Monday, October 1, 2007

Your 2007-2008 Montreal Canadiens roster....

As of 10AM, Monday, October 1st, 2007, the Montreal Canadiens opening night roster has been set. Guy Carbonneau has made his final cuts and the team is all but good to go for Wednesday night as they open the season on the road in Carolina.

Cut from the team and sent to Montreal's Hamilton affiliate this morning are defensemen Ryan O'Byrne, goaltender Jaroslav Halak, and forward Maxim Lapierre, three cuts that some might consider obvious, others might look at and be surprised.

Ryan O'Byrne had a great camp and it seems obvious that he'll be at the very least a #4 defenseman someday in the NHL, but in the end, when push comes to shove, he has a two-way contract and doesn't have to clear waivers in order to be sent down, and the other 8 defensemen on the roster do. Even though O'Byrne was great at camp, Josh Gorges was better and deserves that spot. Besides, it should be fully expected that O'Byrne will play for this team sometime this season. He'll be the first call-up if there's a trade or an injury (and Habs fans have been expecting a trade involving a defenseman all summer, and Patrice Brisebois is almost always injured. So expect to see O'Byrne in the line-up sooner rather than later. If he had stayed on the team, he'd have been an 8th defenseman sitting in the pressbox every night. In Hamilton, he's a top pairing defenseman and he can fine tune his game.

The second player cut from the team was Jaroslav Halak, and again, no surprise there when you really dig into the matter. I'm sure that Carbo had it clear in his head since camp started that Carey Price would be making this team, and he proved at camp and in the preseason that he's reason for the big leagues, penciled in as a #1B goaltender behind Cristobal Huet. Halak proved last season that he's a very good #2 goaltender that could step up if needed and replace the #1 goalie, but as a 22 year old, he still has a long way to go. The team is better off giving next year's clear-cut #1 goalie, Carey Price, some NHL experience this year so both he and Halak are ready to take the reigns in the 08-09 campaign when Huet is gone. Halak, again, will be on this team sooner rather than later.

The third and final cut this morning was probably the hardest Carbo had to make, and probably the most surprising. Maxim Lapierre was sent down to Hamilton, a center who quickly became one of the most popular players in Montreal after he was called up mid-season last year. Hard hitting and a bit of an agitator with a fair bit of upside, a lot of people thought that Lapierre had proven that he deserved to center this team's 4th line.

The marketing team for the Canadiens certainly did. You can't walk a city block in downtown Montreal without seeing Maxim Lapierre's face plastered on a billboard. You can't walk into a sports boutique without seeing a Lapierre t-shirt or jersey hung up for sale on the wall. I myself almost bought one last week. You can't watch RDS, Quebec's version of TSN or ESPN, without seeing a Maxim Lapierre commercial!

But the truth is, all this fame must've gotten to Max's head. He had a tough camp, and he must've lost the confidence of the coach, especially with centers Mikhael Grabovski and Kyle Chipchura knocking on the Habs doorstep. This is Carbo's way of telling Lapierre and the rest of the team that no one is really safe and everyone has to work hard in order to make this team and stay on this team. Garth Murray worked hard and he made the team. Grabovski worked hard and he made the team, same for Chipchura, Josh Gorges and everyone else.

Maxim Lapierre, again, WILL be on this team sooner rather than later. But the truth is, there were players at camp that deserved to be on the team more so than Lapierre right at this moment, and, financially, in terms of the cap system and in terms of the waiver system, Lapierre was the best choice for a final cut, unfortunately.

That being said, the final roster for opening night in Raleigh on Wednesday is set. The lines have yet to be officially announced but it's pretty clear what they're going to look like:

Higgins - Koivu - Ryder
This line-up worked last year, it gave Saku Koivu a career year in points and Michael Ryder 30 goals. With Higgins potentially getting an "A" this year, and both he and Ryder maturing as offensive forwards, and with a confident and healthy Koivu centering them, there's no reason not to think this line won't be this team's best and an offensive threat in the East.

Kostitsyn - Grabovski - Kovalev
If these two feisty quick and confident young Belarussian players don't light a fire under Kovalev's posterior, no one will. Another explosive line-up that can tear up the NHL, that is if Kovalev wants it to. The addition of Grabovski gives this team an added punch at center, the young center is willing to do anything to get around - or through - the opposing team's defensemen. Kostitsyn is slated to have a great year after a great 20 or so games late last year, and Kovalev... well, Kovalev is Kovalev.

Smolinski - Plekanec - Latendresse
Another great line, Thomas Plekanec and Guillaume Latendresse are two players who can play on a top-2 line on this team, but can also do well on a 2-way checking line, and Bryan Smolinski provided the stability that this team needs, especially since losing Radek Bonk in the off-season. A solid line that will provide excellent secondary scoring for the habs this year.

Begin - Chipchura - Kostopoulos
Kostopoulos and Begin, two hard hitting players, and Chipchura, a future potential Selke candidate and this team's future 3rd line center. With Murray able to jump into this line if someone gets injured of this team needs a jolt, this line should provide some entertaining hockey when they're on the ice.

