Thursday, October 2, 2008

What to do with Dandy?

You've got to feel for Mathieu Dandenault.

This is one of the few guys from Quebec who chose to come home and play for the Canadiens, and now he's caught in no man's land because suddenly the team is too deep and too talented for him to have a major role to play.

Dandenault had been avoiding the media like the plague throughout training camp, knowing full well the subject of his future would come up and not wanting to be a distraction. You've got to respect that.

He finally spoke to Fran├žois Gagnon of La Presse on Wednesday and admitted he'd like his status to be cleared up sooner rather than later, which is totally understandable, and is something he's earned.

I remember seeing Dandenault wandering around the Wachovia Centre in Philadelphia during last year's playoffs, clearly perplexed as to why he wasn't being given an opportunity to help a reeling club. But he declined all interview requests and never ruffled any feathers, at least not publically. He told Gagnon that it was during the final three games of the Habs second round series against the Flyers - all losses - that he began to see his fate with the team was essentially sealed.

So is there a market out there for a guy like Dandenault and his $1.75 million salary? Probably not at that price, but Dandenault remains a guy who could help any club lacking experience on the blue line, like the Tampa Bay Lightning or Los Angeles Kings. He's still an above average skater with two Stanley Cup rings who would be a welcome addition as a fifth or sixth defenceman on most teams, just not this one.

The Canadiens will most likely have to go the waiver route if they wish to help Dandenault find a new employer, and even then it might come down to re-entry waivers and eating half his salary in order to make it happen. It would be too bad if it came to that, because the Canadiens could definitely use Dandenault as an insurance policy in case they run into injuries on the back end or up front.

Speaking of waivers, I have to admit that I didn't realize Guillaume Latendresse would have to clear them to go to Hamilton, which eliminates any possibility of him being sent down. It doesn't mean he couldn't play on the fourth line should Max Pacioretty make the team, but I'm not sure the Canadiens want to see him playing with Georges Laraque on a regular basis, not after investing two years of development time on Latendresse.

Latendresse could have a breakout year this season, and frankly, I hope he does. It's a little unfortunate that Latendresse has become the flash point for the linguistic divide among the media covering the team, because if he was evaluated simply as a hockey player, and not as a "gars de chez nous," I think everyone would be able to see that he has the potential to become a decent power forward in the league. Not a superstar, as some in the French media believe, and not a bum either, as some in the English media do.

The sad reality of today's NHL is that, even at 21 years of age, Latendresse is going to have to start realizing some of that potential right now or else he risks being pigeon-holed league-wide as an underachiever with skating issues. Same goes with Kyle Chipchura, even though he's only 22. It's not right, but that's how it is because with free agency fast-tracked teams can't wait too long on prospects anymore.

I think 25 goals and 40 points is a reasonable and attainable goal for Latendresse to shoot for, especially seeing as he should be getting a consistent shift for the first time in his career.

Before finishing up, there is one thing I would like to straighten out about Latendresse's performance in 5-on-5 situations last year.

People like to point out that Latendresse was third on the team in even strength goals per 60 minutes, which is true. Want to know who was first? Michael Ryder.

What people have to realize is that the statistic can't be looked at in a vacuum, it needs some context. Latendresse, for all those 5-on-5 goals he scored, was still a minus-2 in even strength situations, and that was with him often times playing against the other team's fourth line. Saku Koivu was a minus-4 at even strength, but he was playing against far better players.

I'm not saying the statistic is completely insignificant, because it's not. The biggest significance is that Latendresse would easily have finished with 20 goals, and likely more, if he received some time on the power play last year. And by the looks of it so far, he may well get that chance.

Also, he played against the other team's fourth line last year because he too was a fourth-liner, so his linemates weren't exactly making things easy for him. This year, Latendresse should be facing the same quality of opposition, except he'll be on the ice with Robert Lang and Sergei Kostitsyn instead of Maxim Lapierre and Mark Streit, so look for those 5-on-5 numbers to improve.

4 comments:

Yves said...

I'm hoping that Latendress has a bit of a breakout year also. He's gone through some of the learning process... and with his comments about watching Holmstrom in front of the net.... I think he's going in the right direction. The guys got decent hands and a pretty good size frame. I'd love to see him make his way in front of the net.

As for Dandenault, I really feel for him. I think he deserves to play and if Carbo doesn't have a spot for him, hopefully they'll be able to find him a spot somewhere else.

Dandenault has handled himself with total clash in all this media stuff about his future with the Habs. +1 for him!

Yves said...

Oopss....

Last line should read:
"Dandenault has handled himself with total class.."

;-)

Darn fingers!!!

Anonymous said...

i've been waiting for latendresse to 'make his living' in the crease and his pp goal against boston made it more evident that that's where he should be (learning from holmstrom can do him no wrong). i'm not expecting a goal a night obviously but if he plants himself there he will, in fact, break out this year, especially if sergei's feeding him the puck. :)

thanks for your thoughts on dandenault.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why they need to get rid of Dandenault. Let's look at the projected line-up

A. Kostitsyn-Plekanec-Kovalev
Higgens-Koivu-Tanguay
S. Kostitsyn-Lang-Latendresse
Laraque-Lapierre-Begin/Kostopolous

Markov-Komisarek
Hamrlik-Georges
Boullion-O'Byrne

Healthy Scratches (Remember, a team can carry up to 3)
Begin/Kostopolous (whoever isn't playing that night)
Brisebois
and then number three would either be Dandenault or Chipchura. Here's some reasons why it should be Dandenault.

1. The guy is a class act. He might not be happy in the press box, but he won't be a distraction (not to say Chipchura would be, I'm just saying Dandenault has already proven he can stay quiet)
2. Sending Chipchura down costs nothing, but the Habs would have to eat some of Dandenault's salary to move him.
3. Keeping Dandenault uses one roster spot to keep an extra forward AND defenceman. If an injury happens to anyone, he can fill the spot.
4. Veteran Presence: I know this team has built itself on being young, but a team with stanley cup aspirations could always use a veteran in the lockerroom, especially one with 2 rings
5. Doesn't help Chipchura- Next year Kyle is a lock to make the team, and might have to carry a heavy load if a lot of the forwards leave via free agency. Let him get consistent playing time in Hamilton, and then next year he's only 23 and will be able to play 2nd or 3rd line if he's needed, not just occasional 4th line time.

Obviously these things would have to be explained to Dandenault in an attempt to make him happy, but I believe he'd go along with it, and I think he's still got something to offer this team.