Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Montreal Canadiens 12-Man Roster

by Tyg

When I first thought about what forwards I want playing for the Montreal Canadiens next week, my first inclination was to have fun with it and go gonzo. Frankly, I’d pretty much ice Team Canada in the bleu, blanc et rouge.

But stepping off Fantasy Island here, I thought it only fair to work within the confines of the roster that head coach Jacques Martin has to choose from and pick my team accordingly.

1. Eller – Gomez – Gionta

Cap hit aside, Scott Gomez is actually a speedy, effective centreman who routinely gains the offensive zone. Brian Gionta’s attributes I’ve lauded time and again in a bid to get a “C” pinned on his chest, but in addition his chemistry with Gomez is undeniable.

Rewatch game 2 of the Pens’ series and pay attention as Gomez passes without looking to where he knows Gionta will be, as always, parked in front of the opposing net.

While Gionta routinely goes into the corners and fights for the puck, Gomez seems more reluctant to take a hit. What they lack is a solid winger who can take some hits, help Gionta win the battles, and still finish the plays.

Having not even heard of Lars Eller before the trade for goalie Jaroslav Halak, I wanted to reserve judgment on him until I’ve really seen him play. Other than some choppy internet feed the only real opportunity I’ve had to watch him was the Panthers game—which RDS finally decided to cover.

I liked what I saw.

He’s a big kid who’s constantly fighting for possession, and solid enough that he’s not easily knocked off of the puck. As a projected top line center, I don’t see the point in wasting him on the 3rd or 4th lines—both of which are just as easily anchored by others on the roster.

I think his skill set is such that he will adapt to playing on the wing with two veteran linemates.

Bonus: instead of the Giant Mexican Chicken line, we now have EGG.

2. Cammalleri – Plekanec – Kostitsyn

Like Gomez and Gionta, Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec seem to have found a certain chemistry—evidenced during the playoff run—which I am just as reluctant to break apart.

Cammalleri is a bonafide sniper and Plekanec is a solid two-way centreman coming off a career year—of which he’s still showing signs of at training camp.

Both are fast and fight for the puck, but a bit of muscle and a helping hand with the goal scoring would not be amiss on this line.

As for Andrei Kostitsyn, I’ll freely admit I’m not a fan.

He has the ability to be a great linemates he is clearly able to finish solid checks and still contribute offensively. What has been lacking for me in the past is the drive, intensity, focus and even at times some good old fashioned “hockey sense”. Since he’s killing it in camp this year and bringing actual sustained effort I’m willing to admit he’s earned another chance on the wing.

3. Pyatt – Boyd – Lapierre

Tom Pyatt has proved to be a trusted PK specialist who possesses good speed with enough hard work to help out with the occasional goal. Maxim Lapierre—who in my opinion is more effective on the wing—is a strong skater and constant puck hunter who should deliver good checks to help harass the opposition.

Dustin Boyd provides another injection of youth, speed and intensity to help complement this energy line.

4. Moen – Halpern – White

Here, I’ve sent Travis Moen down to help grind it out on the fourth line.

Along with the capable and intense Ryan White he will offer some toughness and still manage the occasional offensive contribution. Jeff Halpern as my centreman can help relieve Plekanec of some faceoff duties and offer veteran stability on my checking line.

On the Bench

Benoit Pouliot is a disappointment to me because no matter how great his talent level, for whatever reason he cannot and will not apply solid effort with any kind of consistency.

After watching his lack of effort at camp I’m no longer willing to just hand over a spot and hope for the best that he’ll get it together. While it’s hideously expensive, but I’d rather box Pouliot than put him on waivers in hopes that he’ll at least be good trade bait.

Ben Maxwell’s stood out in camp a couple of times for me, though not as much as Eller or White. Still, I’ll take Maxwell over Mathieu Darche any day.

I can’t fault Darche’s work ethic but Maxwell is no slouch in that department either, and he has more youth, talent and more importantly speed—on a team where it’s pretty much a prerequisite.

Since Maxwell can outskate Darche, he wins the toss up over Pouliot and Darche gets waived.

In building this roster it’s pretty evident that what I value above all from a player is a consistent, solid work ethic. Talent is only slightly secondary but I think these lines offer a pretty good mix of both, especially considering I did not have Team Canada from which to pick my players.

I doubt very much that my roster will even come close to Martin’s lines though, as he never answers my calls or emails and seems determined to vex me for some reason.

A big thanks to Scott Schmidt who tweeted the idea for this challenge yesterday and has gamely set the whole thing up after it snowballed uncontrollably.

Hopefully it won’t be the last such undertaking.

And now I’m lifting my self-imposed ban and am off to read what my fellow Habs writers had to say on the matter. Please be sure to check out their blogs too!

