Sergei Kostitsyn being relegated to the press box was no big surprise, but Guy Carbonneau likely caused a brain aneurysm or two among the Montreal media today when he announced that Guillaume Latendresse will be joining Sergei for tonight's game with the Atlanta Thrashers.
I've got to admit I like listening to sports talk radio because it gives me a sense of what fans are feeling, and I try to get a good sampling in both French and English. Over the past few weeks I've noticed the same polar opposite opinions regarding Latendresse on each side of our linguistic divide - excuses from the French side and over-the-top trade demands from the English side.
Just last week, I listened to 45 minutes of callers complaining on CKAC that Latendresse isn't being used properly by Carbonneau, that he just needs a chance, that he does other valuable things on the ice despite his poor numbers and, this one's the kicker, that Carbonneau has something against Quebec-born players.
Latendresse has shown some degree of development this season in that he's hitting people again, which is why he made the team out of junior in the first place. That, admittedly, is a valuable commodity on this team.
But Latendresse was expected to do more this year, and Carbonneau said as much in training camp when he proclaimed that he had a job among the top nine forwards and would be counted on to provide offence this season.
In his first seven games Latendresse received at least 14 minutes of ice time six times, and the one time he didn't was his most productive game of the year with a goal and two helpers in a 6-1 win in Toronto. That game launched a four-game point streak for Latendresse as he rode shotgun with Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay.
But if you wipe that four-game stretch off the books, Latendresse has a goal and an assist this season with a minus-3 rating, and that's simply not good enough. His legion of apologists will say that he hasn't received time on the power play, and therefore isn't getting a fair shot. After all, he only has one fewer point that both Kostitsyn brothers, and they see tons of power play minutes.
I would counter that both of them showed last year they can be effective players on the power play, but Latendresse's continued unwillingness to plant himself in the goalie's kitchen and take abuse is what keeps him from getting those special teams minutes. That's all the more disappointing because Latendresse said earlier this year he wanted to pattern himself after Tomas Holmstrom and become that immovable object in front for the Habs, but his tendency to drift into the high slot waiting for a one-timer instead of just wreaking havoc in front remains unchanged.
This is not to say that Latendresse will not one day become an effective player, because he still might. To those people who would love to see him sent down to Hamilton I can guarantee you one thing - he would never clear waivers because any team would grab a 230-pound, 21-year-old with soft hands in an instant.
The unfortunate part of this decision is that while I think Sergei may get a wakeup call, Latendresse may simply begin further questioning himself. He's already not the most instinctive player on the team, and I'm beginning to wonder if anyone on the coaching staff has told him what exactly they expect from him.
It's a pretty simple formula: continue the strong play along the wall, but add a good dose of net presence to your repertoire. Doing it is not difficult, it's the willingness to do it that's the tough part. Otherwise every team would have a Holmstrom, or a Ryan Smyth, but they don't.
The Canadiens were hoping to have a guy like that this year, but that guy will be sitting in the press box tonight.