First, I would like to thank Eric B. for filling in for me over these past few weeks as I began my recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery.
The 2004-05 Hamilton Bulldogs campaign has been nothing short of a tumultuous roller coaster ride as we pass the halfway mark of the season, and begin heading for the playoff run. At times, they have shown the form of last year’s squad, finding a way to win, while on other nights, they have been finding it hard to score a single goal, let alone win a game. Today, we grade this year’s squad, based on their performance to the team’s expectations through the halfway point of the season (and a bit beyond that). In order to accurately give each player a grade based on this, a specific criteria was used, shown below.
A+ to A-:
I) Stars/Superstars playing at performance and role expectations.
II) Above average players producing beyond performance and role expectations.
III) Average/Role players delivering well beyond performance and role expectations.
B+ to B-:
I) Stars/Superstars playing below performance and role expectations.
II) Above average players producing at performance and role expectations.
III) Average/Role players delivering beyond performance and role expectations.
C+ to C-:
I) Stars/Superstars playing far below performance and role expectations.
II) Above average players producing below performance and role expectations.
III) Average/Role players delivering at performance and role expectations.
D+ to D-:
I) Stars/Superstars playing outrageously below performance and role expectations.
II) Above average players producing far below performance and role expectations.
III) Average/Role players delivering below performance and role expectations.
Now, we move on to the player grades, beginning with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Reports will appear in order of grades, and a summary will be provided at the end. Stats are as of Feb. 8, 2005.
2004-05 Hamilton Bulldogs Midseason Grades
#51-Corey Locke (A+)
Locke has been the biggest surprise for Hamilton this season, as he has challenged for (or held) the team lead in goals, assists, and total points for most of this season. Although he has tailed off a bit as of late, he is still within striking distance of Albany’s Zach Parise for the AHL lead in rookie scoring. Not bad for a player whom many felt wouldn’t make the team at the beginning.
|Season Stats: 49 GP, 13-15-28, +7, 14 PIMS|
#35-Yann Danis (A)
Heading into this season, it was believed that Danis would be the team’s top netminder, coming with it some fairly high expectations. And still he has exceeded them, usurping the top role early on, and has not let go. Arguably the team’s MVP at midseason, he is garnering consideration for the AHL’s All-Rookie team.
|Season Stats: 30 GP, 13-11-5 record, 2.34 GAA, .925 SV%, 0 points, 3 SO|
#41-Steve Ott (B)
Ott has been a blessing to the Bulldogs, with his feisty play, and a knack for scoring critical goals. He had a very slow start to the season as he adjusted to Doug Jarvis’ system, but has been the team’s top point-getter since mid-November. If Hamilton plans on making a run to the postseason, Ott will have to continue to shoulder a significant portion of the load.
|Season Stats: 51 GP, 12-16-28, +2, 201 PIMS|
#23-Duncan Milroy (B)
Milroy has been another very pleasant surprise this year, as he has already surpassed last season’s offensive totals, before playing half the games. As the year has progressed, Doug Jarvis has used Milroy both on the PP and PK, and he is turning into one of the team’s better all-around players.
|Season Stats: 49 GP, 10-14-24, -2, 12 PIMS|
#6-Trevor Daley (B)
Had the NHL been up and playing this season, the Hamilton Bulldogs would not have Trevor Daley. He has been the biggest bright spot on a defence, which, on a good night, is below average. He has used his speed to create numerous scoring chances, despite the fact his point totals are fairly low.
|Season Stats: 51 GP, 2-14-16, -5, 73 PIMS|
#43-Jean-Phillipe Cote (B)
On many nights, Cote is Hamilton’s most consistent defender. You’ll rarely ever see him on the scoresheet, he just comes to the rink and gets the job done. He is finally fully healthy after missing the first quarter of the season with a shoulder injury sustained in the preseason.
|Season Stats: 30 GP, 0-5-5, +4, 41 PIMS|
#4-Dan Jancevski (B-)
Like Cote, Jancevski is another player who does little offensively (he went scoreless for over 2 months), but brings a strong defensive and physical presence to the team. He still makes a few too many gaffs in his own end, which is worrying Dallas management, who currently have him pegged as their #7 d-man when NHL play resumes.
|Season Stats: 51 GP, 3-10-13, E, 98 PIMS|
#14-Tomas Plekanec (C+)
Despite currently leading the team in scoring, Plekanec has so far had a season to forget. He has been frustratingly inconsistent, once having an 8-game pointless drought. The feisty centreman just hasn’t been himself for the better half of the year, but has improved as of late. He is Hamilton’s lone representative at the AHL All-Star Classic.
