Although the scoring dried up when it counted the most in the playoffs, goals
weren’t all that tough to come by for the Habs who were just one of six teams to
average more than three goals per game. They were led by a balanced attack
rather than one or two guys which resulted in strong seasons for a lot of
players. Our final grades series concludes with Montreal’s forwards.
Similarly to the Hamilton grades, skaters must have played in at least 40% of
Montreal’s regular season games (19 in total) to be evaluated.
Colby Armstrong: No one really knew what to expect from him after
missing so much time in recent seasons. Unfortunately he was unable to
resurrect his level of play when he played for Michel Therrien in Pittsburgh and
more or less was relied on as a defensive forward who didn’t make mistakes while
being good in the room. That was also his postseason role as he failed to
generate much in the way of offence. He’s a pending UFA and it’s up in the
air as to whether or not he’ll be back.
Season Grade: C- Playoff Grade: C
Rene Bourque: After a disastrous debut with the Canadiens in 2011-12,
Bourque took some strides forward. He provided more production while
playing a more physical game, both areas that needed serious improvement from
last season. An injury derailed some of his momentum but he was 100% in
time for the playoffs where he really made his mark. He was one of the few
consistent threats that Montreal had in each game and should have a decent grasp
on a top six spot for next year as things stand.
Season Grade: B- Playoff Grade: B+
David Desharnais: He wasn’t the same player we saw last season even
though for the first half or so, his offensive production was comparable.
That was enough for the Habs to give him a midseason extension and unfortunately
his year went downhill in a hurry from there. That trend continued into
the playoffs as he struggled mightily to generate and set up scoring chances.
He should have a spot inside the top nine to start next season but if he starts
off 2013-14 the way his year ended, he could lose it before long.
Season Grade: C+ Playoff Grade: D
Lars Eller: Of the returning players from last year, he was the most
pleasant surprise. There had been questions about whether or not he could
take his game to another level and he did just that, making strides in all
facets of the game, particularly in his physical play. Unfortunately a
Game 1 injury at the hands of Eric Gryba ended his playoffs far too early but he
has recovered from his concussion and will be ready to go next year.
Season Grade: B+ Playoff Grade: N/A
Alex Galchenyuk: He quickly put to rest any thoughts that the top end
of the 2012 draft class wasn’t all that good compared to recent years. He
was eased into the league and not handed lots of minutes, something we haven’t
seen much of with top prospects in recent years around the league. As a
result he was able to develop at his own pace and short of a couple of rough
patches, played quite well throughout the year; his first foray into playoff
action was also successful. He averaged just over 12 minutes per game this
year, expect that number to go up as his role increases next season.
Season Grade: A- Playoff Grade: B
Brendan Gallagher: After being one of Hamilton’s most consistent
offensive threats during the lockout, he came in and was exactly that (as a
rookie) with Montreal. His never-say-die attitude and energy was something
to behold as he quickly earned the confidence of the coaches. He continued
his strong play in the playoffs although the fact he was on the ice for more
than half of Ottawa’s even strength goals is a bit concerning. Like
Galchenyuk, his minutes should go up next year; I expect he’ll be a regular in
the top six.
Season Grade: A Playoff Grade: B-
Brian Gionta: If you consider Gionta to still be a front line player,
his 2012-13 campaign would be classified as a disappointment. If, however,
you view him as a second liner, his season would be viewed as a quality one.
He’s clearly on the downside of his career but came back strong from an injury
that cost him a big chunk of last year. His playoffs ended with another
torn bicep (the same injury that took him out last year but on the other arm);
with that in mind, him dropping to more of a supporting role seems like a
distinct possibility for next season.
Season Grade: B Playoff Grade: N/A
Jeff Halpern: His second stint with the Habs got off to a strong start
before he started to have less and less of an impact towards the end of the
year. His prowess at the faceoff dot (55.6% with the Habs) was certainly
welcomed as was his speed. The playoffs seemed to revitalize him though as
he wound up generating a lot of chances while still playing well defensively.
I believe he did enough to make management seriously consider bringing him back
on a one year deal in a depth role.
Season Grade: N/A Playoff Grade: B
Travis Moen: His effort was not exactly the best way to reward Marc
Bergevin’s faith in him (having given Moen a four year deal). He lacked
the energy that made him an important part of the team in past years while he
looked a couple of steps slower. I won’t criticize his physical play
though, he actually hit and fought at a level comparable to last year. His
struggles continued into the postseason even though his minutes went up
considerably thanks to injuries. He needs to have a strong training camp
to start to re-earn the trust of the coaches. If he doesn’t, he may be in
the press box before too long.
Season Grade: D Playoff Grade: D
Max Pacioretty: On the whole, the production was there but he was a
lot more hot and cold than he was in 2011-12. He also stayed primarily on
the perimeter which is something that needs to improve. All that said,
it’s hard to critique him too much as he was the Habs’ top scorer for the second
straight year. Pacioretty struggled considerably in the postseason but as
it turns out, he was playing through a separated shoulder. He’ll be ready
to go for next year where his new six year deal kicks in and he’ll be expected
to be one of the go-to guys again.
Season Grade: B+ Playoff Grade: C-
Tomas Plekanec: Same old, same old for the Habs’ longest tenured
forward. There were moments where his offensive game slipped but the whole
year he continued to be their top two-way player. He has taken a lot of
heat for his playoff performance but I actually felt he was one of the few
forwards who played relatively well. He’ll head into next year as the
default top centre but with Eller and Galchenyuk likely to improve, he may not
have that role much longer.
Season Grade: B Playoff Grade: B-
Brandon Prust: The Habs were banking on him being able to play a
larger role than he did with the Rangers and fortunately Prust showed he was
able to. He is the prototypical ‘tough guy that can take a regular shift’
that the team has needed for a while. Unfortunately his shoulder injury
cost him several games and left him far from 100% for the Ottawa series which
significantly limited his effectiveness down the stretch. In a perfect
world next year, he’d be a nice option to have start on the 4th line, knowing
that he can move up when injuries arise.
Season Grade: B Playoff Grade: N/A
Michael Ryder: His acquisition was a controversial one but Ryder
provided some extra firepower for the team. Unfortunately the warts that
were in his game in his first stint with the club were still existent which
severely limited his effectiveness when he wasn’t hitting the scoresheet.
Sadly for the Habs, he was in a slump down the stretch and into the playoffs
which made him a non-factor for the entire round. As one of the higher
scoring UFA’s on the market this year, he’s likely to get a sizable raise which
lowers his chances of coming back to Montreal.
Season Grade: B+ Playoff Grade: D+
Ryan White: His season was mired by a litany of moments where he went
over the top and hurt the team with his actions. The rest of the regular
season – when he played – largely consisted of bland efforts as he struggled to
find the ‘line’ between smart, physical hockey and going over the edge. To
his credit, he was much more effective in the postseason…until he instigated
the line brawl that has brought the discussion of team toughness back into the
limelight; it also happened to end his year. If the Habs can find a
suitable replacement, I suspect he won’t be around for long. If he is
though, he’ll try to contend for a regular spot on the fourth line next season.
Season Grade: D Playoff Grade: C+