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.


Well we definitely have a similar roster! Of course, we also have a few huge differences. I like your third line, they were almost mine as well. But after I chose to give Pouliot ONE more shot, I hade no choice but to put Lars there. Great job! And we will definitely do more of these! Thanks for playing.

Yeah LOL Noticed that they were pretty close in terms of picks, even if we set up the lines a bit differently. Interesting to say the least. Can't wait for more of these "Challenge Blogs" cause they're a blast! Thanks so much!

Great read as always.

I will tell you my issue with Eller as a winger however. We lack centers in our organization.

Last season when Gomer was injured we tried Maxwell, Metro, Moore, etc... but none were able to handle the increased ice time and responsibility to put the puck in the net.

If Eller is groomed as an NHL winger then switching him back to a center at one point almost becomes a whole new learning curve.

He'll have a different defensive assignment, different position in both the defensive , neutral and offensive zones, etc...

Teaching him one position and getting him to excel at that position will only benefit this club.

The second reason is IMO the number one reason. Some of the best teams in the past 15 years have won because of depth down the middle.

Detroit sent out Yzerman, Fedorov, and Larionov or in recent years Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Filpulla. Chicago did the same with Towes, Sharp and Bolland. Colorado with Sakic, Forsberg.

We are sending out Plekanec, Gomez and Boyd. Hardly the type of depth which wins you championships.

I think if we can somehow get our hands on another top 6 forward then we can drop a guy like Pouliot or Kostitsyn to the 3rd line and truly build a team with depth throughout the top three lines.

Like I said though.....great input as always.

Willey, fab argument and I totally dig your POV. I just don't think Eller at centre is going to necessarily add all the depth we require either in his rookie year.

Frankly the only reason I chose to keep him on the wing was that I'm absolutely done with Pouliot, and I'm near that mark with AK46. Pouliot I have 0% faith left in and I want him gone. AK46 I'm at about 10%. So hence my reason for Eller in CHicken's spot.

Frankly with those 2 on the wings, I don't we have enough depth there either. If BP or AK46 had been firing with the rest of team during the playoff run last year I'd have a different opinion, but they didn't so I don't. What is Pouliot waiting for before he decides to get his act together - the Cup finals?

And a few good games at camp does not mean AK46 has changed his ways entirely either. Of course he's on a contract year so he might be pulling a page outta Pleky's book, so I'm willing to give him a short leash. With those 2 being non-factors or defensive liabilities, I thought Eller could help offset a bit.

I don't see us suddenly getting another top 6 forward we need unless Gauthier suddenly pulls another surprise trade. If Pouliot or AK get yanked and PG trades, then fine, keep Eller at 3rd line centre. Otherwise I'll plug my immediate holes with Boyd and Halpern and try to add a 5th guy to produce offense, instead of just relying on Cammy/Pleky and Gio/Gogo.

Agree completely we need more depth on the top lines, but it's also not just at the centre slot. Someone's got to complete the plays besides Cammy/Gio, and right now Eller looks like he can help participate.

Either way, centre or winger, I think he'll be an asset to the team and I'm just happy if he makes the cut. Will be tres interesant to see how JM will choose to play him.

Is this fun or what?

Fun indeed.
It's not going to last though my wife is dilating.

My philosophy for building a team has always been to build on your D-core and then down the middle. Center determines your play in most cases.

I am usually the pessimist but for some reason have a liking to Pouliot. Then again I think i was the only guy in this city who liked Tenderness as well.

I think PG can pull off a move very easily if he does this right. In our bottom 6 we have 8 or so players who can fill in nicely. What tis allows is for the team to move a body like a Moen for instance.

I like Moen and don't necessarily want him gone but moving his salary allows for a bit more flexibility.

Say for instance we deal Moen and prospect or high pick to Jersey for Langenbrunner. Or if they would prefer someone with less salary perhaps a guy like a Pyatt.

Making the move I think is easy especially for the Habs. We make so much money on this team that we can afford the luxury to bury a contract. It just takes balls and a change of philosophy.

Great read Roz! We have the same 12 guys just differently mixed. Too bad our 'dream' won't come true because Pouliot will be part of the lineup i'm sure...

Nice work Roz! I have to agree with Stevo here in that I think Pouliot will be in the opening day top-6.

How long he stays there is another question altogether.

I also agree with Willey re: Eller as a center. The kid is a natural center and I'd rather see him play his first full NHL season starting as a center on the third line—playing against poorer defense—than trying to be a top-6 winger.

He may very well END the season on the wing, but starting him as the third line center will give a big offensive boost to the bottom-six and this is something that was sorely lacking last season!

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