I’ve heard a lot of people, both online and in media outlets, point out that Carey Price will be under enormous scrutiny and pressure next season now that Halak has been shipped off to the Blues. To some extent, I can see that being true, but I’d like to submit that he’s not the only one.
Compared to Maxim Lapierre, Benoit Pouliot, and Andrei Kostitsyn, Price is probably the one sitting in the most comfy chair right now. The Habs are still confident in Price, and rightfully so, but what about the other three?
Max, to his credit, knows he didn’t do so well last year. Regardless of whether he was plagued by a nagging foot injury or not, he flat out underperformed during the regular season.
During the playoffs, however, he became a whole different Max. He skated around like his hair was on fire. He completed his checks, and he and his linemates spent an awful lot of time in the offensive zone, wearing down the opposing defense and even at times contributing with timely goals.
So which Max did the Habs just ink to a one-year deal?
It’s hard to say. Like all players after the season, he’s talking the talk. The nice thing about Max, though, is that he bleeds the bleu, blanc et rouge, something even Scott Gomez has noted and commented on. Max has also said that he didn’t want to get into a dispute with the Habs management which is why he re-signed for a rumoured $900k.
Frankly, it’s a great deal for the Canadiens in that they keep their cap-hit low and they keep Max hungry. He knows he has to prove himself next year—preferably achieving more than the 7G - 7A – 14P of last season. He’ll have to post numbers more in line with those of two years ago (15G – 13A – 28P) to achieve his dream of signing long-term with his home team. He’s facing being cut loose next year if he doesn’t and he knows it.
Fearless prediction: Max will step it up.
He might not be able to skate around like a maniac all the time, but I expect a more solid, consistent effort. If he does that, look for a multi-year deal that he’s been jonesing for, but hopefully not at too big a cap hit.
I’m not really sure how Pouliot and/or his agent managed to justify a near half mil pay increase to Pierre Gauthier, but regardless, the big winger did manage 15 goals and nine assists in his 39 games as a Hab during the regular season.
Where he disappointed was in the final run to securing the playoff berth, and in the playoffs themselves, where he notched only a couple of assists. Like Max, Pouliot is also planning on achieving more next season and reports indicate that he’s working out regularly, trying to gain some weight.
In game 2 versus Pittsburgh, Pouliot was effective in using his speed and his big body to hammer the Penguins into the boards, and his driving to the net resulted in a beauty secondary assist on Gionta’s goal. He claims to have learned a lot during the playoff run, and since he’s only really logged about a half-season in Montreal, I feel it would be unfair not to give this kid a chance.
He was, afterall, dropped into a team that was still learning to skate together. Hardly a cohesive unit that could simply envelope and nurture him, and we have to remember that at 23 he is still young.
Now that the team itself has defined itself as hard working and gritty, Pouliot will have to subscribe to that mantra in order to earn a new contract again next year. Like Lapierre, he’s on a short lease, albeit a fancier one.
At times Pouliot has proven himself a speedy, effective winger with a big body who is hard to knock off the puck—something the Habs desperately need. Since the organization can’t afford to replace him this year, the coming season will be his shot to prove himself.
Fearless prediction: Pouliot’s young enough that his potential, with continued effort from him and proper mentoring from some of the team leaders and coaching staff, should start to blossom.
If that happens, he can and should be a keeper.
He’s too inconsistent for my liking. He has poor defensive awareness and lacks “hockey smarts”. Remember that soft dump during the playoffs that led directly to a goal? I also remember the hat trick, but that’s the exception with AK, and not the rule.
The fact is that his offensive output has declined since the 2007-2008 season. I know he was injured for part of last season—heck, who wasn’t—and that issues with his brother may have proven detrimental to his game play. But either way I expect this to be the last year that Kostitsyn is a Canadien.
The problem with Andrei is that he’s either red hot or he’s stone cold. There seems to be no middle ground. I’m not sure why his strong potential has failed to pan out. I don’t pretend to be an analyst, just a Habs fan, and I know that when I watched him play during the playoffs, something was missing for me.
He could have used a healthy dose of Cammy’s or Gio’s rah-rah team spirit maybe, but his heart didn’t seem to be in it. Yeah, he had the hat trick, but other than that he seemed invisible to me.
For the output he’s producing as a top six winger, he’s grossly overpaid. If he continues without improvement, and Pouliot and Eller—or any of the other kids—manage to contribute effectively, I expect he’ll likely be moved during the season.
Even if Andrei does get hot, the Habs will not likely want to increase his salary accordingly. It would be much easier to let him walk after next season, or trade him when his value is high, and get a more consistently producing UFA. That or let one of the cheaper kids fight for his spot on the wing.
Fearless prediction: He’ll blow hot and cold, and get traded mid-season.
If I’m wrong, you get to point and laugh at me and say “I told you so!”
Tyg used to frequent the old Forum during her early childhood when her father was a corporate season ticket holder, where she fell in love with Larry Robinson, so her lifelong obsession with the Habs is entirely his fault.
Thursday, July 22, 2010