What Will the Montreal Media Do Without Their Poster Boy, Guillaume Latendresse?
posted by Rocket
There is no denying that Guillaume Latendresse has enjoyed an extraordinary amount of media attention well in excess of what a player with his skills and his numbers would normally deserve.
So, who is this player who received so much ink and broadcast time? Is he really one of the greats in Canadiens history? Are the rest of us just not seeing it?
Latendresse has 48 goals and 37 assists for 85 points in 232 NHL games. Latendresse is one behind Charlie Sands and one ahead of Bert Corbeau on the Canadiens' all-time point list.
Sands was a diminutive center who wore No. 9 for the Habs from 1939-1943. Sands was the last player to wear the number before Rocket Richard arrived in 1943. Sands was born in Fort William, Ontario and was a solid two-way player—sorry, those words would never be used to describe Latendresse. Sands' 86 points were scored in just 159 games.
Corbeau was a defenseman from Penetaguishene, Ontario who tallied 84 points in 167 games for the Canadiens from 1914-1922. Again, a player who achieved similar points in far fewer games than Latendresse.
Corbeau is described as a player "who made effective use of his size." Are you listening, Gui? Corbeau's career ended when he was sent to the Hamilton Tigers in 1922. Perhaps Latendresse's career could have been extended with the Canadiens if he had been sent to Hamilton for a year or two.
So, was Latendresse really the special player with unique talents that RDS and others would have us believe? No disrespect to Sands and Corbeau, but they aren't exactly household names among the Canadiens' faithful.
Chuck Lefley is a name some may remember. A superstar? No. But even Lefley had 20 more points in far fewer games: 174.
If the question was asked, which Canadiens player selected No. 1 overall was the biggest bust in the NHL, who would that be? Universally, the answer is the late Doug Wickenheiser. Wickenheiser was selected first in the 1980 NHL amateur draft.
Even the much-maligned Wickenheiser had better numbers than Latendresse: 115 points in 202 games and a plus-minus rating of 46. For his career, Latendresse is a minus 22.
The player that RDS would like to compare Latendresse to is Andrei Kostitsyn. Skills-wise, it should be obvious that these two players are in different worlds, perhaps different universes. They are also different categories of players.
Kostitsyn is a pure offensive threat. He has the best shot on the team, employs his speed, and isn't afraid to go to the front of the net or get involved in heavy traffic. None of those qualities are found in Latendresse's game.
When making the comparison, certain media conveniently exclude other factors. While Kostitsyn has had to work his way through the normal hoops of the organization, including time in Hamilton, opportunities were simply handed to Latendresse.
Even this year, Kostitsyn has been publicly and loudly dressed down by the head coach in practise. The worst Jacques Martin ever said about Latendresse was an indirect comment about him not being "willing to go to war." Latendresse was not even identified by name.
While Latendresse has enjoyed a daily ego boost from the French media, Kostitsyn had to endure vicious and unwarranted attacks. Some media even went so far as to manufacture stories about him and his brother last season. They talked about a scandal so serious that it would shake the foundations of the organization to an unrecoverable point. As we now know, the rumours were false.
For Latendresse, the praise was overzealous. In Kostitsyn's case, some of the coverage has been cruel.
Let's be frank. Latendresse was a power forward in stature only. He refused to go to the front of the net and did not make effective use of his size. He was slow and was not defensively responsible.
Latendresse certainly had a desire to be on the top line, but when given opportunities, he did nothing to show that he belonged. Gui lacks hockey sense and doesn't play well without the puck. He often looked lost with linemates who did not play his very simple north-south game.
In addition, Latendresse did nothing to earn a spot on the top line. His poor work ethic and negative attitude meant he was not willing to improve his slow foot speed or his level of physical conditioning. Despite ongoing requests from team management, Latendresse participated in only a token amount of power skating instruction.
One wonders if Latendresse's replacement, Benoit Pouliot, is prepared for the media attention that is waiting for him.
After learning of the trade, Pouliot said, "I do not come very far from Montreal. In my corner, when you're young, you look at the Canadiens games. My family and friends should be happy for me right now. I have never been traded in my career. It's going to be new, exciting."
The French media has not wasted any time in attacking Pouliot even before his plane has landed in the city.
Already, we have heard comments from Norman Flynn, who said, "Until now, [Pouliot] is a bigger flop than Latendresse. If the transaction is not working for the Canadiens, it will be easier to get rid of Pouliot than Latendresse."
Flynn is assuming that Pouliot will be a failure in Montreal and is looking ahead to the day he is dealt again.
Gaston Therrien said, "Personally, I do not think Benoit Pouliot is the ideal player for the Canadiens."
Perhaps that should be an indication of how little value there was for Latendresse outside the studios of RDS.
Other media comments were blunter. "We lost one and didn't gain one." "Pouliot is not a real Quebecker. He's from the other side of the border."
At least this is giving us insight into the myopic and insular view of some media. Doug Harvey, born in Montreal, couldn't even meet their narrow definition. Now we know that players of Francophone origin born just across the Ontario-Quebec divide don't count in their eyes.
Latendresse will not face a media onslaught when he arrives in Minnesota. He will not be falsely praised on every broadcast. He is about to get a very rude awakening. The name on the back of his sweater is not a golden scepter making him untouchable like it was in Montreal.
Latendresse will have to work hard and earn his ice time. Will Gui answer the wake-up call, put in the effort, and turn his career around like a Mike Ribeiro? Or will he fade away, never reaching his potential, like a Gilbert Dionne?
Time will tell—and if Gui becomes a star, RDS will be there to tell us that a mistake was made.
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