Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Musings: The Dale Weise vs Rafael Diaz Edition

Greetings Habs Addicts!

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Well the Habs are officially on the Sochi Olympic break. Well, a third of the Habs are on the Olympic break anyway. The rest of the roster will be playing some high pressure, high intensity games on the worlds biggest stage - and ice surface, for that matter.  As always, we'll begin with a recap of this past week's games. The Habs played 3 very impressive games. Carey Price started all three, beginning with a tight-checking 2-0 shutout win over the Calgary Flames, this was followed by a thumping of the Vancouver Canucks.  Price out-dueled fellow Olympian Roberto Luongo, stopping 42 of 44 shots and Max Pacioretty netted a hat-trick (with two missed penalty shots) in a 5-2 Habs win.  Montreal headed into the break with a 4-1 dismantling of the Carolina Hurricanes, winning the season series 2-1. David Desharnais scored two goals in this one.  After a stretch where the Habs gave up 4+ goals in 6 straight games (1-5 in those games), the defensive effort came back strong in the past 7 games (2 or fewer goals allowed; two shutouts and a 5-1-1 record to show for it).  The penalty killing has been lights out over this stretch as well, allowing only 2 goals on 21 attempts during this stretch.

Recap aside, now its on to my musings.

- Biggest news of the week was the trade that sent Rafael Diaz to the Vancouver Canucks in return for grinding forward Dale Weise.  Hours before this trade went down last Monday, I had just finishing stating in my musings that I preferred to see Diaz in the lineup over Douglas Murray, feeling he'd pair up very well with Nathan Beaulieu, allowing the kid the chance to play on his natural (left) side instead of the right side. Needless to say, that will not be happening.  The stat geeks were up in arms over this deal, notably those who use the Corsi ratings who felt that Diaz has been our most effective defender.  While Diaz is a fluid skater, with decent puck moving skills, his shot is erratic and at 5'11, 197 pounds he is slightly undersized for an NHL defender. For the stat geeks, the average defenseman is 6' 1 7/8" tall, weighs 209.66 lbs and is 27.5 years old. Irrelevant, yes. But while Diaz blocks shots effectively, he provided absolutely no physical presence on the back end and while touted as an offensive defenseman, he was never going to develop into the second coming of Mark Streit on our power-play.

Dale Weise will never challenge Sidney Crosby for the scoring title (although he did show the ability to score in junior, so he's not a player who made his name solely by dropping the gloves).  He'll never win a Lady Byng award, either. Instead the gritty Weise brings size (6'2", 210 pounds) and strength to the Habs 4th line while possessing considerably more overall skill than George Parros. Weise is also fast.  He is the reigning back-to-back winner of the 'Fastest Skater' in a competition held each year at the Vancouver Canucks skills competition. Sure this is straight-line speed, but speed is speed. Weise is also a former junior teammate of Ryan White, who made his return to the lineup this week from a nagging "upper-body injury" after missing 14 games.  Paired up together with the speedy Michael Bournival, the energy line contributed 9 shots on goal and 9 hits, while averaging 12 minutes of ice time against Calgary.  Against his former team, Weise and Bournival set up Ryan White's first goal of the season, while contributing 3 shots and 5 hits, while averaging only 8 minutes on the ice (Bournival left with a concussion after only 5:02 of ice time; Weise played a line-high 10:28).  Saturday night in Carolina, White added another goal and assist and combined with Weise saw some time on the penalty kill and also added another 4 hits and 3 take-aways in their 10:55 and 14:02, respectively.

Ultimately, the Corsi-loving and stat based analysts hate this trade. But there is more to hockey than just stats.  Besides, there are stats to back up all arguments and only using select ones while avoiding others will allow for biased opinions to be made, even if they are backed up by the numbers. Much like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) are used to make advance stat-based arguments in baseball, Corsi and Fenwick ratings are starting to gain traction to rate production levels in hockey. While valid and helpful, advanced stats are not the be all and end all of how a roster should be built. Moneyball illustrated how the Oakland A's could build a solid yet slightly flawed, playoff contending roster on a smaller budget by incorporating advance stats in determining how they made roster moves.  While this use of advanced stats became a trend in baseball, followed soon thereafter by teams like the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland A's still have not won a World Series since incorporating the Moneyball strategy.  Sure, they've won games and made the playoffs, but they haven't won the championship with this strategy.  In hockey, the Montreal Canadiens can win games and make the playoffs with the lineup they have, but the goal is to win the Stanley Cup.  I think its safe to say, that in a seven-game series, a lineup of Dale Weise clones repeatedly coming at a defensive core of Rafael Diaz clones would ultimately lead to a lot of punishment suffered by the Diaz's, not so much the Weises.  That same core of Weises battling a bunch of Douglas Murrays would feel more physical pain on their end, while not necessarily scoring too many more goals.  There's no advanced stats to justify what a physical presence can have on a hockey game. Only hits. With that said, I much preferred to see Diaz in the lineup over Douglas Murray - because lets face it, sometimes the stats do tell the story as Murray has been horrible at anything that is not killing penalties.  However, that is no longer an option. We'll need to find another way to replace Murray.  Ultimately, the traditional way of grading players based on their skills and abilities to build lineups will never be replaced by paper stats. The stats can assist, but games aren't won on paper. Never were, never will be.

