Kukla's Korner Hockey
by The Upper Canadien on 09/07/10 at 08:55 PM ET
Jeff Halpern is a solid signing for the Montreal Canadiens (and, finally, the Canadiens have gotten back at the Tampa Bay Lightning for raiding them this summer…sort of, as Halpern ended the year a King). Over my past few blogs, and just this morning, I’d mentioned three or four names as guys I felt would really help the third and fourth line of the team: Bill Guerin, Owen Nolan, Darcy Tucker and Ryan Johnson. Well, Halpern brings less offence than the first two, less grit than Tucker, and less shot blocking than Johnson, but he’s a poor man’s answer for all four – and with less than $2 million in cap room left, the Habs needed a poor man’s answer.
Where does Halpern fit?
Many fans will probably see Halpern as a replacement for Glen Metropolit – I see it a bit differently. I see Halpern as a good fit in Dominic Moore’s old space. Halpern was 52% on faceoffs last season, a key stat for a Habs team that was weak in that regard. He has scored 20 goals in the past, has been on competitive teams in winning environments, is fairly quick and a veteran of the penalty kill. Sure, he only had 19 points for Tampa Bay and Los Angeles last year, but he’s also 34 and an experienced role mole who, presumably, is willing to start on the fourth line and try to earn more minutes. Where does this leave the Habs lines for 2010-2011?
Not bad. More grit on the bottom two lines, and more defensive awareness. One downside? It suggests that the Canadiens won’t be giving any opportunities to younger up and comers, such as Ryan White and Max Pacioretty. While that may be good for their development, it suggests they aren’t ready, and a lot of people were hoping they were.
However, it may also mean a body is going to be jettisoned in a trade prior to the beginning of the season. Who is that body likely to be? Many will probably focus on Andrei Kostitsyn, as he has underperformed in recent years, but remember, they traded Sergei away and Andrei only has a year left on his contract. He’ll be a different and more motivated player this coming season. The only other possible trade candidate on the front end is Travis Moen, but he played a key defensive role in the playoffs and is just the type of tough, hard-nosed forward the Canadiens need.
No, I think it’s more likely a defenceman gets moved. My pick? The five million dollar man, Roman Hamrlik. The more likely target? Ryan O’Byrne, a much cheaper, much bigger reclamation project who may appeal to teams thin on the back end. I’d be sad to see O’Byrne go, as I do believe he’s got a future in the NHL, but it may be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen.
What’s to come?
Who knows. Pierre Gauthier is a man of surprises, who has astounded us with such glamorous moves as the signing of Alexandre Picard, the departure of Dominic Moore, and the addition of Jeff Halpern. The fan in me wants an impact signing or trade, a sign that management believes in this team for the season coming – but is that really the pragmatic thing to do, given that last year’s chemistry was so successful?
Maybe, just maybe, Pierre Gauthier is doing what we all want him to do – very carefully, and effectively, building a winning hockey team.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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