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In this week’s HW Recap: The weekly player
rankings assess a Western road trip where the Habs played better in each game
they played, picking up three of six points.  In
Hamilton, the losing streak is finally over but there’s still a lot of work to
be done to get out of the cellar.  Plus, my Final
Thought examines the key questions that need to be pondered when discussing
Jacques Martin’s future.

Player
Rankings

Players are rated from 1 to however many
players play on a weekly (non-cumulative) basis.  Rankings will be tracked
weekly and averages provided. 

1) Andrei Kostitsyn: When he’s on, he
can take over a game as he showed in Los Angeles.  He’s been doing that a
lot more this year and is quickly shaking the rust from that injury a couple
weeks ago. (Prev:
12  Avg: 5.83)

2) Carey Price: Yes, he allowed the
untimely late goal in San Jose but had made more than enough saves to keep the
game close.  Against the Kings, he wasn’t as tested but made the big saves
early, allowing the Habs to score first and take control. (Prev:
1  Avg: 4.13)

3) Erik Cole: Had a strong game in San
Jose and although he didn’t pick up a point in the other games, he was still a
presence out there, generating several quality chances. (Prev:
2  Avg: 5.88)

4) David Desharnais: He played a
terrific game in San Jose, his best of the season for sure, but was largely
quiet otherwise.  He also struggled in the faceoff dot, something we
haven’t seen from him in a while. (Prev:
11  Avg: 8.63)

5) Josh Gorges: He saw his
responsibilities increase even more with regular powerplay time but as usual, he
handled it efficiently without it affecting his defensive game. (Prev:
5  Avg: 7.38)

6) Raphael Diaz: Just as people were
starting to write him off as a surefire Bulldog when the defence gets healthy,
he puts together one of his best all-around weeks of the season. (Prev:
18  Avg: 12.63)

7) Tomas Plekanec: He’s showing signs
that he’ll be getting out of his offensive funk sooner than later. 
Defensively he played well but I’m keeping him down this week due to a
horrendous showing at the faceoff dot (39.4%). (Prev:
9
 Avg: 4.88)

8) Mike Cammalleri: Perhaps a trip out
towards his old stomping grounds was what he needed to get going again.  He
had a strong game in San Jose and a decent one against the Kings; hopefully it’s
a step in the right direction. (Prev:
14  Avg: 11.00)

9) P.K. Subban: Anyone else concerned
that the ‘theatrical’ part of his game has been more evident in recent contests? 
If he can away from the constant jawing (at opponents and officials), his
already strong defensive play would get another boost. (Prev:
8  Avg: 9.75)

10) Lars Eller: He seems to be
comfortable with his current linemates (Kostitsyn and Leblanc), something he
hasn’t been the last little while.  His struggles on the draw continue
though, that has to improve soon or else he’ll be back on the wing
before long. (Prev: 3  Avg:
6.75)

11) Alexei Emelin: His physical game
will make it tough to pull him from the lineup as the likes of Campoli and
Spacek return.  If he can improve his positional play, it’ll be nearly
impossible to sit him then. (Prev: 7  Avg:
11.83)

12) Hal Gill: He blocked enough shots
this week that he should probably qualify to have a save percentage. 
Beyond that, he was fairly quiet as he saw largely shielded minutes on the third
pairing. (Prev:
10  Avg: 14.27)

13) Louis Leblanc: He was eased into
the lineup and got better each game.  He earned the opportunity to stay up
although he’ll have less minutes to prove he belongs long-term. (Prev:
N/A  Avg:
13.00
)

14) Peter Budaj: Another average game
from the Habs’ backup but like usual, he didn’t have a lot of help.  In his
four starts, the offence has given him a total of just seven goals of support. (Prev:
N/A  Avg:
10.50
)

15) Brian Gionta: The captain managed
to post a much better +/- rating but that was one of the lone positives of his
week.  He seems to struggle with Plekanec and could stand to benefit from
new linemates to get him going. (Prev:
16  Avg: 9.25)

16) Travis Moen: Has his hot streak
finally ended?  Unfortunately, the other elements to his game were also
quiet this week, especially his physical one. (Prev:
4
 Avg: 10.75)

17) Petteri Nokelainen: As the
importance of the game increases (late game, close score), his ice time
decreases.  That’s rarely a good sign although he was the lone C to have a
50% or better faceoff percentage in each game. (Prev:
13  Avg: 17.17)

18) Frederic St. Denis: When he played
he saw limited minutes but he didn’t hurt the team when he was out there. 
He isn’t making a case to stay up but the Habs should feel comfortable using him
if injuries continue to mount. (Prev: 20  Avg:
17.67)

19) Mathieu Darche: He has a couple of
plays each game where you think to yourself, "That’s why he’s in the lineup." 
Unfortunately, the rest of the time, he isn’t doing much of anything other than
eating up ice time without messing up much. (Prev:
19  Avg: 16.25)

