Simply put: If you have any interest in the Montreal Canadiens, hockey in general, or haven't been living under a rock for the past week, then you've heard the controversy surrounding that coveted spot of goaltender in the Habs camp.
So when the Tweets started flying this afternoon over every other position that the team should have filled for opening night on October 7th, you can imagine how happy I was to get involved in that discussion.
When our attention has been focused on all the play that we've seen since training camp began, right up till our trouncing of the Panthers last night, there is no doubt that we've been witness to some exceptional players with some exceptional drive. Hungry for a place on the Big Team, some of the up-and-comers have made it a tough decision as to who will suit up for the regular season.
As the discussion wound down this afternoon, Scott Schmitz ( Tweet @schmitzysays ) asked me and several others to climb behind the bench, replace JEM, and fill out our opening night roster. So without further ado (and yes I spelled "ado" right - Google it!) ...
1st Line : Gionta - Gomes - Eller
Without doubt, Brian Gionta has proven that he has speed, grit, and determination. He also is a great play finisher having no fear grinding it out in front of the net. Gomes, other than shining on CJAD Radio the other night, managed to do something last year that few players on the team could do with consistency. Cross the blue line and maintain possession. He's got great hands and great vision. A true playmaker. Eller is fresh blood for this team, and he has all kinds of potential. Despite suffering from mono at the beginning of last season, he still managed 57 points in 70 games in the AHL. He's big and makes plays. Add that to the speed of Gio and Gomes - you've got a strong first line
2nd Line : Cammalleri - Plekanec - Kostitsyn
Jumping Kostitsyn on to this line is something that some may question. But when you combine his size with his quick shot, you're looking at a player that could see some of the best growth over last year. Couple that with the fact that Pleks and Cammy can bring his play up a notch as well. Plekanec has already shown in preseason that he's brought his game. One of the best all round players on the team he plays exquisite two way hockey with great hands, and lightening speed. Add to that one of the best and consistent scoring forwards this team has seen in years. Mike Cammalleri has the attitude and the talent that can support AK, and pull this line together to deposit many a puck into the back of the net.
3rd Line : Darche - Halpern - Lapierre
So this is where it starts to get tricky right? Maybe not. Lapierre proved during the playoffs last year that he had actually woken up. We saw skill levels in him that we've been hoping to see for some time. This is his year. He can shoot, dig, cycle, and score He's proven to be a grinder. Halpern is a pure veteran, who can win a face off like nobody's business. With that being said, he'll supply the puck posession off the face off that will feed plenty of opportunities for Laps. Add the play of Mathieu Darche who had a more than decent year with the Bulldogs last year. Darche is the kind of guy that goes out and gives it his best whenever he's on the ice. He doesn't quit. Plus, taking into account that he's a "hometown boy" from St Laurent, he helps the team meet the "French Quota" inhibiting them from becoming a Federalist Team. (Sorry - couldn't refuse)
4th Line : Moen - Boyd - White
There's only one reason that I would hold Moen to the fourth line instead of the third. Because you already have a scrappy player (Laps), and a veteran (Halpern) on the third line. And Moen brings both of these much needed qualities to the 4th group. Sure he's not a huge goal scorer (37 in 443 career NHL games), but he has size, and the ability to keep the offensive zone. Dustin Boyd brings in some size and youth to this line. Definitely lighting up the crowd during the preseason with his drive, alongside winger Ryan White. White has been the brightest light of the youngsters during training camp and preseason play. He works hard every shift, and would be a great compliment to Moen.
In the Box : Maxwell - Pyatt
I like Tom Pyatt. and deciding to put him in the box was a tough one. He showed some great determination in his time with the Habs last year, but I think he still has a bit of growth to go through. I don't know if it might be more fair to send him to Hamilton to get more ice time, but for the moment, I say keep him here and let him learn from the Big Boys. Ben Maxwell certainly has the ability to get the job done, and he could easily fill the skates of Halpern or Boyd if needed. If he stays with the organization - this is the place to keep him.
Thanks for Coming Out!
The name that was a-buzz all afternoon (or should I say a-Tweet). Benoit Poulliot. Immediately after his acquisition by the Habs from the Minnesota Wild (for Guillaume Latendresse), he showed some great promise. But as the season progressed, that flash soon dulled. That has been the only consistent thing about Poulliot, and he's brought it forward with him into training camp and preseason play. I'm not even sure if Hamilton is the answer for him. I think there needs to be serious consideration in finding another organization for him to play with. I know there are a ton of Max Pacioretty fans out there too. And no doubt he'll get his chance to shine. But I don't think he's ready to play at this level yet. A full season in Hamilton should help hone his skills, and prepare him to move to the Big Leagues next season.
So there you have it. I don't think that M. Gauthier is going to call me to replace Jacques Martin, but I stand by my choices. Now I wonder if I'll get to see them come true?
See you October 7th to find out!