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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

5 Keys to Habs' Season - Part 3 - Mike Cammalleri

Greetings all! Hope eveyone is enjoying my take on what I believe the Habs will need in order for them to have a successful year. For part 3, in this series, I turn my attention to our shiny new sniper, Mike Cammalleri.

Mike Cammalleri
For a few years in a row now, there has been talk of Gainey fishing for three players around the league; Vinny Lecavalier, Patrick Marleau and Mike Cammalleri. I remember reading, a few years back, that Gainey was trying to pry Cammalleri out of L.A., at the deadline. But, as with most of the trade deadlines under Gainey, everything went up in smoke. However, where there is smoke, there is fire and I can only assume that going into the 2009 off season, Cammalleri was firmly in Bob Gainey's sights.

As most people know, Mike Cammalleri had a career year, last year, playing along side Jerome Iginla. Mike put up 82 points, while playing 81 games, to the tune of 39 goals, 43 assists. Nice. Very nice. So nice, that it seems that Cammalleri had four or five teams bidding for his services when free agency started up. But Mike ended up choosing Montreal - even over his native Toronto - as a new starting point for his career.

While there is no question that Cammalleri represents an excellent addition up front, there are constant whispers of doubt largely focusing on him having Iginla as a line-mate. But is the criticism valid? Can he reproduce the outstanding results of his 2008-2009 season in calgary? Was Iginla the only reason he was a standout, last season?

Let's take a look at the facts...

Mike Cammalleri's NHL career started, in L.A., during the 2002-2003 season - in which he played 28 games and put up 8 points. His first breakout season came in 2005-2006 where he played 80 games and put up 55 points - on a mediocre L.A. team - with 26 goals and 29 assists. The interesting part of his points total, was that he scored 15 goals and 19 assists, on the powerplay, accounting for 61.8% of his total points. Clearly, this kid was a bit of a powerplay specialist.

The following year, playing on a TERRIBLE L.A. Kings team, Cammalleri truly established himself by playing 81 games and putting up 80 points (34 goals and 46 assists), with 16 goals and 21 assists on the PP - accounting for 46.25% of his points on the pp. While his number of points on the pp increased only marginally, his even strength point total sky-rocketed. Mike Cammalleri had arrived as a legitimate 1st line sniper.

In 2007-2008, Cammalleri had an injury plagued season and only played 67 games (47 points - 19 goals and 28 assists). He was never really able to find his rhythm and as such people started wondering whether he was for real, or not. Last season (2008-2009), playing in Calgary, Cammalleri returned to the 80 point level and showed the skeptics that he was an elite forward. This did not silence his critics, of course, as the whispers followed him all the way to Montreal.

Call me crazy, but I don't think his success in Calgary was solely because of Iginla, and I also do not think it was an abberation.

Now, armed with a brand new 5 year deal, Mike Cammalleri is out to show the world that he truly is worthy of his contract. He has heard the doubters talking about Ignila being the only reason for his 80+ point season, and I believe that this will only motivate him further.

Why he should succeed
Mike Cammalleri is a player that has been challenged at every level throughout his career. He has been told he was too small, that he couldn't be an elite player, that was was carried by his line mates, etc, etc. I tend to think that Mike Cammalleri is a good player and one that can elevate the play of his line mates. I feel that he is the real deal and that the added motivation to 'show people' will only help in propelling him over the 70 point hump again.

While I don't know if he will necessarily be a point per game guy, I see him being in the 70 - 85 point range with 35+ goals. Cammalleri is the best sniper on the team, as of now, and will likely line-up next to Gomez. Cammalleri needs someone who can feed him the puck, and Gomez has shown that he can do that so that combination should bear fruit.

In addition, I see Cammalleri being a huge catalyst on the Habs' 1st powerplay unit, this year, and racking up a ton of points. If, however, Cammalleri cannot get back to the 70+, and ideally 80+, point level this year, his huge contract is going to become the latest albatross hanging around the Habs' neck and will bring down any hope of success, for the Habs, this year.

K.

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