Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Centennial Curse?

With the news yesterday that Andrei Kostitsyn would be lost for approximately six weeks after undergoing knee surgery, it's time to ask the question whether or not there is indeed some sort of curse that has hit the franchise ever since it decided to make it's 100th birthday an incredibly long, drawn out, self indulgent love-in.

Let's count the number of debilitating injuries the team has suffered since the beginning of last season, the Canadiens' 100th. There was Mike Komisarek's shoulder injury after being beat down by Milan Lucic in Boston, costing him 16 games and a chunk of his self-esteem. Then Carey Price got a groin injury that people began speculating was in fact a trip to re-hab (followed by his utter meltdown after the All-Star break).

After that, Chris Higgins was lost for 19 games, Saku Koivu for 17, Mathieu Dandenault for 24, Alex Tanguay for 28 and the playoffs, Guillaume Latendresse for 18, Robert Lang for the final 32 of the season and the playoffs, Francis Bouillon the final 22 and the playoffs, Andrei Markov the final four and the playoffs.

Jump ahead to this season, and we have Markov going down in Game 1 and ultimately missing 35, Ryan O'Byrne missing 19, Brian Gionta missing 21, Hal Gill out for 14 and various other minor ailments along the way to Scott Gomez, Glen Metropolit, Sergei Kostitsyn, Georges Laraque, Jaroslav Spacek and Paul Mara.

And now this.

The Olympic break should provide the elder Kostitsyn enough time to get back for the final stretch run, but the Habs will only have 19 games left on the schedule by that point. We all saw what it was like when the Canadiens had two dangerous scoring lines for other teams to contend with, but that glimpse was all too brief, and we may have to wait until March to see it again.

I feel it bears mentioning that the Habs have played all of two games, Dec. 30 and 31, with the lineup we expected to see in training camp. It's no coincidence the Habs won both those games, and they even won one where their goalie was not the team's best player.

So, who fills Kostitsyn's spot in his absence?

Jacques Martin can say all he wants about how Matt D'Agostini has the talent to fill in on the line with Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri, but I don't buy it. Other than his first 10 games with the team, D'Agostini hasn't shown a whole lot of that talent. And as far as hockey sense goes, I wouldn't call the guy a Rhodes Scholar.

I would give Sergei Kostitsyn a shot there for a few games, and not a few shifts, because I feel he does in fact have the talent to play there. It just remains to be seen if he has the work ethic, but I believe if you place him in prominent role on the team he'll respond to the challenge.

A suggestion I received via Twitter after Thursday's game and also mentioned by Marc-Antoine Godin in La Presse of using Marc-Andre Bergeron in that spot is intriguing, and definitely worth a shot. With Sergei due to miss at least the next couple of games, that's what I would try tonight against the Devils.

And if that doesn't work, I'd go with Travis Moen. He knows his role, his size would create space for his two smaller linemates, and he knows how to take up real estate in front of a net.

Finally, voting closes in Habs blog off final on Sunday. I'm sitting four votes behind Dennis Kane right now, so I could use a hand. Of course, losing this thing would not cause me to lose much sleep, but it would be fun to win. So, if you like, you can vote here.

I'm covering the game tonight for CP, so check back for an update, or you can follow my Twitter feed for in-game thoughts.


john deere said...

I agree with your thoughts of giving Sergei a tryout and if you isn't ready or capable being a first or second line winger maybe it's time to look at trading one or both of them in the off season.

To me he just has to look like he belongs and can play at that level, not that he has to get a certain number of points or any specific result. I'm quite ambivalent about the two of them and I think sooner or later a decision has to be made whether they are a core part of the team or not, which is something that should be earned.

pfhabs said...


-2 points re post

1. you need to put players in a position to succeed. Moen is not a 1st nor 2nd line player. no more than Metropolit was nor Kostopulous or any other 3rd, 4th liner put in a position of giving size/grit to an offensive line without having the other offensive skills to play on a 1st line. hasn't worked before and no reason to believe it will now unless its just a shuffle move of 2 games until Sergei is back and tried out

2. leads me to my second point. although there's a lot of prospects in the system and in Hamilton these injuries just continue to show the real lack of depth the CH has in terms of players ready to step in and assume a fulltime productive role and not just be stop gap measures.

-when you add in that D'Agostini and Pacioretty probably could use some additional seasoning in Hamilton the parent club is quite thin on NHL ready bodies

-so although the CH farm system has been rated 3rd overall this year by the Hockey News poll of NHL scouts & GMs there's a huge gap between a good farm system and players being NHL ready

-if they make the playoffs any injury at that time, which is usually a war of attrition, would be debilitating.

-finally trading to fill these parent club gaps means young prospects and pics which is never a good move for a club not a Cup contender today. also may mean any potential move of Halak will wait until the deadline for as well as Desjardins is playing in the AHL it's a long way to NHL capable

V said...

Agree. No need to move Halak until the deadline. And depending on our situation, keeping him and moving him for less later would be a preferred option to being exposed if we are well poised for a playoff spot. All depends on what Price does.

Sliver24 said...

I like the MAB idea.

His value to the powerplay is obvious and the kudos he receives there are well deserved.

At the other end of the ice I hated watching his constant cafouillage, and shook my head every time he slowed up to let the opposing forward go into the corner to get the puck.

Frankly, his decision-making with the puck on his stick is among the worst I've seen from an NHL defenceman and he scared me on almost every shift.

But I really have been impressed with the way he's embraced his new role over the past few games on wing. He carries the puck well, he's been driving hard to the net with regularity, and the crazy chances he takes are not nearly as high-risk when he's is playing wing.

He also seems to have the right attitude and handles whatever is thrown at him with a smile on his face.

I guess starting the season without a contract will do that to (or for?) a guy.