Truth be told, Marc Bergevin went out and solved a need while giving up an expiring asset.  Diaz has been a healthy scratch by Michel Therrien and was not going to make his way back into the lineup anytime soon. While a lot of fans on Twitter were angry over the deal, Diaz was never going to land us a P.A. Parenteau as earlier rumoured, or be a part of a trade for Thomas Vanek.  He was also going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and was surely not going to re-sign with the Habs.  So rather than trade him away for a draft pick who may or may not pan out (insert Trevor Timmins comments here) three or four years from now, Bergevin went out and filled a roster need by bringing in a fast, physical energy player in Dale Weise.

The fourth line has been a problem for the Habs all season long. Michael Bournival has been a solid contributor, providing a spark offensively coupled with solid defensive play.  Ryan White missed games with an injury, but has played well when given the opportunity.  White earned himself a spot in Therrien's doghouse last year with undisciplined play, but has continued to play a gritty, agitating game this season under a lot more emotional control.  Travis Moen has been ineffective again this season when healthy and George Parros has been injured and utterly ineffective when healthy (two concussions and 0 points with a -5 rating in 16 games played - averaging under 5 minutes per game).  The Habs have had a revolving door of AHL callups rounding out the 4th line this year: Louis Leblanc, Christian Thomas, Michael Blunden, Patrick Holland, Martin St. Pierre, Gabriel Dumont, Joonas Nattinen have all seen action and in a combined 25 games played have contributed a grand total of 0 points. Zero.  Dale Weise has out-scored all of them combined in his 3 games (1 assist). 

The fact of the matter is, none of our AHL players are NHL fourth liners. They are not grind-it-out, big and physical energy players.  Their games are based on skill and scoring.  They are top-9 material but none of them have proven to be NHL ready.  Montreal's defensive prospects (Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn) are all closer to being NHL-ready than our forwards are.  In fact, Beaulieu has already made the jump and will most likely never return to Hamilton again.  We knew going into this season that depth at forward was an issue.  Instead of relying on this revolving door of non-production,  Bergevin went out and traded for an experienced, young proven NHL grinder to fill the role that has been a hole in the lineup all season long. Weise will be a restricted free-agent at the end of the season - thus still under club control - and will be easy to re-sign this off-season and ultimately ship to Hamilton if he is outplayed or replaced by other new off-season additions.

In the meantime, Weise may never lead the NHL in Corsi and Fenwick scores. But no one will argue that his first week in the lineup has been a successful one.  We can expect to see a lot more games like we saw this week from the newest Hab as he continues to make his father proud sporting the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.

Coming up this week: SOCHI!  Go Canada Go!

While I'm proudly Canadian through and through and I fully expect the gold medal to come home again this year with Carey Price and P.K. Subban. I do want to wish the best to all our beloved Habs participating in the games: Max Pacioretty for the United States; Tomas Plekanec with the Czech Republic; Peter Budaj with Slovakia; and both Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin with the host Russian squad.  Also looking forward to watching a real underdog with three former Habs on it can do this time around: Team Switzerland boasts former Habs defensemen Mark Streit, Rafael Diaz and Yannick Weber.  We're in store for some great hockey over the next few weeks.

Enjoy it, folks!

Three Questions from my Musings:

A) Will Dale Weise continue to make a positive contribution to the Habs lineup?

B) Which current Hamilton Bulldog that has received a callup this year will make the jump and remain in the Canadiens lineup next season?

C) Who will in the Gold medal in Sochi?

Nick M. is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.


watched the bulldogs against the marlies yesterday on nhl network in the u.s.still like Dumont and blunden. and andrighetto might be a surprise addition. on defense pateryn over tinordi, who only slightly more speed than murray. I think beaulieu is ready to really step out

I agree with you on basically everything except for Moen.
In my opinion, he is doing a real good job this year (when he is not injured). I think we often ignore all the little things he does so well defensively!

Moen is replaceable and I could see him losing ice time and watching some games from the press box now that the 4th line is set. Short term, he can insert in the lineup over Bournival if his concussion lingers. It would not surprise me to see Parros waived after Sochi either.

Hey Nick do I sense that you are starting to like Murray and his big bruising checks? LOL
So next year we could see Tinordi, Pateryn and Nathan all in the line up for our D. That being said, that means we would have 3 rookies to go along with PK, Markov, Gorges, and Alexei. I don't know about that line up. It worries me, but then again they may surprise us all and gel as one big defensive unit. Your thoughts?

Mike, Murray can kill penalties like a boss. Thats it. anything that involves skating outside of the box exposes the fact that a sloth is quicker. That was more to point out the fact that advanced stats does not account for a large part of the intangibles of a hockey player.

I am 50/50 Markov returns. Contract length/price is a huge factor. Assuming Markov, Murray and Bouillon are gone, we'll be looking at a potential Subban/Gorges, Beaulieu/Emelin, Tinordi/Pateryn with Drewiske.

Obviously, someone needs to be signed. Rumour has MB looking at trading for Kulikov in Florida, he'd be a good Markov replacement albeit weaker defensively. But someone will be signed regardless.

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