20) Yannick Weber: When he struggles,
boy do you notice.  Confidence is something that really seems to drive his
play and that’s something he’s lacking at the moment.  Using him primarily
as a PP specialist may be a good way to ease him out of this. (Prev:
15  Avg: 13.38)

21) Aaron Palushaj: His one game saw
him play very little and accomplish less.  A trip to Hamilton is exactly
what the doctor ordered for him…and the offensively challenged Bulldogs. (Prev:
21  Avg: 19.00)

The Dog
Pound

Something shockingly rare actually happened for
the Bulldogs this week…and I don’t mean the fact they finally won a game. 
Instead of losing more players to injury, some actually returned allowing
Hamilton to ice a full roster.  Normally this wouldn’t seem like much but
trust me, this is a pretty big thing for them.

Results:

December 2:

St. John’s 4, Hamilton 0

December 3:


Hamilton 3, Rochester 2

StatPack:

For the Bulldogs to be successful,
they need to get some scoring support from the bottom lines.  In their lone
win, that’s exactly what happened.

SKATERS


#

Player

GP

G

A

+/-

SH

PIMS
5 Alex Henry 2 0 0 E 1 0
6 Joe Stejskal 2 0 0 -1 0 0
7 Joe Callahan 2 0 0 -1 1 4
10 Philip DeSimone 2 0 1 E 1 0
13 Zack FitzGerald 2 0 0 E 2 14
14 Michael Blunden 2 1 0 E 9 0
15 Phillipe Lefebvre 2 0 0 -1 1 0
17 Mark Mitera 2 1 0 -2 3 2
18 Dany Masse 2 0 0 -1 4 2
21 Ian Schultz 2 0 0 +1 4 7
23 Joonas Nattinen 2 1 0 E 6 2
24 Brian Willsie 2 0 1 +1 6 2
40 Gabriel Dumont 2 0 1 -3 4 2
44 Olivier Dame-Malka 2 0 0 E 2 0
51 Mitch Wahl 2 0 0 -1 0 4
53 T.J. Fast 2 0 0 -1 0 4
55 Garrett Stafford 2 0 0 E 2 0
67 Alexander Avtsin 2 0 0 -1 3 0

GOALIES


#

Player

Record

SV%

GAA
52 Nathan Lawson 1-1-0 .906 3.00

Active Leaders:

Goals: Philip DeSimone (5)
Assists: Brian Willsie (10)
Points: Brian Willsie (13)
+/-: Ian Schultz (E)
PIMS: Zack FitzGerald (105) (League leader)
Shots: Brian Willsie (79)

Schedule:

December
6:
Adirondack vs Hamilton
December 9:
Toronto vs Hamilton
December 10: Hamilton vs Syracuse
December 11: Rochester vs Hamilton

Final
Thought

The status of Jacques Martin is by far the most
hotly-debated topic for Hab fans in this early season.  Should he stay;
should he go, will he stay; will he go?  In assessing what to do, here are
the questions that I feel need to be addressed in order to make the decision.

1) Does the bilingual language requirement
still exist?

Those of you who have read this column over the
past half-decade know that I’m not a big fan of this as it greatly shrinks the
talent pool.  Obviously, this one has to be answered before determining
which options are out there.

2) Is the desired candidate readily
available?

It’s more difficult to pry a coach out of
another organization midseason than it is in the offseason.  Obviously Kirk
Muller showed it’s not impossible but if the Habs’ target is coaching elsewhere,
he may not be available right away.  Of course this poses another small
question of whether or not it’s worth waiting.

3) Is the Habs’ current roster good enough
to be a playoff team?

I think this is the biggest one of all, really. 
For the past several weeks, Montreal has iced a lineup either just above or just
below the NHL’s salary floor.  As fans, when we look at other teams in this
area, most of the time we dismiss them as afterthoughts.  As a result, the
same has to be at least considered here.  If the current lineup, with the
injuries as they are, is around a .500 team at best, that plays a role into the
decision making process.

4) What is management’s intention – a short
term fix or a longer term one?

The assessment of the current roster from
number three helps to shape this one.  If Pierre Gauthier wants to make a
change and thinks this team can still make a big playoff run, then they’ll be
looking for more a veteran, short term coach.  If they want someone who
they plan to have for a while, that reduces the interest in some of the veterans
whose names have been bandied about. 

So what’s my take on all of these?  I’m a
firm believer that there are more and better coaching options out there in the
offseason than during the year.  I’m also not a big fan of most of the
veteran French-speaking coaches that are available at the moment (and I suspect
the bilingual requirement will indeed still be in play), nor do I think that the
current squad is a different coach away from contending.  I’m not
comfortable saying unequivocally that Jacques Martin is the best coaching option
for the Habs.  However, I will say this: Jacques Martin is the best
coaching option for the Habs…for now.  As time (and self-imposed
restraints) changes, so too will that statement.

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