Most times it's only the superstars—the goal-scorers and the playmakers—that get the credit and the fame and glory that come with winning.
When really, if it weren't for their support from the role players—such as enforcers, checkers, and two-way forwards—their team could not perform as well shift after shift.
These role players make a team a well-oiled machine. In Montreal, the Canadiens have many role players mixed in with their top scorers.
Looking past Alex Kovalev, Chris Higgins, Saku Koivu, Carey Price, Andrei Markov, and Mike Komisarek—who get most of the media attention—the Canadiens have several other players looking to make an impact.
On defense, sophomore Ryan O'Byrne has re-signed and is looking to be one of the bigger defensemen on the blueline, both playing and size-wise. Also stacked with Josh Gorges and Francis Bouillon, the Canadiens' blueline has many role players that have already made an impact.
Bouillon's plus-nine and O'Byrne's plus-seven were tops among Canadien defenders. Not offensively gifted, these three defensemen fit the description of the prototypical role player.
Up front, grinders such as Tom Kostopolous and Steve Begin have proved they're worth their weight in gold at times. These players know their pesky role on the team, and how it influences the ebb and flow of any given game.
Within the younger players looking to make the squad, there needs to be one or two more of these role players. Forwards such as Matt D'Agostini and Gregory Stewart are looking to make it, but have more of an offensive upside to their game as well. Both players played their first NHL games last season, and were kept up with the big club through the playoffs.
Both D'Agostini and Stewart showed massive potential in their NHL debuts—especially Stewart, who held his own in a fight against the Toronto Maple Leafs' Bryan McCabe in a spirited match on April 5.
Other players, such as Kyle Chipchura and Maxim Lapierre, have also seen time with the big club, and paid dividends for the future of the team.
Lapierre, who recently re-signed with Montreal, has the potential to become a super-pest. And with his no-quit attitude, Lapierre's future is bright. His 60 PIMs show a feistiness that could increase in coming seasons.
In the case of Chipchura, the former World Junior Team Canada captain, there is massive potential to become a role player with offensive upside—maybe 15 goals and 40 to 50 points a season. Despite only spending just under half the season with the big club, Chipchura may have a starting role with the Canadiens next season.
Guillaume Latendresse has also settled in as a role player, despite having an offensive upside. But Latendresse has not found his niche as an offensively-minded power forward at the NHL level quite yet. His 16 goals in both of the last two seasons show a great potential to become a 20-, or even a 30-goal scorer.
Once he does find his niche, Latendresse may become one of the very few prototypical power forwards in the NHL.
And so the battle for a spot on the Canadiens' roster begins. If many of these young players are looking to land the one or two spots open for the coming 2008-09 season, they're in for a tough fight.