The new Habs
While Carbo ended the night juggling the lines, for the most part he seemed to be using set lines.
Here they are:
Higgins – Koivu – Ryder
Samsonov – Plekanec – Kovalev
Perezhogin – Bonk – Johnson
Latendresse – Begin – Murray
Markov – Komisarek
Rivet – Souray
Streit – Dandenault
I can see Latendresse remaining on the 4th line for at least a good portion of the early season: he is going to need time to adjust from Junior (not even AHL) to the NHL, and limited time on the 4th line with defensively responsible players is a good way to do it.
The only question mark (if we are done with any trades) is where will our new aquisition play. Janne Niinimaa is an experienced offensive defenceman. Gainey seems to be setting Niinimaa’s recent problems on a lingering ankle injury that was surgically repaired over this summer, so he seems to believe there should be a jump in his level of playing. That being said, I don’t know whose place he’ll be taking but my money is on either Dandenault or Streit…but we’ll have to wait and see. There is also a chance that he’ll be the 7th, but at 2.5mil I can’t see him being benched for any long periods of time.
So, what does this all mean??
In my mind, the Canadiens are an improved team. Plekanec demonstrated tonight not only does he have play making abilities equal or better then Ribeiro’s, he isn’t a puck hog, he is responsible in his own end, and he can actually skate fast and keep up with his Russian wingers.
But, what is this massive depth that Gainey keeps talking about at center? Lets be honest here, the Habs are thin (or should I say small) down the middle. While I am a huge fan of Koivu, and really like what I see in Plekanec, there are still question marks. Bonk showed promise at the end of last season, but also demonstrated he can’t be our no.1 guy if Koivu gets injured. On the 3rd line, though, he can use his offensive abilites more (and he does have some) while also being responsible.
This gives Begin a larger role, becoming our checking line center. I’ve always liked Begin, man works 110% every game, and is a natural center. With Murray, another hard worker, and the developping Latendresse, it ain’t a bad line either.
Huet has really got to pick up his play though, but I’m going to stick with what I said at the beginning of summer and say last season was not a fluke: He’s had 2 pre-season games, people, and really settled down by the 3rd period. He’s still got it, although it’d make me a lot more comfortable if he’d just go ahead and have a couple shutouts right away.
So, all in all, I’m pretty content. Not the best trade in the world by any means, but one that can open up roster space and allow the Habs to develop into a contender again…and no, I’m not saying we are a contender now.