Friday, March 7, 2014

We Got Vanek: Now What?

Therrien will have to find the right lines after the arrival of Thomas Vanek
When Montreal managed to steal Thomas Vanek during Wednesday's trade deadline all Habs fans were ecstatic with the deal. Everyone believed that most of the Montreal Canadiens problems were solved. What the Habs needed was someone with offensive capabilities while playing 5 on 5 as well as a guy who can play on their power play units. Vanek is exactly that.

Thomas Vanek has never scored less than 20 goals in all of his nine seasons (including this season). That's a pretty impressive feat. He is able to be a play maker occasionally, and is certainly not afraid to get in front of the net. If Thomas Vanek is used correctly with Montreal, it would not surprise me to see a solid offensive explosion throughout the lineup. I have an offensive lineup in mind that could help spark more than the line Vanek is on, but that would have a nice trickle-down effect to struggling players.

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Brendan Gallagher
Thomas Vanek - Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk
Daniel Briere - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Travis Moen - Ryan White - Dale Weise

The top line has been together for a while now, and there is no real sense to break it up. They have been producing extremely well together, and area a big part of Montreals offense. They all have pretty apparent chemistry, and are willing to fight for every inch alongside one another. Therrien would be mad to break them up.

The second line would be considered a secondary offensive threat. All three of these players have shown at one point or another their ability to put up points. A struggling Lars Eller has been buried on a line with players who do not suit his playing style, and those who have not been producing either. Flashback to the beginning of the year, where Montreal had the "EGG" line. This was the most dominant line on the team, no questions about it. It was unfortunately broken up to help a struggling David Desharnais. Where was that help for the now stagnant Lars Eller? This is it my friends. Galchenyuk is a good sized body that will battle along the boards, and has a great shot to mix in with a nice pair of mitts. Vanek has clear upside on this line with his career-proven ability to net pucks. All three will go to the net hard, forecheck hard, and make the opposition pay.

This third line would be the shutdown line. Lines two and three would be interchangeable in TOI depending on who their up against or what the need is at that moment. Think of having the ability to have two lines worthy of being the second, for different circumstances. Kind of nice, eh? As an added bonus, this third line has the ability to show some offensive flare, and Plekanec and Gionta have the speed and chemistry for great breakouts, and a speedy playmaker like Briere would only add to the secret lethal abilities this line carries.

Finally, this fourth line is just full of grinders who do not give up an inch to the opposition. You have two great penalty killers in Ryan White and Travis Moen, and another big body willing to hit everything, and not let a team get chances. All three are proven battlers. Willing to stick up for teammates, and take a bruise (or stitch) or two to help win every night. Do they have any true offensive fire power? no. But they are capable of burying a team in behind their net, get them frustrated, and force mistakes.

Brandon Prust is currently injured, however he could easily slot into that fourth line. Once healthy I would see him slotted in for Weise, and all four of these players would be able to interchange every few games. It's a hard position and having all four of these guys to play that tough, gritty, fourth line role is essential in this last stretch, and playoffs. Parros would obviously still be available, but with teams getting quicker in these final few games, I would not recommend it.

Jarred Tinordi - PK Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Douglas Murray - Josh Gorges

Our defence has been merely okay for the majority of the season. Subban has played great, however seems to be getting snubbed by Michel Therrien while players like Douglas Murray and Alexei Emelin are eating up the Norris Trophy Winner's ice time. Therrien needs to get his defence lineup straight now more than ever. I liked what I saw when Subban and Tinordi were playing together even strength. Murray NEEDS someone mobile to play alongside him because far too many times he is caught flat footed, and gets his proverbial "doors blown off". Josh Gorges is the most defensively sound Canadien, so I would like to see those two slotted in together, and then have the Russian duo suit up alongside each other. These lines are balanced enough to create some offense at the blue line, while being able to defend their own zone.

With these lines I can certainly see Montreal being a force to reckon with in the eastern conference. Whether or not Therrien decides to change up his lines, is an entirely different story. Over the course of the season we have seen Therrien hold grudges against certain players, even though they are some of, if not the best on the team. If Therrien can get over his little grudges, it will certainly help benefit the team.

The Habs are heading into the home stretch. Marc Bergevin traded for Vanek for a reason, and that is because he truly believes in this Canadiens team. They have the skill in the lineup. What they need is two things. First, they need the opportunity to be the best that they can be. This can only be achieved by maximizing every individuals strengths on the ice, and that involves moving players around. Get this team ready for playoff hockey. Second, they need the desire to win, at all costs. Habs fans have seen too many times this squad come into a game looking lazy, and disengaged. When they come in fired up, and battling for every puck and every chance, they are a dominant team.

