Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Canadiens Lockout Grades

Usually about this time of year, Lions in Winter takes a look at the first 41 games of the season and tries to assign some relative grades to the team members to express how we think they are doing.

Obviously, we have been without NHL hockey, but that doesn't mean we don't have opinions about how the Habs have done in this unusual circumstance. In the spirit of the season, we plan to keep the tradition going and hand out grades to each member of the big club for their lockout activities.

I also prefaced these thoughts with an earlier piece about the importance of playing games, with grades assigned there too. More time has passed, free skating has been even more costly and we have seen players perform or not for about half a usual NHL season.

My personal belief is that it was important to keep up the training during the lockout. And that while I respect the best intentions of players who opt for weight rooms and naps, I suspect they will be a step behind the guys who've played games for months if a season of hockey is to start in earnest.
Please take this with a grain of salt. It is for fun, discussion and banter.

Tomas Plekanec - A+
Exudes love for hockey, and plays for his home town. Seriously excelled there too (21 G and 46 Pts in 32 GP), and tuned up his play with quality wingers (like that will matter...) His only strike is getting injured, but it sounds inconsequential right now.

David Desharnais - A
He misunderstood how long the lockout would take, but eventually took a trip to Europe. .He did a fine job in the Swiss league too with 16 points in his 16 games. His most recent games give a preview of how he has readied himself properly for a season.

Lars Eller - B+
Eller made the right decision in going to a league like the SM-liiga. He has been a point per game man in a more difficult league than the ECHL, and that puts him tied 10th in that regard (with Mikko Koivu, no less). Not dominant, but a good way to continue his progression. Should be a good starting point for him to win a good job out of the gate.

Erik Cole - B
Credit to Cole for being involved in the negotiations. His injury probably affected the decision to abstain from Euro hockey too. I give him the passable grade despite having no stat line to look at.

Colby Armstrong -B
In October, I gave him a lot of credit for really jumping into his adopted home, but that was 3 months ago now. Since that time, he did sign with the Grizzlies, showing a desire to play, even if he didn't get a chance to do it.

Scott Gomez - C+
Eventually Gomez did the right things and started playing hockey. A decaying talent like him couldn't really have afforded 4 months of TV, could he? He managed to score 6 goals in 11 games while he was away, so that's hopeful. Still, he was only 26th in the entire ECHL in points per game, with a fair number of career ECHLers ahead of him. Not the greatest, but better than nothing.

Brian Gionta - C
Thanks for all the interviews. Although it's great to hear he feels rested, this player had a poor season last year (injuries or not) and needed to be ready. Let's hope rest is the answer. My bias is that it's not.

Rene Bourque - C
Other than being injured, I'm not really sure what Rene Bourque got up to. I know it didn't include any hockey of note since not all the stats surfers would have missed it. I know I didn't hear his name in the lockout negotiations either. His injury buys him an upgrade to C.

Max Pacioretty - C-
Started out OK, but with each week that passed following his return, the decision to bail on Switzerland was proven to be questionable. He was not effective in the NLA and with only skates since then, I'm not looking for the explosion out of the blocks the team probably needs from him.

Travis Moen - D
I could do Bourque's write up, but there was no injury here. I think Moen made some bad decisions and won't be ready for the season compared to others.

Brandon Prust - D
See Moen

Ryan White - D
Where has Ryan White been? I even forgot him on my sketch list of the team (which had Palushaj on it). Probably should have shown up on an ECHL roster given the writing that may be on the wall for him.

Blake Geoffrion - B
The sad-sack Bulldogs were better when Geoffrion was around. Glad his injury wasn't worse.

Aaron Palushaj - D
Palushaj needed to climb the depth chart, not plummet on it. Not the lockout stats he needed as he tries to impress a new staff.

Louis Leblanc - D
Ugh. 22 games in Hamilton, 6 points. If the dream was to one day showcase Leblanc on the first line in Montreal that draft long ago, that dream is fading fast. His inability to win minutes on The Hamilton Bulldogs in their current state and take the bull by the horns at the AHL level suggest that he will be a complementary player at peak in his career.

Mathieu Darche - A-
Technically not a Habs player, but by far and away the best representative the team had over this whole negotiation debacle. He made excellent strides in his bid to (I imagine) win a job within the NHL after playing days.

Raphael Diaz - A+
Outstanding Habs performer of the lockout. 7 goals and 22 assists in 32 games.Top scoring defenceman in an NHL laden NLA.

Yannick Weber - A
5 goals and 16 assists in 30 odd games is good for 9th among Dmen in the Swiss league. I'm anxious to see how Weber can carry this momentum.

Alexei Emelin - A-
All-Star on Bars, one of the juggernauts (and best defensive team) in the KHL. Like his chances of locking down a job at camp.

Andrei Markov -B
I'm glad Markov is playing in the highest calibre league available to him, but his injuries are a reminder how playing overseas can be a detriment. In addition, I think one would hope that the player we all desperately hop will carry the Habs and their PP forward would have done better than 1 goal and 1 assist in 32 games.

Josh Gorges - B-
Habs union rep had an excuse for not being off in some far-flung league. But that tops out at a B for me, and he didn't make the negotiating All-Star team, so a little bump down for that. South Shore skates otherwise, I think.

Tomas Kaberle - C+
A ten-game contract long finished, he'll have gathered plenty of rust by now.

Francis Bouillon - C
Bouillon might ride Therrien to a job here, but I wonder what will happen if Euro players really do have a little jump in camp. Weber, Diaz and Emelin have been doing nice things overseas. Gorges, Markov and Subban are immovable. Kaberle has a contract that can't be buried anymore.

PK Subban - D
He made a mistake not getting a deal in place, as it cost him the chance to play. He'll probably be up to speed soon enough on the ice, but he could have gained a lot from playing with different players.

Carey Price - C
Carey's assessment of things was wrong. I do think a goalie can probably get away with training more on his own than a player, as it's a very individual position anyway. Still, not an overly impressive lockout resume for the supposed cornerstone of the franchise.

Peter Budaj -C+
His stats in Slovakia are hard to get a hold of, so I apologise if I've missed a breakout result from Budaj.

On the whole, I am still mostly underwhelmed by the Habs. It was certainly a difficult thing to try and predict, this lockout, but it does seem that we are looking at a fair share of important players who opted to take the skate and wait approach rather than the option of games. If a shortened season accentuates the importance of the early season, it's a fair bet to say that the slow-starting Habs of last season won't pull a cat out of the bag this time around, barring a lot of lucky bounces.

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