Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Can Habs Afford Players With Too Much Edge?

On Thursday night, after the Canadiens were eliminated by the Ottawa Senators, I took up my customary spot in the production booth for the final post-game show on

During that show, Simon Tsalikis of TSN 690 questioned why the Habs didn't go after a play like Raffi Torres at the trade deadline to bolster their physical game. I took exception during the show, and voiced my displeasure of entertaining the notion of having Torres wearing the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.

I don't have anything against tough players. I loved former Habs like Chris "Knuckles" Nilan, Lyle Odelein and Todd Ewen (to name a few) who could be physical, yet brought some game along with their truculence. They are the type of players this team needs moving forward, in order to compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and possibly make a run at hockey's Holy Grail.

However, players in the mold of Torres, along with Matt Cooke and to a certain extent Ryan White, are example of players who have not distinguished the fine line between physicality and borderline recklessness.

Last night was a prime example, where in the second round opener between the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks, Torres took a run at Kings' forward Jared Stoll. Torres hit Stoll from the blind side, making the head to principle point of contact, while Stoll was reaching for a puck.

I don't have an issue with the play itself, but like the Erik Gryba hit on Canadiens' forward Lars Eller, there was no need to cut to the front of the player, and take an unnecessary risk of putting your team on the penalty kill. If Torres, like Gryba, would have hit Stoll on his lead shoulder (the one facing the direction Torres was coming from), my point would be moot.

Hitting was introduced to hockey as a way to separate an opposing player from the puck, not his head from his body. Players are taught at a young age that body checking should target the lead shoulder, the middle of an opposing player's chest or the hip.

Of course, in the professional ranks, selling the game has become more important than protecting its assets. Fans love a good open ice hit, that not only rattles the receiving player, but those watching from the stands as well.

Players like Torres and Cooke have deprived fans of talents like the Penguins' Sidney Crosby, Chicago's Marion Hossa and Bruins' forward Marc Savard, because they believe their jobs are to remove a player from competition, not simply make them pay physically for having the puck.

As a team in the process of reestablishing its franchise identity, am I certain that, to a man, the Canadiens' brass most certainly wants to address the need for more size and physicality on their current roster. However, I find it disconcerting that fans clamor for players that play with reckless abandon, without any concern for their opponents or the repercussions for their respective organizations.
Sure, we all love the acquisition of a player like Brandon Prust, who not only bring character and a physical game, but he has above-average hockey sense for a player whose primary role has always been to bring energy and help with special teams. That said, there is a point that I, and I believe the Canadiens, simply do not want to cross.
Ask yourselves: Would you prefer the Canadiens draft a young, physical player, that can mold into the type of player the organization needs, or would you prefer dealing with the track record of the aforementioned perennial judgmentally challenged?
I think you can all guess what my answer would be...


If we can bring in a veteran stop gap on the cheap for a year, sure. I wish the Habs landed Steve Ott, I've always been a fan of his game. Raffi Torres, not so much.

Bryan Bickell fits the bill perfectly I just hope Chicago lets him go and we sign him! I am not a fan of Torres but who would you target in FA this summer as a good fit for a tough big winger?

perhaps the shoulder is not the body? a body check should make contact with more than a shoulder (or head) - perhaps you should hit the shoulder AND hip to qualify as a "body" check (read: legal check).

@Anonymous - When teaching a player to hit, it incumbent that a target area be identified. Those are the lead shoulder (should a player be coming at you on an angle), the chest (if he is coming at you directly) or the hip.

And to your point, a classic hip check employs only hip on hip contact, therefore your definition of legal check isn't really viable in my context.

4th line players are a dime a dozen. For every Torres, Cooke, Kaleta, Komorov, there are probably 7-10 guys who play with grit and determination but don't act as cheap shot artists.

I still firmly bleive the Habs should have gone out and acquired a Torres but as many pointed out. Less than 30% of 2nd round choices ever make it to the NHL, so taking a chance for some playoff success IMO would have been worth it.

With that said the Habs need to add size and grit both in the top 6 and in the bottom 6.

In the top 6 they need to look to add a guy like Clowe, Clarkson, Horton or even a guy like Dupuis via UFA.

In the bottom 6 there are many names out there. Steckel, Begin, Larose, Bickell, Mayers, Bordeleau, Ryan Jones, Smithson, Adam Hall, Craig Adams, Torres, Nichol, Orr, Lapierre, Hendricks, I mean there are so many to choose from.

I Agree, To Begin, recycle Begin then Yappy Lappy ,

What about a big physical defenseman who can clear the front of the net and make guys pay for messing with price? I think a big physical forward and a big mean defenseman and with their speed they are right there.

I like Ryan White, I think he got some mixed message of his role out there, and was disappointed in himself for a couple dumb penalties that it effected his confidence this year. I think he can be a solid 4th line guy who hits and actually has speed and plays with desperation (no offense Moen).

give ryan white some responsible minutes and I think he can develop.he is not a fighter, but def an agitator, and every team needs that.prust is more of a meat and potatoes grind it out player. as for moen, way overrated. his lucky tko over weber years ago is his claim to fame, along with the lockdown line in the 07 cup run.time to say goodbye.

I have been watching this once proud team and it's delusional fans Think that Plekanec is a topline center, and now we have Another Midget on the second line with Desharnais replacing Gomez. THATS where your weakness is, Both a timid and too soft for playoffs hockey, as the Ottawa Senators proved..AGAIN..

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