When I first thought about what forwards I want playing for the Montreal Canadiens next week, my first inclination was to have fun with it and go gonzo. Frankly, I’d pretty much ice Team Canada in the bleu, blanc et rouge.
But stepping off Fantasy Island here, I thought it only fair to work within the confines of the roster that head coach Jacques Martin has to choose from and pick my team accordingly.
1st line: Eller–Gomez–Gionta
Salary cap-hit aside, Scott Gomez is a speedy, effective centreman who routinely gains the offensive zone. I’ve lauded Brian Gionta’s attributes time and again in a bid to get the “C” pinned on his chest, but in addition his chemistry with Gomez is undeniable.
Rewatch Game 2 of the Pens’ series and pay attention as Gomez passes without looking to where he knows Gionta will be—as always, parked in front of the opposing net.
While Gionta routinely goes into the corners and fights for the puck, Gomez seems more reluctant to take a hit. What they lack is a solid winger who can take some hits, help Gionta win the battles, and still finish the plays.
Having not even heard of Lars Eller before the trade for goalie Jaroslav Halak, I wanted to reserve judgment on him until I’ve really seen him play. Other than some choppy Internet feed the only real opportunity I’ve had to watch him was in the Panthers game—which RDS finally decided to cover.
I liked what I saw.
He’s a big kid who’s constantly fighting for possession and solid enough that he’s not easily knocked off of the puck. As a projected top-line center, I don’t see the point in wasting him on the third or fourth lines—both of which are just as easily anchored by others on the roster.
I think his skill set is such that he will adapt to playing on the wing with two veteran linemates.
Bonus: instead of the Giant Mexican Chicken line, we now have EGG.
2nd line: Cammalleri–Plekanec–Kostitsyn
Like Gomez and Gionta, Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec seem to have found a certain chemistry—as evidenced during the playoff run—which I am just as reluctant to break apart.
Cammalleri is a bonafide sniper and Plekanec is a solid two-way centreman coming off a career year—of which he’s still showing signs of at training camp. Both are fast and fight for the puck, but a bit of muscle and a helping hand with the goal scoring would not be amiss on this line.
As for Andrei Kostitsyn, I’ll freely admit I’m not a fan.
He has the ability to be a great linemate as he is clearly able to finish solid checks and still contribute offensively. What has been lacking for me in the past is the drive, intensity, focus, and even at times some good old fashioned “hockey sense.”
Since he’s killing it in camp this year and bringing actual sustained effort, I’m willing to admit Kostitsyn has earned another chance on the wing.
3rd line: Pyatt–Boyd–Lapierre
Tom Pyatt has proved to be a trusted PK specialist who possesses good speed with enough hard work to help out with the occasional goal.
Maxim Lapierre—who, in my opinion, is more effective on the wing—is a strong skater and constant puck hunter who should deliver good checks to help harass the opposition.
Dustin Boyd provides another injection of youth, speed, and intensity to help complement this energy line.
4th line: Moen–Halpern–White
Here I’ve sent Travis Moen down to help grind it out on the fourth line.
Along with the capable and intense Ryan White, he will offer some toughness and still manage the occasional offensive contribution.
As my centreman, Jeff Halpern can help relieve Plekanec of some faceoff duties and offer veteran stability on my checking line.
On the Bench
Benoit Pouliot is a disappointment because no matter how great his talent level, he cannot and will not apply solid effort with any kind of consistency.
After watching his lack of effort at camp, I’m no longer willing to just hand over a spot and hope for the best. While it’s hideously expensive, but I’d rather box Pouliot than put him on waivers in hopes that he’ll at least be good trade bait.
Ben Maxwell’s stood out in camp a couple of times for me, though not as much as Eller or White. Still I’ll take Maxwell over Mathieu Darche any day.
I can’t fault Darche’s work ethic but Maxwell is no slouch in that department either, and he has more youth, talent and, more importantly, speed—especially on a team where it’s pretty much a prerequisite.
Since Maxwell can outskate Darche, he would win the tossup over Pouliot while Darche would get waived.
In building this roster it’s pretty evident that what I value above all from a player is a consistent, solid work ethic. Talent is only slightly secondary but I think these lines offer a pretty good mix of both.
A big thanks to Scott Schmidt, who tweeted the idea for this challenge yesterday and has gamely set the whole thing up after it snowballed uncontrollably.
Hopefully it won’t be the last such undertaking.
And now I’m lifting my self-imposed ban and am off to read what my fellow Habs writers had to say on the matter. Please be sure to check out their blogs too!
As always, I would love to know what you think. If you were Jacques Martin, what would your roster look like and why?