Monday, September 29, 2008

No big surprises

The Canadiens cut 18 players Monday morning and the only real surprise is the number, not the names. Instead of 30 players surviving the first round of cuts it was 32, technically. But in reality the number of players remaining is 31 because defenceman Mathieu Carle was not cut, but he is recovering from a concussion and likely won't be ready for the start of the season.

The Hamilton Bulldogs begin training camp on Tuesday, and they'll be doing it without their top forward line, their top defence pairing and probably their number one goalie. Max Pacioretty, Ben Maxwell and Matt D'Agostini - who are expected to play together on the Bulldogs top unit according to head coach Don Lever - all survived Monday along with Gregory Stewart and Kyle Chipchura. On defence, Yannick Weber earned himself at least another exhibition game, as did Alex Henry. Marc Denis remains in camp, but I'd be surprised to see him get another start over the next week.

I would say the guy with the most pressure on his shoulders would have to be Chipchura, because his window is slowly closing on him even though he's only 22. His mere presence is having a desirable effect on Maxim Lapierre, who dropped the gloves with Panthers defenceman Keith Ballard on Sunday night. The way he did it wasn't all that honourable, mind you, because Lapierre dropped his mitts and started throwing punches before Ballarad even realized what was happening. But Lapierre is not a fighter, he's an agitator, and he knows Chipchura isn't a fighter either. So by dropping the gloves and showing that he's willing to do it, even if it isn't all that pretty, Lapierre was trying to show Guy Carbonneau he can offer something that Chipchura can't.

Chipchura has his own unique attributes that separate him from Lapierre as well - an ability to win faceoffs and superior hockey smarts - but the one area Lapierre beats him cleanly is speed, and that will likely be his ultimate downfall. Chipchura wasn't the fastest guy in junior, but he became even slower after ripping his right achilles tendon. He has to try twice as hard as the guy next to him to keep up with top-flight NHL forwards, and that's something Carbonneau simply can't have on a fourth line expected to draw some important assignments this season.

Maxwell's continued presence, to a lesser extent, could push both players to perform this week. He has the same bright hockey sense of Chipchura with a little more speed, but still not as much as Lapierre. His wild card is that he can fill in on the power play, while the other two can't. Both Lapierre and Chipchura remember what happened in last year's training camp when Lapierre was a surprise cut and Chipchura began the season in Montreal. I would imagine both guys see a little bit of potential for that situation repeating itself with Maxwell around.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

why do people insist that the window is closing on chipchura? because he made the club out of camp last year? i think alot of people forget that pleks played three seasons in hamilton and andrei kostitsyn played two and a half before making the club. chipchura has only played a season and a half in hamilton and s you noted, he's only 22.

i was hoping he'd be in montreal this year but i can't complain that depth is one of the key reasons he probably won't be. i'm disappointed that he didn't have a better camp but he's improved with every game. here's hoping he's even better tonight!