Spare: Garth Murray
There are better players in the league and in the Canadiens system than Garth Murray, but he's willing to drop the gloves and he's willing to work hard to prove his worth to the coaching staff and to the fans, which makes him a Guy Carbonneau kind of player. He'll be in the line-up when there's an injury or when the situation calls for a spare fighter, but expect him to start what'll most likely be his last season in Montreal in the press box.

On defense:
Markov - Komisarek
Solid last season, no reason to believe they'll be any less solid this year, a true #1-#2 pairing. Markov needs to step it up offensively in Sheldon Souray's absence, however, as all defensemen on the team should.

Hamrlik - Streit
Streit played most of last season as a forward who could step into a defensive role if there was an injury. This year, he'll start the season as a top 4 defenseman on this team, and deservedly so. He'll be used to patch up the hole Souray left on the powerplay and will be solid paired up (potentially) with Roman Hamrlik.

Bouillon - Brisebois
Although I'm not the biggest fan of Bouillon, he had too many hits and too many blocked shots last season to leave off the starting line-up, and Brisebois had too good of a game on Saturday to put in the press box. Both these players will most likely end up in a hospital bed before the month is up, but until then they should probably be in the starting line-up on Wednesday night.

Spares: Dandenault, Gorges
Dandenault has been an enigma. He can be a top 6 defenseman in the league, he can even play forward if the team needs him to... but when they need him the most, he just sucks. Gorges is young and will get a chance to play, but for now, because of the numbers and experience game, I think he'll start the season in the press box.

In goal...

Cristobal Huet and Carey Price
What more can be said about these too? The goaltending situation was the center of attention in Montreal during the preseason and deservingly so. If Huet and Price live up to expectations, and there's no reason they shouldn't, this could be one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL this year.

There you have it folks, your 2007-2008 Canadiens roster. Is it a playoff roster? Probably not. Could they sneak into the playoffs? Certainly, depending how the season starts out. If Bob Gainey can make a move or two early in the season to improve the team, the experts might change their minds about leaving the Habs out of the playoff race. In reality, right now, it's more than likely this team won't make the playoffs, however, things really don't look that bad for Montreal, and at the very least, this line-up should provide a lot of entertaining hockey for the fans of the Canadiens and the NHL over the course of the next seven or eight months and beyond.


Eggshmeg said...

I wonder if the Bernier situation in L.A had anything to do with the Price decision...

Professor Prax said...

To be honest with you, I don't think so. I've talked to some people, they seem to think it's a #1 goalie or no one in LA. Halak's a #2 goalie or a #1B right now, and they have a lot of that in LA. So unless they want to go with a tandem I don't think LA would go for Halak, and I don't think they want to go with a tandem of goalies under 22-years-old.

Eggshmeg said...

I meant that they saw LA giving a 19-year-old Bernier a chance, so why not give an older Price a shot? I didn't mean the Habs will be trading Halak away. This also means Cedric Desjardins will be in the ECHL, and he deserves a shot in the AHL IMO, he's looked good in camp.

Professor Prax said...

Oh I see what you mean. But I don't think the Bernier situation had anything to do with this. Carbo was going to do what he did from the beginning IMO. Desjardins deserves a shot and I think they wanted to give one to him, hoping Danis would get picked up or someone would trade for him. Considering Danis and Huet are gone next year, Desjardins might need to be ready just in case..

gosensgo101 said...

I thought I read somewhere that Danis had to clear waivers. If he doesn't get picked up by someone I'm sure someone will come knocking when someone goes down with an injury.

gosensgo101 said...

To add to that. My fantasy team is looking pretty good now. I went from having a 1, 1B, 1B and 3 goalie to having three number 1s and a 1B in Kari Lehtinon, Martin Gerber, Ilya Brysgalov and Carey Price.

Eggshmeg said...

I'm pretty sure he cleared waivers and he's back in Hamilton.

Anonymous said...

HEY Egg and guys this is HABSCAPS9 form
Great article P.Prax I do think Bernier had a bit to do with it and yes Eggshmeg Danis cleared waivers and is now in Hamilton!

Professor Prax said...

Gosensgo, that second post was damn confusing, lol.

And just so you know, Bryz and Gerber are only #1s until the real #1s come back from injury, then I would imagine they go to sucky teams. Price can go either way.

And Danis won't go anywhere unless he's traded, poor kid.

habscrazy8 said...

Excellent post Praxie!
I agree with almost everything, except i'm pretty sure Hammer will start the season with Breezer as Carbo has mentionned.

And apparently Bob disagrees about the Belorussians lighting fire under Kovy's ass. Instead, he said Kovy needs to light under his own! Like the sign of that, Bob seems to be taking a firm stance against Kovy being lazy all year.

Nice work praxie!

gosensgo101 said...

Ok let me try to clear that up lol



It looks like Bryzgalof might be just a 1A so to speak right now as Hiller had a good performance Sunday.

If Hiller plays well, Bryzgalof will definately be dealt to free up some cap space. Whether to backup or start.

As for Gerber, he'll have to be dealt sometime before next season with so many guys' contracts' up.

Whether they get to start somewhere or backup I don't know, but I sure have the upper hand in my first week lol.

Eggshmeg said...

lol, Praxie