Montreal Canadiens: Max Pacioretty and Ryan O'Byrne on the Bubble and More

Steve FusinatoContributor ISeptember 30, 2010

MONTREAL, QC - SEPTEMBER 27: Tomas Plekanec #14 of the Montreal Canadiens returns to the bench after scoring his first period shorthanded goal against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre on September 27, 2010 in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After cutting 18 players on Monday, the Canadiens' training camp continues to roll on with the roster being dropped down to 28. Draft standouts Louis Leblanc and Jarred Tinordi have returned to their respective junior teams while sixteen players have been assigned to Montreal's AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. 

With only two games remaining on their NHLX schedule, the Habs will look to continue their winning ways against the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night, rounding up pre-season action on Saturday when they meet the New York Islanders in Quebec City. 

Montreal will have to look beyond keeping the streak alive as it is presently ''decisions, decisions'' time for Jacques Martin and his staff. Having a pair of matches left to figure out the Rubik's Cube that is the opening day line-up before facing the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Center on Thursday October 7th. 


Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior?

 The question mark is no typo folks, Max Pacioretty can decide his faith with these next two games. Will he start the season with the big club? Or succumb to being a Road Warrior in the AHL riding around in buses from game to game? 

Standing out like a sore thumb will be no easy task for the young American as he is constantly being pushed by the likes of Ryan White, Tom Pyatt and Lars Eller. Even after being sent down to Hamilton former University of Michigan teammate Aaron Palushaj and Quebec City native David Desharnais are right up Pacioretty's tail bone. 

The offensive potential he possesses could not have chosen a better time to pop out and say hello as Pacioretty has two assists in two games played and his currently putting in his best performance at a Canadiens camp. Needless to say, this offensive outburst must continue if he wishes to carve out a place at the adults table. 

What makes it even more difficult for the 21 year-old is the fact that roster spots this time around are limited. Pacioretty finds himself right in the cross hairs and Jacques Martin and his staff are waiting to pull the trigger. Whatever he does, he must focus on the next two games ahead unless he really wants to personify Mad Max in every sense of the term.



Oh Boy O'Byrne. Oh. Boy.

Let's face it, Ryan O'Byrne's defensive prowess is not where it should be at the moment and his offensive talents don't exactly rival Pernell Karl's. But it looks like the towering British-Columbia born defenseman is also getting pushed by a literal bobsleigh team of other d-men looking to crack the line-up. 

O'Byrne has showed us he has tremendous aptitude in the past, often choosing the smart play instead of the big hit. Dropping the gloves when necessary and robbing some woman's purse at a Tampa Bay night spot. Unfortunately for him, his inconsistency is his Achilles heel. 

With Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik on the shelf for the start of the season you would think that O'Byrne's task would be an easy one. Walk in, play a couple games to get rid of the rink rust and get the campaign rolling. What he now finds himself in is a Tsunami of players looking to fill in those spots as he's currently battling with off-season signing Alexandre Picard, the bruising Alex Henry and Swiss offensive defenseman Yannick Weber. 

It will be important for the 6'5'' blue-liner to keep things into perspective and eclipse the competition in the remaining contests. Unless he too, wants to have Greyhound on speed dial. 


Martin's Chemistry Set 

While watching the Habs-Panthers game on Monday, you possibly noticed a few new things Jacques Martin was trying out. 

Having Michael Cammalleri at the point on the power-play seems like a brilliant experiment, adding the fact that PK Subban was his partner makes this idea look even more ingenious. Two players with a riveting slap shot that will unceasingly have the opposing goalies' Gatorade bottle flip up in the air like Alexandre Despaties. 

Another power-play trial run you may have picked up on is Lars Eller's presence at the center position. Demonstrating his smooth operating hands and on-ice vision while fufilling the will of the Danish gods (and Habs fans) by using his big frame in front of the net. From what we saw in the pre-season, if this kid gets a rebound, he has the phalanges to roof it where poppa hides his Playboy's. Three assists in the 6-2 Florida clobbering ain't too shabby either.

Good Things Come In Small Packages

While receiving incessant vibrations from my iPhone yesterday afternoon and ignoring them at least twelve times, I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about.

My iHabs application and eleven of my friends had notified me that Brian Gionta was officially elected as captain. A move that essentially all of us were expecting since local journalist Francois Gagnon leaked the news before camp opened. 

Gionta now becomes the 28th (not 33rd as mentioned in one of my summer articles) captain of the franchise. Joining other short stature captains Yvan Cournoyer, Henri Richard and George Hainsworth. The former Stanley Cup winner fills in for ex-captain Saku Koivu who decided to take his talent's to Orange County in the summer of 2009.

The Rochester native also becomes only the second American-born player to wear what is undoubtedly the most renowned ''C'' in the National Hockey League.  

What the 31 year-old forward brings to the table is beyond measure. A solid work ethic coupled with a tenacious never-say-die attitude on the ice. Whereas some players only show up 60 out of 82 games, Gionta never disappears streaming through from coast to coast as soon as the puck drops

Mix in the fact that he consistently produces offensively from year-to-year, Gionta becomes the perfect on-ice example for Montreal's group of younger players. Even though the level of optimism is staggeringly high at the moment, only time will tell if Gionta's tenure as captain will be a successful one.