I was born in a small Ontario town where I was first introduced to hockey by my father--an incredibly allegiant Leafs fan—with hopes for a future recruit. It didn't go as planned...
I'll be doing a regular column here at HabsAddict.com, and covering prospects and their development.
I'm very happy to be joining the Habs Addict family, and I feel privileged to be working with and writing for a group with such an incomparable passion for the CH!
So, without further ado, here's my first column...
Looking at players and line combinations for next season, would you break up the Montreal Canadiens' top line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Eric Cole?
The answer is usually a quick, resounding “NO,” and chief among reasons is that it’s unwise to dismantle the only line that produced offensively last season.
While I agree—after the train wreck of 2011-12 and the uncertainty it has created—that the mere idea is a frightening one, let me give you a few reasons why I think the benefits could be worth it.
What to do with Lars Eller?
It's been suggested before that Lars Eller on the wing, completing a second unit with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta would be an ideal scenario if Eller were comfortable there.
Who doesn't want to see a budding player with his promise develop further alongside offensive-minded attackers?
Personally, I don't believe—when looking at a checking line—that Eller is the right guy for the job. Yes, he's technically the team's largest pivot and isn't necessarily shy of the physical game, but isn't he meant to be a top-six player?
The potential is there and he deserves a real shot at an offensively defined role.
But for me, the real problem with the winger idea came when Eller said that he "doesn't mind playing there," followed by "I'll play where I'm needed".
He's not a veteran, nor a rookie. He's at that stage where things can quickly go south if he's not utilized properly. You don't want Lars playing a position that he "doesn't mind". You want him at center where he's naturally at his best, whether he's adjusting to the wing or not.
So the question now involves Desharnais and, more importantly, Plekanec.
The Plekanec Problem
I am still a firm believer that Plekanec is a No. 1 center in this league and, though he's very good defensively, is a world-class playmaker. There is tantalizing point-production that has been evaporating from his game while he toils on an ever-shifting, uncertain second line.
Until the Habs trade him in a package for a superstar pivot, Plekanec needs to be centering the best possible linemates available, consistently.
In my mind, Cole and Pacioretty are pretty well inseparable and they are both lock-ins for the Habs' premier line. I think we are all mostly in agreement on that, and for now I wouldn't suggest splitting them apart.
Desharnais on the other hand is a slightly different case...
Where to put Desharnais
This is not to suggest that DD hasn't earned the spot he's in, and I'm not denying the chemistry that he has with Pacioretty and Cole. Looking back at the year though, I don't remember DD being as integral to that unit's success as Cole and Pacioretty were.
For all intents and purposes, the Habs are at square one this season. They're starting from the bottom of the barrel and there's a new coaching staff driving the boat.
Is there not time to generate some new chemistry, perhaps with Plekanec centering the Cole line, and Eller centering Gio and Bourque? It's been talked about, but Le Tricolore remain without a solid, fully-defined second unit, and now seems as good a time as any to try and fix that.
Barring the signing of a more capable left winger than Bourque—though he deserves a second chance—to round out the No. 2 line, these are pairings that are still worth a shot for the benefit of Eller and Plekanec going forward.
Do we project Desharnais to be more important to the future of the Habs than Eller? And after all, is such a sacred chemistry not powerful enough to rekindle itself if these propositions don't work out?
What would you do to remedy the still very real issue of only having one decent line going into 2012-13? Is DD just too small to center the checking line, or not good enough defensively? Would you rather see DD on the No. 2 unit at Eller's wing, or is Eller better suited for a third line defensive role? Where would you play Scott Gomez?
Lets hear your thoughts!
Amos is freelance writer and columnist who covers prospects for HabsAddict.com. He also covers the Habs for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook
(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)