|Season Stats: 51 GP, 17-19-36, -9, 40 PIMS|
#24-Marc-Andre Thinel (C+)
Thinel has finally secured an AHL roster spot, after being up and down last year. He started off the season with a bang, fighting for the team lead in points through the first 6 weeks, then his scoring just disappeared. His versatility (can play both wings) has seen him play on all 4 lines this year, but he has also been a healthy scratch in more than a few contests.
|Season Stats: 44 GP, 4-9-13, -7, 4 PIMS|
#11-Gavin Morgan (C+)
Morgan was assigned the team’s checking role, a job in which he has performed admirably in this season. However, he still was expected to produce more as Benoit Gratton’s replacement. He has averaged between 44-52 points over the past few AHL seasons, and will need to pick up the pace to approach those numbers again.
|Season Stats: 47 GP, 7-15-22, E, 106 PIMS|
#30-Dan Ellis (C+)
To put it politely, the first two months of his season were atrocious. Since then, he has been about .500, and continues to improve game-by-game. He has a lot of motivation right now, as he and Mike Smith (Houston) are fighting for the backup job to Marty Turco in Dallas when the lockout ends.
|Season Stats: 24 GP, 6-16-0 record, 2.64 GAA, .911 SV%, 2 assists, 1 SO|
#17-Andrei Kostitsyn (C)
Despite being new to the North American style of play, more was expected out of Kostitsyn at the beginning of the year. Although his offensive numbers are down from where many feel they should be, his all-around game has improved vastly. If the improvement continues, his grade will be higher.
|Season Stats: 39 GP, 9-5-14, +2, 10 PIMS|
#46-Chris Higgins (C)
Higgins has not had the best of years, and he’ll be the first to tell you that. He is still very good defensively, but he is struggling on the offensive end, failing to cash in on several empty-net chances (in the course of the game), as well as in the shootout, where he has not yet scored. His removal from the shootout lineup and the top PP unit is becoming a cause for concern.
|Season Stats: 48 GP, 14-12-26, -1, 22 PIMS|
#16-Jason Ward (C)
What a difference one NHL campaign makes. The 2002-03 AHL MVP is certainly not living up to his billing, as his offence, like many other Bulldogs, has gone virtually kaput. In 02-03, he averaged over a point-per-game, while this season, he is struggling to stay at half of that. On the plus side, he has been a strong leader for the team as their captain, and his defensive game can’t be questioned.
|Season Stats: 48 GP, 11-16-27, -3, 54 PIMS|
#7-Phillipe Plante (C)
The AHL veteran struggled early on, as he had problems beating out Andrew Archer and Matt Shasby for a lineup spot on every given night. Recently though, his game at both ends has picked up, and now seems to have a spot locked up for the rest of the season, given the injury to Mike Komisarek, and Shasby’s demotion. He had a 4-point game in January.
|Season Stats: 44 GP, 3-10-13, -5, 26 PIMS|
#36-Raitis Ivanans (C)
Ivanans has done exactly what he was brought in to do. Unfortunately, that doesn’t say a whole lot. He has won more than a fair share of his fights, and also possesses adequate hockey sense, which will allow him to push for Montreal’s enforcer spot, as Darren Langdon has departed for New Jersey.
|Season Stats: 47 GP, 1-4-5, -1, 135 PIMS|
#38-Benjamin Carpentier (C)
One of the longest serving Canadiens’ minor leaguers looking back to the days of the Citadelles, his role has been lessened severely due to the acquisition of Ivanans. As a result, he has been a scratch on many an occasion, although recently, he has moved over to play defence to spell rookie d-men Andrew Archer and James Sanford every now and then.
|Season Stats: 41 GP, 2-3-5, -5, 40 PIMS|
#5-Andrew Archer (C)
Archer continues to develop his game, albeit at little more than a snail’s pace. He still makes mistakes at both ends, but he remains fairly consistent in the #5 or 6 defensive spot. If Mike Komisarek manages to return from injury, he could be facing demotion to Long Beach.
|Season Stats: 40 GP, 1-4-5, +5, 48 PIMS|
#25-Michael Lambert (C-)
Despite being a rookie, it’s hard to label his season thus far short of disappointing. His offensive game has not yet arrived, after averaging over a point-per-game in his last 2 QMJHL seasons. Given the play of some of the players in Long Beach, Lambert may be sent down at one point to get some more quality ice time, which at this point, wouldn’t hurt.
|Season Stats: 40 GP, 3-4-7, E, 18 PIMS|
#21-Jonathan Ferland (C-)
After a strong rookie season, Ferland appears to have regressed slightly; his numbers are down, and more defensive lapses are occurring. He still does bring his much needed physical game at all times, despite just returning from concussion issues.
|Season Stats: 38 GP, 2-6-8, -3, 10 PIMS|
#44-Dan Focht (D+)
What a year he is having…and that’s not a good thing. Despite his 6’6 stature, he is not as physical as his coaches would like, and, although he was in the NHL last year, he still makes too many mistakes at both ends of the rink. For a player seeking an NHL deal with the Canadiens, he sure doesn’t seem too motivated.
