In the case of Latendresse, Wild scout Blair Mackasey has watched him play at least 50 times since being hired, seeing as he's a regular presence at the Bell Centre for Habs games. He's watched, like all of us have, how Latendresse has refused to play the role he's been given this year. How he's avoided the front of the net almost out of contempt for coach Jacques Martin, like he's telling him on every shift that there's more to his game than simply serving as a big body.
But that means Mackasey was also watching when Latendresse filled a valuable role last season as a third-line "energy" guy who dished out massive hits on the forecheck and chipped in offensively.
Meanwhile, in the Montreal scouting department, Pouliot was a well-known commodity. He was scouted extensively by the Habs leading up to the 2005 draft, and the braintrust here was convinced he could be the big, skilled centre the team lacked. And he was a Francophone to boot. I'd have to imagine Trevor Timmins caught a lot of his games with the Sudbury Wolves, and he has to believe the potential he saw can still come to the surface.
Basically, each scout had to convince their respective organizations that they had the system and the coaching staff to make these players realize their potential. If I were Mackasey, I would tell Wild GM Chuck Fletcher that Latendresse, when he was paired with Saku Koivu in the past, performed pretty well because he has soft hands around the net and a decent shot, even though his release is not lightning-quick. If he's paired with talented players on a consistent basis, he could score some goals for you.
If I were Timmins, on the other hand, I would tell Bob Gainey that there's no point weighing 230 pounds if you don't use it to its full potential by taking up valuable real estate in front of the net and, most importantly, staying there. If we're going to have a perimeter type of guy, might as well be someone with comparable size and who can skate.
Basically, someone like this:
That game was not even two weeks ago, and if Pouliot can do that on a consistent basis here once he return from this wrist injury, he should fit in just fine.
But that's the rub, Pouliot's ability to show consistent intensity levels, which is essentially what Martin appears to now be coaxing out of Andrei Kostitsyn. Latendresse's issue is not his intensity, necessarily, but his ability to recognize his own strengths rather than continuing to believe he's a player he's not. And the scouts on both sides of this trade have to believe they're seeing something the other team isn't.
If those are indeed the problems with the two players, I would have to believe the Wild have the upper hand in turning Latendresse around, because intensity is difficult to teach, but proper positioning isn't. And I don't think even his biggest detractors would ever accuse Latendresse of not working hard on the ice.
With Pouliot, here is a take from Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Pouliot was aggravating to watch at times because there was so much untapped talent. He scored 18 points in 65 career games, and motivation and processing the game seemed to be the problem. Former GM Doug Risebrough often bemoaned Pouliot's "professionalism."
A lack of "professionalism" can essentially be translated to an unwillingness to do what's necessary off the ice in order to have success on it. Pouliot has one DUI conviction on his rap sheet from three years ago, which is either a sign of a 19-year-old doing something stupid or of a more deep-rooted lack of discipline. Luckily for the Canadiens, discipline is something Jacques Martin does quite well.
And he will need to, because with Latendresse leaving town and Pouliot unable to play right away, that meant the recall of Sergei Kostitsyn from Hamilton. Martin will have to show a little more patience with the precocious younger brother than he did in training camp, but Kostitsyn better come here ready to listen to the coach every now and then as well.
Oddly enough, if Sergei suddenly explodes upon his arrival here, that alone would make the trade worth it for the Habs. Anything Pouliot would do at that point would be gravy, and there is the potential for that to be hell of a gravy.
Just imagine for a second if the status of the players in this deal were reversed, if the Habs had just traded a fourth overall draft pick for a player taken 41 picks later in the same draft. The Habs would be absolutely raked over the coals. So, don't they deserve a little credit for being on the other end of this deal? Because while Latendresse might still blossom into a very useful player in Minnesota, I highly doubt he'll ever be a star a la John LeClair.
Pouliot, on the other hand, just might. That's a lot of potential reward for little risk.