Friday, October 16, 2009

A chain reaction

With the performance the Canadiens and Jacques Martin received from Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn against Colorado last night, the little big guns for the Habs were reunited on the same line at practice this morning.

But now, Kostitsyn better be prepared to match or even exceed the effort he put forth in the home opener, because if he doesn't, Martin could be forced to break up Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta again to balance out the talent.

This is why Kostitsyn is such an important piece of this puzzle, and why it is so frustrating to watch him loaf through the start of the season. In last night's loss to the Avs, he definitely played his best game of the season, but the fact remains that Kostitsyn can be even better. Much better.

At one point early in the game last night Kostitsyn took a pass at the red line and was behind all three Avalanche forwards. If he had turned on the afterburners he could have put major pressure on the defence all by himself, especially since 1-on-2 situations are where he appears to thrive. Instead, Kostitsyn leisurely skated toward the blue line and entered the zone, allowing the Colorado forwards to join the play.

I know it's early in the season, but Kostitsyn has to recognize when he has opportunities to attack and do it. As well as he played last night, Kostitsyn only had two shots on goal, brining his total to 10 on the season. That's nowhere near enough.

Whenever Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri have been thrown together they've created things, but the only way Martin can keep them together is if Kostitsyn plays to his tremendous potential, which is all he's being asked to do.

A further positive effect of uniting the top line is that Travis Moen drops down to line three with Maxim Lapierre and Guillaume Latendresse. This is where I pictured him when he signed, and considering Lapierre has been invisible much of this year having a high-energy banger like Moen on his line may wake up his dormant forechecking skills.

It also allows Matt D'Agostini and Max Pacioretty to openly compete for a spot on the left side with Plekanec and Kostitsyn. One of these two guys will have to assert himself as a scoring presence for the Habs before the season hits the quarter pole, and I feel if the first and third lines are set, Martin could rotate the two into the left wing slot on this line until one of them forces Martin to keep him there. My money would still be on Pacioretty despite his rough start to the year.

Meanwhile, Alex Kovalev is now in the city, probably holed up in his hotel room to avoid falling back in love with Montreal. I'm not sure what to make of his return, but if the Bell Centre gives his a rousing ovation Saturday night, I might throw up. I have no problem with loving a player, and Kovalev was electrifying in his best moments with the team, particularly the playoffs. But he is no saint.

A lot of people have blamed Bob Gainey for letting Kovalev walk and giving his money to Brian Gionta. I was one of those people, but only because I felt Gainey could have had Gionta for less. I had absolutely no problem with Gainey walking from Kovalev after making TWO offers, with the second being the exact same as the one he eventually accepted from Bryan Murray in Ottawa.

If anyone is to be blamed for Kovalev not being in Montreal this year, it's Kovalev. Not Gainey, not his agent, Kovalev. He's the one who wanted an extra year attached to the contract, he's the one who decided to play hardball on July 1, a day when players simply can't afford to play hard to get.

You made your bed Kovy, and now it's time to lie in it.

Finally, I wanted to throw in my two cents on today's announcement by Quebec City Mayor RĂ©gis Labeaume regarding a new arena. Bravo, Monsieur le Maire. As a municipal election campaign winds toward the stretch drive, you announce that you are willing to commit $50 million towards a new $400 million arena in the hopes of landing an NHL team. Looks good in voters eyes, I'm sure, but in reality how on earth will you convince the two higher levels of government to pitch in the remaining $350 million needed for the project? How will you sell the idea to taxpayers that this building will be built entirely on their backs?

Really, these questions are less important than the optics here. Any hockey fan in Quebec City will now feel inclined to vote for you because of this master plan you unveiled today. It also explains how your meeting with Gary Bettman was leaked earlier this week, and also how this cockamamie idea of yours also got leaked. Well done. I'm sure the whole charade has won you a ton of votes, and that's all this was really about anyway.

Sure, I have no doubt you wouldn't mind getting a $400 million arena for only $50 million, who wouldn't? And I also have no doubt you would love to see the re-birth of the Nordiques, as would I. But you know as well as I do that we are light years away from even talking about an NHL franchise in your city, but the election is only two weeks away. So I understand time was of the essence and that a press conference absolutely had to be called today, even if you have a few loose ends to tie up. About $350 million worth. Good luck in that election.

1 comment:

Nolan said...

Agreed about the election posturing. However, he was secure in winning another term, (he won his position after the past mayor died in office) he is mush loved in the city, etc...All of this just to say that a % of his approach must be sincerely about a new stadium and a return of our Habs natural rivals.
As for your Habs analysis, spot on as usual. A little maturity and production from our home-grown players on the 2nd and 3rd lines and our imported new 1st line will have more time and space to produce to its assuredly top-tiered NHL capabilities.