|Season Stats: 26 GP, 2-3-5, -3, 84 PIMS|
#65-Ron Hainsey (D)
How can I put this gently? I can’t. His season thus far? Atrocious. The offensive minded d-man recently doubled his goal total last month…from 1 to 2. His defensive game meanwhile has gone away (although some would argue that it never existed); his +/- has ranked either last or close to it all season long. Bob Gainey must be looking at some other options to fill his projected role with the big club, as Hainsey has done nothing to merit ice time up there…his ice time is dropping in the AHL!
|Season Stats: 39 GP, 2-6-8, -12, 29 PIMS|
There were some players who have not been given a grade, for various reasons. Those players, and explanations are given below.
N/A- Injured – #8-Mike Komisarek (0 games played), #20-Antti Miettinen (recently returned from season long injury), #18-Benoit Dusablon (recently retired after suffering career ending neck injury in preseason).
N/A- Demoted – #27-Cory Urquhart, #26-Christian Larrivee, and #39-Matt Shasby. ECHL reports will be given.
N/A- Not enough AHL GP – #28-James Sanford. ECHL report will be given.
|Summary of Grades: A+ to A-: 2 B+ to B-: 5 C+ to C-: 13 D+ to D-: 2 N/A: 7|
The Montreal Canadiens also have a second minor pro affiliation, which we have also covered throughout the season in our weekly Bulldogs columns. The Long Beach Ice Dogs of the ECHL have been one of the biggest surprises of the year. A laughingstock team in 03-04, the “Baby Dogs” are now contenders in their conference and should have a strong playoff run. Instead of grading all of their players though, we’ll simply cover the Hab prospects and move on from there. The criteria is the same as it was for the Hamilton skaters (see above); statistics are as of Feb. 8, 2005. Players denoted in italicized lettering are currently with the Bulldogs.
James Sanford (B+)
The rookie defenceman playing in Peoria instead of Long Beach (after a rights transfer) has taken the experience from Montreal’s rookie camp and ran with it. The rookie made it to the ECHL All-Star Game, but was unable to play as he is now playing in Hamilton, where he continues to impress. Although not currently under a contract with the Habs, he is on pace to do so, as J-P Cote did last season.
|Season Stats: 24 GP, 2-9-11, -7, 16 PIMS (ECHL), 14 GP, 3 pts, +4, 4 PIMS (AHL)|
Matt Shasby (B)
Canadiens management were hoping that Shasby would stick with the Bulldogs this season, but a preseason injury set him back, and he eventually wound up in Long Beach. Fortunately, Shasby has come down with the right attitude, and has increased his production well beyond last year’s numbers. He is now seeing plenty of ice time, and his two-way game is developing nicely as well. He should be the next defenceman called up if Hamilton loses another player on the back end.
|Season Stats: 14 GP, 1-6-7, +4, 8 PIMS (ECHL), 11 GP, 0 pts, -2 (AHL)|
Cory Urquhart (B-)
On the plus side, he made the Bulldogs squad out of camp. On the negative though, he played in only 1 game, as he watched Corey Locke take his spot. Urquhart’s offensive game has somewhat struggled in his pro rookie campaign, as his numbers are nowhere close to his junior production, but his defensive game has come along during his time down south. He should make a push for a 4th line spot in Hamilton next season.
|Season Stats: 37 GP, 11-7-18, +5, 10 PIMS (ECHL), 1 GP, 0 pts, -1 (AHL)|
Olivier Michaud (C)
It was hoped that this would be the year that Michaud would break through and become a legit prospect. It hasn’t happened, but it hasn’t been all his fault either. Yes, he had an ugly start to the season, but his appearances were already being limited by the team’s top goalie, Chris Madden (an Edmonton prospect), who just happens to be the league’s best goalie. Michaud’s game has improved lately, which earned him a brief recall to Hamilton before being returned here.
|Season Stats: 24 GP, 10-9-2-1 record, 2.47 GAA, .922 SV%, 0 points, 1 SO|
Christian Larrivee (C-)
I’ll be honest here, I have no idea why he was recalled to Hamilton earlier on. The ECHL veteran of the organization, Larrivee’s offensive game has disappeared, and his defensive game isn’t too great either. With the Bulldogs, he played even less (roughly 3-5 shifts per game), and produced even less (1 goal in 9 games). His time with the Canadiens franchise appears to be coming to an end.
|Season Stats: 27 GP, 4-5-9, +2, 10 PIMS (ECHL), 9 GP, 1 goal, 2 PIMS (AHL)|
We hope you enjoyed these midseason grades, even though it’s not really midseason anymore. The regular edition of the Bulldogs This Week will return next week.