As training camp is underway, many of us are preparing our annual hockey pools. A new season gives us the chance to defend our claim of superior hockey knowledge amongst our friends, make up for laughable results of seasons past, or once again find ourselves ridiculed for questionable and sometimes dimwitted picks. The following presents a quick look at several Montreal Canadiens that can prove to be valuable sleeper picks, slouches that should be avoided at all costs, and sure things that are the basis for any successful poolie.
Mike Cammalleri: Excluding his rookie season, Cammalleri has registered at worst .74 points a game, to a point-per-game during his career. As the top offensive threat on the Canadiens roster, he’ll play on the top offensive line and will receive significant time on the Power Play. Well on his way to scoring 40 goals last season before a freak injury stalled his production; he is likely to come close or surpass the point-per-game performance he achieved in Calgary. If he carries his blazing goal scoring pace of last year’s playoff run, Cammalleri is a safe pick in middle to high rounds.
Brian Gionta: Since the 2005-2006 season, Gionta has never averaged worse than .64 points per game. Being reunited with Scott Gomez last season helped his production, as he was well on his way to a 35 goal season before missing significant time due to a foot injury. Gionta is has remained relatively healthy throughout his career and is unlikely to have lost a step during the off-season. He is a safe pick in middle to late rounds.
Scott Gomez: Disregard for a moment that Gomez is overpaid. Since 2005-2006, he has never had less than 55 points and has never played less than 72 games. When paired with Gionta, his production was close to a point-per-game last season. He will once again get lots of powerplay time and will once again get top six minutes. Gomez is a lock in middle to late rounds and could prove incredibly valuable if Gionta is healthy all year.
Jaroslav Spacek: When signed by the Habs, fans thought they were getting a poor man’s Markov. Unfortunately, they got a third world Markov. Spacek’s reputation as a good puck mover is all but dead. His 45 point season in Buffalo was an outlier and mainly due to the complete absence of any truly offensively gifted point men to run the powerplay. Expect Spacek to once again lose a step, and perhaps even lose his place on the second powerplay unit to Alexandre Picard or potential midseason call up of Mathieu Carle or Yannick Weber.
Jeff Halpern: Halpern will likely be relegated to third or fourth line duties with the Habs. With Lars Eller joining the club, don’t expect him to pick up the PP minutes that Glen Metropolit had last season. He has missed significant time due to injury the past few years and will likely be used primarily as a penalty killer and checking centre.
P.K. Subban: This is no ordinary rookie. By virtue of his tremendous performance in the playoffs, and his having the only right handed shot capable of playing on the powerplay (or in the lineup period), Subban will likely see big PP minutes this season. He is likely to be paired with Roman Hamrlik (who will surely be given defense first responsibilities within the duo), allowing Subban to carry the game offensively, at least until Markov is healthy. Expect his production to pick up significantly once paired with Markov on the first unit.
Andrei Kostitsyn: He can’t possibly have a worse season. Also, if healthy, he is a virtual lock to notch at least 20 goals. The presence of Lars Eller will provide some extra motivation as his job won’t be as safe this year. Let’s not forget, he is a 25 year old who is solid on his skates, has been blessed with speed and has a cannon for a shot. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg began to light it up at the same age!
Carey Price: A surefire number one goalie is a hard thing to find nowadays for a poolie. Many teams are employing two goalie systems (BOS, TOR, OTT, PHI, NYI, ATL, TB, etc). Others have young goalies who may steal a starting job. Carey Price is a lock to be the number one goalie. Alex Auld is very ordinary or terrible, depending on whom you ask, so expect Price to be a workhorse for the Habs this year. They have no other options. Also, despite his critics, his career numbers are quite respectable, especially if you consider his age.