24 Cups at the (almost) halfway pole

Steve Kerley, the most passionate Canadiens fan in Stouffville, Ont., banged out this midseason report card after the Canadiens ran their win streak to four in Toronto on Saturday.

Mike Cammalleri (A) – He has lived up to the team’s expectations as he was brought here to generate offense and score goals.  He also has been a very positive role model and seems to have adapted to his new environment with ease.  Mike could be a little better in his own end of the rink and on the road.

Roman Hamrlik (A) – 2nd oldest player on the team has stepped in to fill the void left by the Markov injury.  Hamrlik has logged tons of minutes (24:30 ATOI) while playing a steady game at both ends of the ice.  Always responds well when he is asked to fill the void and do more on a nightly basis.  Eats up a lot of cap space but the team would be lost without him this year.

Tomas Plekanec (A) – What a great rebound season.  Stepped right in to take over the #1 job at centre.  Tomas has been a fixture in the top 25 scoring race and also kills penalties on a nightly basis.  The team offense would be non-exist without him.  Only drawbacks are his low goal production and inconsistent face-off performances.

Marc-Andre Bergeron (B) – This grade might seem a little inflated in light of the fact that Bergeron is a disaster waiting to happen in his own end.  However, let’s keep in mind why he was signed in the first place.  His job was to spark the PP and create some offense until Markov came back from IR.  He has done a solid job in that regard as witnessed by his 5 PPGs, 9 PPAs, and his 4 GWGs.

Brian Gionta (B) – Had a decent start in terms of providing an offensive spark and helping erase the character meltdown from last year’s squad.  He’s certainly been the equal of the two men he replaced on the depth chart  – Michael Ryder and Alex Kovalev.  Every class needs a positive role model such as Gionta.  He needs to score 30 goals a year to really earn his pay.

Glen Metropolit (B) – A waiver pick-up from late last year who has shown lots of effort and character when asked to wear a variety of hats.  Will be better suited to 3rd and 4th line duty as the year progresses.  He should serve as a role model to the other underperforming players on the team.  His additional point production has been an added bonus.

Travis Moen (B) – A little over priced in terms of his pay cheque, but he has certainly done what has been asked of him.  Solid combination of size, grit, and fearlessness on a team that is so lacking in those vital areas.  His 7 goals is a pleasant surprise.  Best suited to 3rd and 4th duties..

Carey Price & Jaroslav Halak  (B) – Montreal has given up quite a few goals during their first 40 games, but I’m not sure that it’s the fault of the goaltenders.  Both players have made saves that have kept the team in the game (Halak has stopped 179 of his last 185).  They both also have to face a large number of shots (Montreal has been out shot in 13 of their last 14 games) as they play in front of a D that tends to give up their own blueline too easily while also being unable  to clear their own end on a consistent basis.  There’s a tendency to give up soft goals at inopportune times but both netminders are still learning their craft at a fairly young age.  Lots of pressure to play well on a team that lacks consistency.  Have been playing at an A level during the month of  December.

Josh Gorges (B-) – A real steady, reliable player who makes the best of his skills.  He struggles to be a top four Dman and has trouble containing larger players in his own end.  Good but not great, he may have reached the upside of his potential.  Lack of offense and underutilization of his size keep him from getting a higher grade.

Jaroslav Spacek (B-) – He has done an adequate job seeing that he has been called upon to play extra minutes.  His shot from the point seems to have lost it’s accuracy and he tends to get pushed off the puck in his own end.  His history of missing games due to injury is always a worry.  He also tends to give the puck away under pressure.  A nice recovery by Gainey after the Mark Streit miscue.
                                     
Hal Gill (C+)  – His slowness tends to overshadow the other pluses he brings to the team.  Lots of leadership and experience and an ability to help anchor the PK on the back-end.  Size is an asset although he isn’t overly aggressive.

Andrei Kostitsyn (C+) – His production has improved during the past 17 games (20 points) but he has to be evaluated on the entire term.  He was a total bust for the first half but has scored some nifty goals and now logs first line minutes.  He needs to score 30-35 goals a year to be considered a success.

