Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Century Club

Well, this is my 100th post on The Daily Hab-It, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to ask people for some feedback, what they like and don't like, what they'd like to see more of, stuff like that. If you don't like the blog I really want to hear from you, and if you do I'd love it if you told some friends about it.

Looking forward to seeing those comments.

Moving on to tonight's game, I won't be at the Bell Centre because my own team, the Dirty Walruses of the Concordia University Intramural Hockey League, has a game in that coveted 10 p.m. time slot. I don't get the chance to play often enough, so I thought I'd pass on the Lightning tonight and work up a sweat.

If the Lightning would care to send a scout to my game they might find someone who could compete for some minutes on Tampa's top-six defence, because it's really a sorry lot.

As far as the Habs go, when I saw the lines for tonight's game I couldn't help but think of something I wrote about back in September. It was concerning how Bob Gainey might want to proceed with the restricted free agent status of Christopher Higgins and Tomas Plekanec. At the time, I wrote that it might be a good idea to sign Higgins early but that in Plekanec's case it might be a better idea to see if he could repeat last season's breakout performance.

A third of the way through the season, and neither Higgins nor Plekanec are playing their way into lucrative contracts for next season. With Higgins on the shelf for the second time this year, his numbers and overall impact on the game have been pretty disappointing thus far when he's been healthy. Plekanec shows flashes of his former self, but it hasn't resulted in the production expected of him.

Neither player is struggling due to a lack of effort, and in Higgins' case I would say he's even trying too hard. That, to me, should be a big warning sign for Gainey because if there is one thing that has marked Higgins' career so far, it is his inability to forget a poor performance and move on to the next game. One bad game for him often times stretches into three or four because he tries to over-compensate more and more every time out. And when that becomes a full-blown slump, his look of exhausted misery in the dressing room after games and practices tells you all you need to know about how hard he takes it.

Higgins said prior to training camp that was one thing he wanted to work on this season, but he doesn't appear to have solved the problem.

Plekanec is truly a competitive guy and wants to succeed, but his problem so far this season has been the same one he identified in last year's playoffs, when he said he was playing "like a little girl." Of course, that was an exaggeration, but Plekanec often takes outside routes to the net which leaves him out of high-percentage scoring areas. He enters the zone with lots of speed, but then doesn't use that speed to challenge defenders into making a mistake, often letting them off the hook by trying to beat them outside. That might work against the Lightning tonight, but it won't against real, NHL-calibre defencemen.

Plekanec's linemate tonight is also playing for a contract next season, and Guillaume Latendresse has not done himself any favours with his play so far. He's been given every chance to succeed other than a permanent spot on the power play, yet he's squandered every opportunity given to him. Outside of a four-game point streak from Oct. 11-18, the Golden Boy has a goal and an assist this season.

Latendresse said in the pre-season that he drew inspiration watching Tomas Holmstrom and that he felt he "can make a living being around that net." Then again yesterday, Latendresse mentioned how he needed to "go hard to the net and stay there." Well, he hasn't done it on a consistent basis his entire time in Montreal, and he'd better start doing it tonight after a four-game forced rest or else his return to the lineup could be a short one.

There has to be some sense of urgency hitting each of Higgins, Plekanec and Latendresse, because I would imagine all three of them want to stay here next year and with all the unrestricted free agents Gainey has to sign, that might not be in the cards.

A third of the way through the season, one of the three needs to step up and make it impossible for Gainey to say no at the negotiating table in June.


Ken said...

I just found (stumbled upon more like) your blog and it's great. With more time, more people will come for sure. Excellent analysis and review of habs games.
I went back to read all of your recent posts, refreshing to have a blog with someone who works on the habs and also really knows what they're talking about (although you modestly deny it!).
Keep it up.

Sliver24 said...

First off, I love the blog. While I don't always agree with your conclusions, your ability to clearly explain how you arrived at them allows the reader to see things from a different perspective. That forces them to rethink some of their own assumptions and conclusions.

It's also refreshing to read the perspective of someone that has the access you do to the players and coaches in a friendly, informal setting.

Finally, while there's no doubt your readers are serious Habs fans, it's good that you keep it lighthearted.

Now, on to the Habs. In the interest of brevity (not necessarily my strong suit) I'll only make one comment on today's entry, specifically about Latendresse.

The good news for Lafaiblesse is that he no longer needs to watch PVR'd Red Wings games to see how he should have been playing since the beginning of the season. now all he needs to do it watch Matt D'Agostini play in the offensive end while a linemate has the puck and he'll find everything he needs to know.

Anonymous said...

i think the quality of the blog is clearly demonstrated by the quality of comments from your readers. Don't dumb it down for the masses! (even) More first hand informal stuff would be great.

Could higgins and pleks be suffering from not having a contract? Most players work harder in a contract year but perhaps these two are the exception? Hard work has never been either ones issue. Maybe the uncertainty of not having an agreement puts to much pressure on them to perform...

moeman said...

Love reading this blog. Informative, intelligent and interesting.

SRS said...

I frequently find myself passing off your opinions/facts/figures as my own. Works great at parties, in the locker room, by the watercooler... Unfortunately for you, this makes me want to hoard the source. There's no way I'm spreading the good word of "The Daily Hab-it." I refuse to go back to sounding like Pat Hickey... everyone sounds like Pat Hickey.
Cheers Arp, Keep up the good work.

Silver: thanks for the info about games played in the bigs... from last week.


Anonymous said...

Arpon - I've very much enjoyed your posting and insights. Keep up the good work. Between you and Boone we've got the commentary that is very insightful and enjoyable.


Anvilcloud said...

This is a favourite blog. I respect your moderate opinions and like the fact that you get to see and talk to the players a little bit -- like what you reported about Higgins just now. Keep up the good work.

Arpon Basu said...

Thanks for all the compliments, it's much appreciated and motivates me to keep trying to make this thing better.

Jody Kliffer said...

I read your blog frequently cuz I live in Vancouver and can't watch the games. I trust your opinions and like your analysis.

what would I like to see more of? Hmm... maybe keeping up every once in a while with the talent in their farm teams. There's a lot of talk about it early on, we all get excited about the prospects, then we don't hear much until the off season (from any source, not just yours). I'd be interested to know how that Dryden-sized goalie is doing, those D we signed 2 years ago, etc.

But yours is the best! Keep it up.

Arpon Basu said...

Hey Jody, streams every Canadiens game online. It costs $80 for the season or $20 a month or $3 per game. I've never actually watched it, so I don't know if it's worth the money in terms of picture quality, but you may want to check it out.
And I will try to do more on Habs prospects seeing as I try to keep track of them as much as I can.