With training camp now a little over half done,
there are some interesting stories emerging – can Carey Price be the starter,
who’s the odd man out on defence, what, if any rookies will make the club, and
so on. Today, we take a look at some of these stories, as well as the most
impressive and most disappointing players from Week 1, as well as a thought on
why who has cleared waivers so far is not really a big deal.
Aside from the obvious impressive outings from
players like Sergei Kostitsyn and Matt D’Agostini, a couple other players have
intrigued me thus far. Thomas Beauregard, although unsigned with the
Canadiens, did nothing but improve his chances of being signed at some point in
the near future. Had someone been claimed off waivers, I’m fairly sure he
would’ve been signed to that spot on the 50-man active roster fairly soon; more
on the waiver situation later. On the back end, Ryan O’Byrne was fairly
strong, as was Jamie Rivers, a defenceman who must have known he stood next to
no chance of making the big club – he signed a two-way contract to that end.
However, he stood out in the few games he played, showing that if injuries hit
the big club, he can still be a suitable callup.
Number one on my list is actually someone that
has stuck with the big club thus far, Mikhail Grabovski. His offensive
game has struggled somewhat, despite playing with quality linemates, while his
defensive game remains adequate at best. There are some other players that
I’d have kept up over him, but that’s just me. Duncan Milroy and Jonathan
Ferland wasted what was likely their last shot at impressing any of the NHL
teams, here’s hoping they still feel they can prove something with the Bulldogs
this year. Garth Murray also had a shot to really solidify a spot, and
although did nothing to lose his spot from last season, didn’t do a whole lot to
instill confidence in the hearts of any fan out there either.
Most people recognize that Cristobal Huet is
going to be on the team one way or another, particularly since there isn’t much
of a market for $2-3 million goalies right now. That works a lot against
Carey Price, whose cap hit isn’t exactly far off from Huet’s, less than 3/4 of a
million in fact. When it comes down to the #2 job, I look at it this way,
who can benefit more from starting the season with Hamilton, playing the bulk of
the games? I feel Price could use the time a lot more than Halak, who has
close to a full season in the AHL in his 2 combined years, while Price is under
30 games. The playoffs count for something, but when the team likely isn’t
going to contend out of the gate, let your top prospect get some seasoning
before getting thrown into the fire.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way here.
Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik, Mike Komisarek, and Mark Streit (who deserves to
start on defence at least) are mainstays on the team. That leaves really 3
spots, 4 if Streit spends some time on the wing as well, with 5 players fighting
to get in there. Patrice Brisebois is essentially a mainstay, given that
the only way any part of his contract comes off the books aside from a trade is
a buyout, which won’t happen. I really can’t see Brisebois being sent to
the Bulldogs, or reporting for that matter. Francis Bouillon is healthy
this year, and provides some nice energy (and doesn’t have the best of
contracts), so he’s likely to stay as well.
That leaves us with Mathieu Dandenault, Josh Gorges, and Ryan O’Byrne. At
the very least, Gorges’ contract is nice, he is young and affordable, even if it
is as a reserve. Dandenault has struggled under the pressure of having to
fight for a spot, and is probably the best candidate for a trade. If not
though, he stays (mostly because of the contract – who wants to pay a nearly $2
million salary in the minors besides the Rangers?) However, he too can
play the wing, and that may be a saving grace in the interim. O’Byrne
meanwhile, has done nothing to show that he does not belong on the team, but
everything around him is working against him. In the end, he too can
benefit from some more seasoning (defencemen take a long time to mature), and is
almost the obvious choice to go down at the very least until something happens
that can eliminate some of the clutter.
We know who most of the mainstays are, no point
in wasting the time saying them here. The youngsters who spent 20+ games
with the club last year in Guillaume Latendresse, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Maxim
Lapierre are all very likely to stay up, unless Lapierre (who Carbonneau has
criticized) continues to draw the ire of the coaching staff. By my count,
there’s 11 forwards accounted for between those 3 and the givens, which leaves
1-2 spots left, depending if one of the defencemen gets shifted over to the
The 3 remaining forwards in camp vying for the roster spot(s) are Kyle Chipchura,
Mikhail Grabovski, and Garth Murray. Each brings a unique element to the
table, Chipchura and his strong two-way play, Grabovski and his dynamic
offensive play, and Murray has the edge in grit and experience.
Considering where the opening is going to be (likely 4th line and PK time), this
pretty much eliminates Grabovski since he really does not fit that role.
Although Murray has the experience, Chipchura should get the nod here if it
comes down to one player, mainly because of his versatility and the fact that he
can be a dependable penalty killer. Murray stays as the 13th forward, or
gets waived and farmed out.
Who goes: Price, O’Byrne,
Grabovski, Murray (as the team will decide to put one of the two defencemen on
the wing, at least temporarily.) O’Byrne is recalled by Christmas for a
small stint when injuries hit.
Of the players on the bubble, Murray, Gorges,
and Dandenault are the key ones that would have to clear in order to be demoted.
As for the ones who recently cleared, I have to say that it was amusing watching
the panic set in about the thought of losing a 4th string goalie in Danis, or
the player who was the #4 centre during most of the season in Hamilton, Corey
Locke. Most teams who need a backup goalie have a player like Danis in
their system already, while the only way Locke can make it as an NHL regular is
if he’s a top-2 centre, and I don’t think any teams are that desperate to fill a
void with a minor leaguer. The only player that I thought may get claimed
was J-P Cote in that he was a wildcard, given how he was hurt most of last
season, and wasn’t half bad during his short stint a couple of seasons ago.
Of the 3 mentioned above, Gorges I’m sure would be claimed by several teams, and
I’m fairly sure Murray would clear. Dandenault is the interesting one here
– I’m not so sure he would be exposed on waivers to begin with, but his contract
is such that if he was, he could clear, as many teams don’t have the cap space
to take him on as a depth defender. And in that case, can he even be dealt
for a mid-late pick as is being discussed? His case will truly be
interesting to follow as the week plays out.