by faceoff deployment. Important faceoffs are taken by important players (favoured players). The same can be extrapolated from ice time.

As camp winds down and the NHL team is left to rake in revenue for the Molsons, we can begin to view Martin's mind.


Battles

There are a few pitched battles going on under the radar as far as I can tell.

Up front, Eller just about locked up his place in the NHL with his display last night. But that was probably superfluous, as Martin seems smitten with the Dane - he's played 49:30 already, good for 4th most among forwards.

This has muddied the waters a bit in my opinion after the top 9. Here Pouliot has possibly slipped to earn his place along with Darche, Boyd, Maxwell, White and Pacioretty (Pyatt based on his enormous usage so far, along with Moen and Halpern, i judge to be safe). Pouliot should hold the edge but for his last 2 efforts. Even so, he holds good cards with Martin the dealer. Boyd has NHL cred to back him up. Darche the benefit of the doubt.

Its the challenges of White and Maxwell that stand out for me. Martin has used White sparingly, but with great effect thus far. Ryan looks to be what Moen, Darche and Boyd may not be. Maxwell is different. He's looked genuinely inspired at times at stark contrast with Pouliot. The fact he's a natural centre would be the only thing holding back his odds for me. Notice no mention of Pacioretty. Despite his points, his underuse to the tune of 21:19 over 2 games belies his starting position on the grid. He's a very dark horse for the big team this year indeed.

On D, there are battles too, but they seem less urgent with the injuries. With Carle out of the way, it's Weber, Picard and O'Byrne for the final two places in my opinion. Martin tips his hand with playing time here. Weber has played 64:09 in 3 games. Picard has played 49:56 in 2. O'Byrne, meanwhile lags at 36:39 for 2. It seems that Weber ad Picard have their noses in front, but we mustn't forget that a defense of Subban, Spacek, Weber, Picard, Hamrlik, Markov seems highly unfavourable to the goalies we have. O'Byrne hangs on therefore, and a couple of decent (don't even have to be great) efforts should see him through to starting lineup.


Cuts
The cuts from training camp represent a multi-tiered group. There are the players outside the plans, juniors like Lefebvre, Leblanc, Tinordi. There are the players who are tipped for the AHL. And then there are those that have played themselves out of positions.

The list of players sent to Hamilton includes:
G: Robert Mayer and Peter Delmas

D: Frederic St-Denis, Sebastien Bisaillon, Marc-Antoine Desnoyers, Kyle Klubertanz, Brendon Nash, Neil Petruic, David Urquhart and Mathieu Carle

F: Andrew Conboy, Olivier Fortier, Dany Masse, Aaron Palushaj, J.T. Wyman, Alexander Avtsin, Jimmy Bonneau, Ian Shultz, David Desharnais, Gabriel Dumont and Andreas Engqvist

The Bulldogs though are like the Habs, they are restricted in the positions they have to offer. Not to mention that 4 to 5 of the 16 forwards up in Montreal (likely to include Russell and Bishop among others), 1 or 2 of the Dmen and 1 more goalie will be demoted.

So far, only Champion has been released outright. He was a try-out with the Habs and now leaves for junior without a contract. Another in the rather lengthy list of potential goalies to attempt to fill the Canadiens shallow depth chart this summer.

Delmas is at Bulldogs camp now, but unless he does something reveletionary, he'll be in Wheeling or elsewhere come October. Ditto two of Urquhart, Bisaillon, Desnoyers and Petruic. Up front though the Canadiens only have 29 bodies to play 24 positions and fill 26 to 28 places. I'd wager Bonneau is the favourite to be deemed non-Bulldog material by the Habs, but who knows, Masse and Russell might be in that mix.

Of the cuts to be favourites on the Dogs, look for Desharnais, Engqvist and Palushaj who all got very long looks at the big camp (41:38, 35:18 and 33:11 in playing time, respectively). On D, that man would be Carle who saw 38:29, mostly out of necessity.


Intrigue

Intrigue might be a strong word, but there are some surprises from the camp.

First for me is the goalie deployment. On other teams we have seen complete unknowns get a skate out in goal. Not so in Montreal. Robert Mayer, the legitimate back-up for Hamilton got a half game, as did Sanford. The goalie overuse in these early games was probably made necessary by certain athletes needing more time to ready themselves. I feel it comes at a cost to the organization, which as I mentioned has no depth at the position.

Second has to be Spacek's playing time. What on earth is Martin driving at? 72:57 so far for the guy we all anticipate needing nights off to rest during the season. It's bordering on madness, playing Jaro as much as that. It's come at the expense of Ryan O'Byrne in part, but also the contenders like Carle, Klubertanz and St. Denis who played a combined hour between them. Not that I know what I'm doing as a coach, but I'd also have thought that it might be more useful to get those potential replacements into games ahead of Jarred Tinordi who at 18 has a few years of tutelage to come before bleu, blanc, rouge days.

Finally, there's Avtsin. Upon demotion, Martin said something about his injury from the summer really holding him back during camp. Apparently it held him back to the point that he couldn't even dress for the early undressings at the hands of the Bruins and Sens. The player commits in a big way to come to North America and doesn't even get a minute of ice. Fortier was injured a whole season and didn't have a chance of making the team at all and he got a skate. JT Wyamn is no NHLer and he got 2 games. Conboy has nothing more to offer than a scowl, he got two as well. We don't know inner workings. Maybe Avtsinn was injured. I suppose I hope he was/is, because it would be a shame if the Habs blew another prospect because Martin is stuck in his ways.

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