Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sundin all-out?

So Mats Sundin has already begun preparing for his life after hockey, signing on as a spokesman for Does this necessarily mean the big Swede is done for good? No, but it is a clear step out the door, and who can really blame him? This is a man who has spent his entire professional career playing for two franchises that had no real chance for success, and he continued to show up every night despite the hopelesseness of the situation. If he does come back, I can't imagine the NHL will be thrilled having one of it players promoting a gambling site after the entire Rick Tocchet kerfuffle a few years back.
A comment that interested me from the Habs golf tournament the other day came from Francis Bouillon, who told Francois Gagnon of La Presse that he's starting to get sick of all the clamour around Sundin. I have to admit this is something that didn't really occur to me over the summer while everyone was holding their breath waiting to see if Sundin would join the Habs. As Bouillon points out, no one has really given enough attention to Bob Gainey's acquisition of Alex Tanguay without losing a single player from the organization, aside from whoever he would have selected with that first round pick. For a team that already had a potent offence, this was quite a coup.
Another thing that is being slightly ignored is that the Habs ripped up the league last season essentially riding two centres, the same two centres they have now.
Bryan Smolinski didn't really start playing last year until February, so the bulk of the year consisted of Saku Koivu and Tomas Plekanec centring two scoring lines, and even then Michael Ryder's struggles made the Koivu line largely ineffective. Replacing Ryder with Tanguay is a monstrous step up, though I'm of the opinion that playing Tanguay with Koivu would be a mistake. The two are very similar in style and playing them together would be a waste of their playmaking skills.
I know a lot of people may find this unthinkable, but I would throw Koivu between the Kostitsyn brothers. The lone drawback would be that the line's nickname could be the KKK line, which no one would want to see, but I feel playing with the brothers could give the captain a boost late in his career. That way, you can throw Plekanec and Alex Kovalev with Tanguay, giving that line a bonafide playmaker and allowing Plekanec to concentrate on putting the puck in the net. I feel Plekanec could score 35 goals this season if he weren't burdened with trying to constantly set up Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn. Chris Higgins could slide down to what would be a pretty solid third line with Maxim Lapierre and Guillaume Latendresse, while the fourth line would be a mish-mash of Kyle Chipchura, Steve Begin (who can play centre), Tom Kostopoulos and Georges Laraque.
Speaking of Laraque, he got his first taste of why he has avoided playing in Montreal all this time when certain media were up in arms that he skipped the Habs golf tournament. Laraque even felt the need to call CKAC and explain himself, noting he hates golf and preferred staying in Edmonton to continue his preparation for training camp. Welcome to Montreal big guy.
Finally, Marian Gaborik seemed to suggest he intends on playing out his contract with the Minnesota Wild this season to see what free agency can bring him in an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo, which raises the spectre of a trade deadline deal if the Wild aren't in contention for the playoffs. Habs fans can start salivating now.


Dominic said...

I am enjoying your take on the upcoming season. Your blog is a nice alternative to the usual media outlets.
Keep it up

Anonymous said...

while we did essentially ride two centers last season we also went virtually injury-free. it would be a miracle if that happened again. i wasn't a huge fan of grabovski but i'm feeling his absence a bit now...

Andy J Smith illustration said...

Two centers who are small and ineffective against Anaheim, San Jose, Dallas, Detroit.

I never bought into the idea that "Montreal is too small" until I witnessed those games last year. They couldn't get near those teams' nets.

Anonymous said...

Just a comment about Sundin & the Nordiques. I can't really agree with your comment that they had no chance at success. The 92/93 team, for instance, finished ahead of the Habs that season & was just three years away from their 1st Cup win. If Sundin had been allowed to remain he may have tasted success there.

Arpon Basu said...

That's a fair point about the '93 Nords, but even some of his Leafs teams were pretty good and no one really believed they had a chance to win it all. I think the same applies to that Nordiques team, but then again the same thing would also apply to the '93 Habs, so go figure.