Friday, September 12, 2008

The best move available

Yes, Mats Sundin would have had a bigger impact and made the Canadiens a legitimate Cup contender, but barring that, this was the best fit available for Bob Gainey right now. The fact he was able to get Robert Lang from the 'Hawks on Friday without surrendering a player from the organization only makes it that much better.
Say what you will about Lang - that at 37 years old he's lost a step or two, that his playoff performances have been less than outstanding, that he's not the toughest customer in the league - but his addition gives the Canadiens three solid scoring lines, and a pretty elite checking line as well.
I outlined the reasons why I thought Gainey should grab Lang in my inaugural post on this blog, so I won't go through those again. But just look at the domino effect this creates among the Habs forwards.
Lang, Saku Koivu and Tomas Plekanec are now centring a group of six very capable wingers - Alex Kovalev, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, Chris Higgins, Alex Tanguay, and Guillaume Latendresse (OK, he's not very capable just yet). Whatever combination you come up with out of those nine players should work reasonably well, and be more or less interchangeable on the ice. Then the checking line would be drawn from the group of Maxim Lapierre, Kyle Chipchura, Georges Laraque, Steve Begin and Tom Kostopoulos (assuming Chipchura or Lapierre don't get cut in camp, which is a very real possibility).
This is what I would do with the forward lines:

Tanguay - Plekanec - Kovalev
A. Kostitsyn - Koivu - S. Kostitsyn
Higgins - Lang - Latendresse
Kostopoulos - Begin/Lapierre - Laraque

Now, Gainey just has to hope that Sundin remains as non-commital as ever for as long as possible, but frankly, I'm not sure how he will perform without going through training camp and he could mess up the chemistry of whatever team he eventually signs with. This is a far less risky option, especially since it only cost Gainey a second rounder.
In the end, Gainey managed to turn Mikhail Grabovski into Robert Lang and Greg Pateryn, because the second round pick he sent to the Blackhawks was the one that came back from the Leafs for Grabovski. Not a bad return for a guy who didn't really figure in the team's plans anymore and is completely unproven in the NHL.

3 comments:

Yves said...

I love this move.

Gainey pratically gives up nothing.... just like you said.. Grabovski turns into Pateryn and Robert Lang!

I'm really glad that Gainey didn't wait any longer. Better to have Lang at the start of training camp then sign someone 10, 20 or more games into the season.

Given that Lang has been consitent for years, and that he already has good rapport with Kovalev and Roman H certainly does make this move look like a good match.... plus the fact that Lang's faceoff skill makes the Habs stronger in the circle..

I'm so excited for this season...

Anonymous said...

Arpy,

Great blog, very much enjoying. I think the Lang signing is a good one, meets our needs for the next season or two and gives us four solid lines. I am interested by your line calls -- why break up Pleckanec, Koalev, A.Kost? Wouldn't Tanguay look good on Koivu's wing? Having said that Koivu flanked by the brothers Kostitsyn does look pretty good.... The big question for me is Lantendresse -- he seems stuck between player types -- too slow to get around D-men, not quite able to muscle his way into good scoring position, and too often, despite his good hockey sense, not able to finish his chances. I don't mean give up on him yet, but some distrubing memories of Patrick Poulin come to mind ... The fourth line is also a conundrum -- Kyle Chips should be given some games to show what he can do -- but in my mind Lapierre has really showed his worth to the team -- he brings energy every night, mixes it up, and his offensive / defensive package is solid. I am also a big supporterofBegin,but one of these days his legs won't be there or he will get injured with the way he throws his body into every shoft. Laraque is a great addition, but not an every night player....all to say I would probably start Tanguay on koivu's wing and keep A.Kost with Plecks and Kovalev.

As for 3rd line:

I like Higgins and Lang, with a platton of Lantendy and Kostopolous (whoever is bringing it more consistently gets the ice time)

On the fourth, I like Laps centering Begin, with Laraque and Chipchura platooning depending on who we are playing...

Take it easy Arps, keep the news flowing, psyched for the season!

Chris Frankel

Arpon Basu said...

Hey Spanky,
Good points all around, I just feel Tanguay and Koivu are too similar in style to play together. May as well spread that playmaking goodness around and see what happens. But basically, any combination you come up with for the top three lines should work. I'm not sold on Chipchura yet, at least not enough for him to unseat Lapierre or Begin in that role. The only way he could is if he became a kick ass faceoff guy, which he may very well do.