The Montreal Canadiens have let go of so many players since last summer that it seems with every upcoming new opponent comes a former team member.
In a week from now, it will be Guillaume Latendresse’s turn with the Minnesota Wild.
Latendresse was vowed to become a power forward for the Habs. With his generous shape came the expectations of physical plays and on-ice imposition. Instead, he has been criticized as slow and lazy.
For the Latendresse haters—who seemed to grow with every game, watching him play was as painful as repetitively hitting their thumb with a hammer.
Jacques Martin tried to put pressure on the wound with less ice-time, but Bob Gainey drastically stopped the bleeding with a trade to the Wild in return of Benoit Pouliot.
Gainey seems to be ardent to such drastic decisions. He thought that Carey Price would fit the job description so he just sent the number one goalie away. He wanted a number one Center so he packed a bunch of players to make the exchange and handed him an $8 million dollar paycheck.
Latendresse’s first few games with the Wild had shown a side of him that I bet some Montreal fans would have loved to see.
He has scored twice and recorded one assist in seven games with Minnesota; including the shootout winning goal against the Anaheim Ducks.
Going from less than ten minutes with Coach Martin to an average of 14 minutes on the new job; it seems he got inspired.
He even had the game tying goal at his second appearance, with four shots on goal.
For a few games he was actually, hum, good; which almost made Pouliot’s start with a team a heavy one.
On an interview on RDS right the day of his arrival in Montreal, Jacques Demers popped the trick question on Pouliot: “Nobody can doubt your talent (...) do you feel you now have the opportunity to demonstrate your incredible talent?”
Uh oh, the fish is in the net.
Pouliot has been drafted by the Wild in the first round in 2005. He was right before Carey Price, as fourth overall.
It is legitimate to have high expectations of Pouliot. After all, how wrong could the Wild organization be on a first pick? They must know their Hockey; and if he has been picked that high in the draft, there has got to be something he does better than Latendresse.
He is still not clear to play, due to an upper body injury that could go further than Andrei Markov’s return. And once that is taken care of, the fans’ patience will have to be tested again as he might require some adjustments to the system.
Pouliot was signed by the Wild in May 2006 and started his first NHL game in November that same year, ironically against Montreal.
However, he has been sent back and forth between the NHL and the AHL in the next three years to finally end up traded for the 45th pick of his draft year.
On the other end, Montreal spent two and a half seasons trying to make Latendresse a first or second line player.
So what should we expect from Pouliot?