Montreal Canadiens: Can Pacioretty steal Latendresse's job?

Daniel BigrasCorrespondent IOctober 1, 2008

What a preseason game Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings!

While I was eagerly waiting to see the Lang/Kovalev duo in action, it’s two other players that stole the show for me and many others I think: Carey Price and Max Pacioretty.

A second win against the Red Wings during this training camp, a second win in shootout! I guess that if you have to shell out money to watch a meaningless preseason game, you might as well be getting your money’s worth: a shootout.

It was Montreal’s 3rdshootout win during this preseason schedule, and I had the chance to witness the win against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Center. I got my money’s worth.

I thought that Carey Price was simply amazing against the Red Wings and correct me if I’m wrong, I find he’s back to the Carey Price we knew last season when he was amongst the best goaltenders in the league in save percentage (5th).

I’m a little bit worried about the lack of discipline of the team, as they seem to be getting a lot of penalties. But thanks to Carey Price, he did an amazing job to protect his crease.

But let’s get one thing straight: Carey’s amazing stick save wouldn’t have been a goal if you watch the replay closely and I did; the puck is clearly going outside the net. But it was still amazing to see from the TV screen, it must have been unbelievable to witness live at the Bell Center.

What about Max Pacioretty? This guy doesn’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to go live in a Hamilton motel. He seems to be on a mission to prove wrong anyone that didn’t believe he could start the season in Montreal.  The more he plays, the more he impresses me.

And I was amongst the ones that didn’t believe he could start the season with the big team; I didn’t believe he SHOULD start the season in Montreal.  From all the games that I watched, listened to on radio, from all the news article that I read online and on paper, I thought he was not ready to steal a spot.

 ‘That was not an AHL goal, that was an NHL goal!’ screamed Pierre McGuire live on TSN, when Pacioretty scored his amazing shootout goal.

Bob Gainey, you gotta keep him in Montréal!’ added McGuire. That comment made me laugh; because it’s not something an analyst would have said while describing a game on french television.

With Max’s performance in the past two games, I truly believe that some regular players must be wondering if they will be with the Canadiens on October 10.

One thing that I noticed against the Red Wings is when we saw Latendresse, Lapierre, Kostopoulos and Dandenault playing, and after we would see Pacioretty, he didn’t look out of place; I didn’t think he was the worst of the 5 I just mentioned. On the contrary, I thought he was the best of these 5 players and I felt that he was amongst the best of the team during that game.

If Max Pacioretty continues on this trend, as I wrote back in July 17 2008, Max could very well steal a job with the Montreal Canadiens of a 2ndQuebecer. David Perron was aimed to be Montreal's 2nd pick of the 1st round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but instead they picked Pacioretty. I remember it created a big discussion throughout all the 2007-08 season, especially when David Perron played almost the entire season with the St-Louis Blues and made a good name for himself. 

If Montreal didn’t have so many good left wingers, I think Pacioretty would be, without a doubt, playing in the NHL this season. I think he would be able to play in the NHL with many other teams. The 2ndQuebecer that could lose his spot is Guillaume Latendresse.

And the same subject was brought up by an extremely popular Quebec television show, 110%. That Guillaume Latendresse should fear Max Pacioretty. I’m very proud to have made that assessment two and a half months before professional analysts and experienced people (ex-players, ex-coaches).

Back in July this year, I wrote that text because I thought Max and Guillaume were destined to play the same role in the team: a powerful left winger. But with Alex Tanguay, Christopher Higgins, Andreï Kostitsyn, and Guillaume Latendresse, I thought it would have been difficult for Max Pacioretty to earn a spot on the big team, unless he steals a job. And I analysed that the only candidate to lose his spot was Guillaume Latendresse.

But two and half month later, my position changed. I still see that Max had the grit, the talent to play in the NHL this season. I think Guillaume Latendresse, Tom Kostopoulos, Steve Bégin and Mathieu Dandenault must be weary of this kid, as the last 3 were already worried about a regular spot in the team. But I see hope for both Guillaume and Max to make the team.

I think Guillaume is more useful to the team than Tom Kostopoulos, Steve Bégin and Mathieu Dandenault, but I think Max Pacioretty can be more useful than Latendresse. I really think that we have to keep them both. But as I just wrote, I see hope for Guillaume.

I see three options:

A-     Guillaume could end up on the 4th line, which is highly possible.

B-      If Christopher Higgins or Sergeï Kostitsyn do not perform better than Guillaume, they could end up on the 4th line and give a spot to Guillaume

C-      Max could play on the 4th line.

Also, Guillaume could play on the right wing, even though he’s a lefty. Alexeï Kovalev and Sergeï Kostitsyn are right wingers and they are both left-handed. I think Guillaume played right wing in his junior years, as I found a few online articles stating that fact. But many others are saying that he was a left winger. Even the NHL categorized him as a right winger when he was drafted in 2005.

In short, I believe, no, I strongly believe that there’s a way to keep both Guillaume and Max in the team. I think that both SHOULD be in the team and I think Bob Gainey will have no choice but to make more changes than he expected before the start of the regular season.  He might be forced to buy out one or two contracts. Because Kyle Chipchura is also making a lot of noise.

I can’t wait to see how the next two games turn out.

What do you think?