Your move, Michel Therrien

Thank you for reading, please leave comments below, or tweet me @darrinharmy on twitter. Thanks for the read.


I love how Pleky - our most responsible and a far better centerman than Lars Eller - gets dropped to the third line and now doesn't only get Vanek but also doesn't get to keep Galchenyuk. Eller is not a second line center and I don't see the need to mollycoddle him anymore. He refuses to use his size, takes idiotic penalties at inopportune moments, and couldn't score nor even assist if his life depended on it.

Put Vanek with a centerman that (a) actually gives a rat's ass and (b) has some ability. Ditto Galchenyuk since he's never apparently getting moved to center, which is long overdue.

Eller has become Scott Gomez for me. Any line he is anchoring is the vortex of suckitude.

I completely disagree with your opinion on Eller, but I can understand where you're coming from. I still think Eller has offensive capabilities, but he has no confidence. He's been playing with Bourque and another random winger that cant be considered a scoring line or a defensive line. It's just mush that got thrown together as extras.

I don't want Plekanec playing third line minutes, that's not what I meant if you re-read a part of the article. I want him to continue playing as he is, I personally think he has been our best and most consistent forward this season.

I just put the two "offensive" lines as the top two, but as I said in the article: "Lines two and three would be interchangeable in TOI depending on who their up against or what the need is at that moment".

Eller played great at the start of the year and you can't deny that. When he actually had some quality along side him

Eller has had plenty of time to regain his confidence and yet now he can't not only play offensive, he barely can play defense. Pleky has had a steady revolving door of craptastic wingers for years and still produced. I don't see the need to hang the albatross that is Lars Eller around Vanek's neck. It hardly smacks of a recipe for success and we've already sacrificed the EGG line to "fix" DD and we tried for years to "fix" Gomez. I'm completely sick of that.

As for interchangeable lines switching from offensive to defensive re: swapping Pleky & Eller's line - Eller obviously cannot switch back and forth the way Pleky can and Therrien sucks at line matchups to begin with so the likelihood of that strategy meeting with success is little to none.

Eller played great at the start of the year... sure. When he had some quality. Sure. Pleky plays great regardless. Why not let him enjoy some wheat instead of constantly feeding him chaff year after year instead?

BTW the line matchups in practice today has Vanek with Pleky.

I don't think you're understanding what I'm suggesting. you're letting your frustration with Eller cloud your judgement on what this habs team could be if players were actually used to their strengths as opposed to just thrown out with random players.

Also DD has been one of the teams best producers since he was moved to that line. Who is to say that Eller couldn't have that same result?

I don't understand your point as you're arguing with my opinion but agreeing with it at the same time? I'm confused.

Yes I know they were. Thanks though, I guess.

I understand your line combos just fine and except for the first line it makes no sense.

I'm not clouded on Eller. Vanek isn't going to fix him. It's on Eller to up his game, pull up his socks and play like he actually gives a damn and has the ability to (something DD did) and not wait for a gifted winger to bail his ass out.

Also this whole using one player to fix another has never worked right back to the days of Jacques Martin so I don't see that as a recipe for success, sorry.

And if you're waiting for Michel Therrien - who consistently fails to use this team to its strengths (overplaying Murray, benching Subban, dump and chase, piss poor line matchups) to get it right by swapping out Eller and Pleky as the situation warrants then I maintain it's a recipe for either an early first round exit or missing the playoffs altogether, especially with Price still out.

Instead I submit that the best place for Vanek is on Pleky's wing because Pleky is not going to suck Vanek into a vortex of suckitude like Eller is likely too, rather than Vanek "fixing" Eller.

I'm not agreeing with you. The sure sure was pure sarcasm. You're welcome.

I would go with your line combos with one exception: I'm swapping Briere and Galchenyuk. Chucky has played well with Plek and Gio and is a left-handed shot. Briere has past chemistry and knowledge of Vanek's game from their time in Buffalo and is a right-handed shot as well. Slotting Eller between them works, as Lars can do the dirty work in the corners and play his physical game.

Vanek and Briere will get PP time and Pleky can move around and play with them their over Eller, thus not relegating Pleky to third line minutes. In essence I see the 2nd/3rd line as 2A & 2B.

Keeping Pleky & Gio together allows them to continue to play the shutdown role if need be, Chucky can improve his defensive play that way, too.

Thats just me.

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