Max Pacioretty (C) – Another young player that was foolishly fast tracked by the Hab brain trust.  A terrible start has given way to some decent outings.  Just beginning to find the best ways to take advantage of his speed and size..  Is still our best bet at becoming the much needed top 6 forward that the team is looking for.

Sergei Kostitsyn (D+) – Had to be sent home from school on the very first day.  He has been getting top 6 minutes as of late but still can’t score or create much offense.  PK duties are excellent but he’s here to play a bigger role.  Just 22, there’s still more time for him to elevate his game and utilize his untapped potential.  Must stop acting  like a big fish that swims in a little pond.

Paul Mara (D+) – He hasn’t lived up to expectations and has struggled when asked to play top four minutes.  Dumb penalties and a team worst -12 rating are cause for concern.  Some latitude must be given seeing that he was brought here to fill a specific role in terms of his size and toughness which can lead to some unruly play.

Ryan O’Byrne (D+) – The opportunity to tackle a more meaningful role was there for the taking but he has stumbled after an encouraging start.  There is a real lack of young Dmen in the system who have his size so the door is still open.  He really needs a stretch of good outings to help get him over the hump.  Has a bad habit of taking untimely penalties when he is overmatched or caught out of the play.
Matt D’Agostini (D) – He has decent talent, an ability to score, and a good shot.  Alas, he suffers from inconsistency and has a few glaring gaps in his game.  He still has the potential to be another Michael Ryder but time and opportunity are both running out.

Scott Gomez (D) – He lost his job to another player and found himself making fancy passes that seldom turn into scoring plays.  Limited scoring ability as he rarely takes shots that are legitimate chances.  Great on the PK and as a 2nd line centre but can’t justify his salary or the expectations of the fans.  His fresh start in Montreal has really gone off the rails. Isn’t quite as gritty and hard working as everyone thinks.  Looking for a rebound once a returning classmate reclaims  his vacant seat.  It may be unfair, but Gomez’s inflated salary is like an albatross around his neck.  We’re only three months into the season and Gomez is already on the clock.

Maxim Lapierre (D) – He has totally regressed and everyone seems to be at a loss as to why he has stumbled.  Appears to give the impression that he just doesn’t care on certain nights which could be a recipe for disaster.  His teacher isn’t known for having much patience with younger players.  Students who have to sit at the back of the class stay there for extended periods of time.   Needs to totally re-think his game.

Georges Laraque (D) – His main role is to act as a deterrent but injuries and a lack of natural talent tends to keep him out of the line-up.  He can’t skate, score, kill penalties, or play more than one position.  Not to mention that his salary is double that of what other pugilists make around the NHL.  A necessary evil who will probably be going to another school next year. 

Tom Pyatt (D) – A surprise arrival who has made his mark on hard work and a great skating stride.  Not much offensive upside but should find a place for himself as a 4th liner or a versatile sub.  Eventually could become a younger version of Metropolit.  Odd man out right now due to the fact he can clear waivers.

Andrei Markov (N/M) – He has already made a significant impact on the team after only playing five games (6 points, 3PPGs).  Not only is the best student in the class, but also is the leader that all the others look up to and try to emulate.  Is best judged by his actions instead of his words.

Ryan White (N/M) – Provides some solid defensive play that is highlighted by grittiness and excellent forechecking.  May have been called up too early (due to injuries) but should improve with more seasoning in the AHL.  Will be knocking on the door next year  as a 4th line role player.

Jacques Martin (B) – Gets full marks for being calm during the early going when injuries really hurt his original game plan for the team.  Has made good use of the two goalies and built decent special teams’ units.  Martin needs to have his players work on cutting down the nightly shot totals.  He also has to display more patience when it comes to dealing with the younger players  Solidifying the lines will also prove beneficial now that most of the injured players are ready to return. This is a team that still needs a lot of teaching and skill refinement.  1st period flatness and a lack of discipline that leads to needless penalties would be good starting points for Martin to address.

Bob Gainey (C+)  – Took over the coaching helm last year only to find out that his master plan had run aground.  Turned to the free agent market after his developmental program stalled.  This summer’s desperate moves by a desperate man have made the team better, but not necessarily good enough.  He may well walk the plank at the end of the year if the Habs can’t make the playoffs or advance past the first round.

                                       


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