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With the season over, it’s time to wrap up and
move forward.  This week, the final Hamilton grades are the focus while
Montreal’s other minor league affiliate awaits its 3rd round opponent after a
2nd round sweep.  Moving forward, we look at free agency for both Hamilton
and Montreal, while the Final Thought looks at a couple aspects of free agency
when July 1st hits, in the final edition of the HW Recap – Season 4.


There are 3 grades to look for – the first
is the final regular season grade, the second the midseason grade recorded in
late December, and the third the playoff grade.  Players must have played
in at least 21 regular season games (roughly 25%) and/or 3 playoff games (50%)
to receive a grade.


Cedrick Desjardins:
After spending most of last
year in the ECHL, I was very impressed with how he acquitted himself in his
first full AHL season.  Should have the inside track for the #1 job next
year.  (Midseason: A-  

Marc Denis:
There were some ups and downs
along the way, but for the most part, a solid season.  That being said, I’m
skeptical it’s enough to bring him back to the NHL full time.  (Midseason:
C+   Postseason:

Not enough GP to qualify: Loic Lacasse


Yannick Weber:
Led all Hamilton defensemen
in points and was amongst the league leaders in almost every offensive category
for blueliners.  Still needs some work defensively, but it’s hard to argue
with that production.  (Midseason: A-  
Postseason: N/A – only 2 GP)

Alex Henry:
He was brought in to smack
people around, and he succeeded at that.  His defensive play was better
than expected also.  (Midseason: B  
Postseason: B-)

Mathieu Carle:
Injuries continued to be a
concern, but to his credit, he played better after he requested a trade from the
Habs.  He has an NHL future, although it’s not looking like it’ll be in
Montreal.  (Midseason: B-  
Postseason: C+)

Dan Jancevski:
Only had the one goal this
year after at least 7 in the 3 years prior, but his defensive game was a big
improvement over last season (split between Norfolk/Iowa).  (Midseason:
B+   Postseason:

Chad Anderson:
He may very well have been a
depth d-man, but he turned out to be pretty useful with all the injuries.  (Midseason:
B-   Postseason:

Shawn Belle:
Brought some grit and
consistent defensive play to the lineup, but little more.  Somewhat
disappointing considering the player traded for him (Corey Locke) finished tied
for 7th in league scoring.  (Midseason: B+  
Postseason: B-)

T.J. Kemp:
Cooled off significantly
after a fast start with the Bulldogs upon his return from the Spengler Cup; his
ice time dropped as everyone finally became healthy.  (Midseason:
N/A   Postseason:

Doug Janik:
Slid down the depth chart to
where he was a 3rd pairing defender when everyone was healthy; his NHL days are
most likely done as a result.  (Midseason: N/A  
Postseason: C)

Not enough GP to qualify: Ryan
O’Byrne, Frederic St. Denis, Pavel Valentenko


Ben Maxwell:
Solid play defensively and
quickly became a dependable offensive player.  Had be been with the team
all season, he likely would’ve been the team leader in points.  (Midseason:
B+  Postseason: A)

David Desharnais:
Earned a full time roster
spot after an incredible playoff performance with Cincy last year and made the
most of it.  Size will always be a concern, but he’s shown he has the skill
to play at the pro level.  (Midseason: B+  
Postseason: B+)

Ryan Russell:
Regarded as one of those
depth guys at the beginning of the year, he quickly established himself as a
viable checker with a decent scoring touch (20 goals).  The Hamilton
broadcasters wrapped up his season best when both stated that the Habs would be
wise to give him a real long look next year.  (Midseason:
B   Postseason:

Max Pacioretty:
Played extremely well
earning his recall to Montreal but was slowing down before being shutdown for
the remainder of the season.  It’d likely be best for him to start in
Hamilton again next year, but given the number of holes in Montreal, that luxury
may not be afforded to the Habs.  (Midseason:
   Postseason: N/A)

Mike Glumac:
Like Lehoux, struggled
towards the end of the season, but his streak of 17 straight road games with a
point is something virtually unheard of nowadays.  (Midseason:
B   Postseason:

Yanick Lehoux:
Completely bombed in the
second half (only 4 goals after January 17) after a better than expected start
to the season.  Sadly, the playoff performance mirrored his 2nd half.  (Midseason:
A+   Postseason:

J.T. Wyman:
Montreal fans can especially
appreciate a player who can switch back and forth between forward and defence
and Wyman did that all season long.  With all the potential departures on
the blueline this summer, he may be converted back to D full time.  (Midseason:
B   Postseason:

Brock Trotter:
Really picked up his play at
the season progressed after a subpar beginning to the campaign.  With the
futures of a lot of Hamilton’s centres uncertain, he needs to be ready to
produce even more next year.  (Midseason: B-  
Postseason: C+)

Ryan White:
Inconsistency was the telling
mark of his rookie campaign.  One week he’d be the team’s top scorer, then
go several weeks with nary a point.  He showed signs of being a good
player, now he needs to bring it every night.  (Midseason:
B   Postseason:

Kyle Chipchura:
Had the best +/- per game
ratio in the AHL this year, but 14 goals in 51 games didn’t exactly blow anyone
away, especially with only 5 in his last 33 contests.  No one can argue
with his defensive capabilities, but he needed to be more of a scorer, not only
to help his team, but also his NHL chances.  (Midseason:
A-   Postseason:

Mathieu Aubin:
Injuries derailed what was
shaping up to be a pretty decent sophomore campaign; he still managed to record
more points than in his 2 previous years combined.  (Midseason:
B+   Postseason:

Gregory Stewart:
Picked up his offensive game
somewhat this year (same number of points but 17 fewer games), but also had a
knack for inopportune penalties, which cost the team even in the postseason in
his limited play.  (Midseason: B-  
Postseason: N/A – only 2 GP)

Steve Gainey:
A decent emergency injury
replacement, but really nothing more.  For a player who was in the NHL just
a few years ago, I think most people were hoping for more from the veteran.  (Midseason:
N/A   Postseason:

Ryan Flinn:
His expectations were low,
and he still failed to meet them.  Frankly, I’d be stunned if he manages to
get himself a contract next season.  (Midseason:
D+   Postseason:

Not enough GP to qualify:
Thomas Beauregard, Andrew Conboy, Matt D’Agostini, Ryan Kinasewich, Sergei
Kostitsyn, Olivier Latendresse, Mark Van Guilder, Tyler Shelast


On the whole, the 2008-09 season can only be
viewed as a positive despite their disappointing playoff showing.  Several
youngsters showed why the future in Montreal looks fairly bright, while some of
the "hired guns" (Glumac, Lehoux, etc) had better than expected years. 
After last year’s disaster that saw the team miss the playoffs, this was a very
exciting year in Steeltown.

Coast Report

After a grueling first round, the Cincinnati
Cyclones will have lots of time to rest up after sweeping their 2nd round series
vs the Elmira Jackals (TB’s ECHL affiliate).  Loic Lacasse bounced back to
earth after a solid 1st round and is now once again relegated to backup goalie
status.  Halfway to their goal of repeating, the Cyclones now wait to see
who their next opponent will be.


With the season now officially done, it’s time
to look at who the free agents are for both the Habs and Bulldogs.  As is
the case in Montreal, there are numerous UFA’s in Hamilton and the roster will
likely look a lot different next year.  Players will be sorted by their
free agent status (UFA/RFA); UFA’s will further be classified with a 1-3 scale
that gives my opinion on what needs.  1 – Would like to see return, 2 –
Wouldn’t mind seeing return…at the right price and in the right situation, 3 –
Thanks for coming out, best of luck with your new team.
  (There’s no
point in classifying the RFA’s as most of the time all are qualified regardless
of their standing in the organization).



Matt D’Agostini, Chris Higgins (arb. eligible),
Guillaume Latendresse, Tomas Plekanec (arb. eligible), Gregory Stewart


Francis Bouillon (2), Patrice Brisebois (3),
Mathieu Dandenault (1), Saku Koivu (1/2), Mike Komisarek (2), Tom Kostopoulos
(1), Alexei Kovalev (2), Robert Lang (1/2), Mathieu Schneider (2), Alex Tanguay


It may surprise some to see Dandenault as a 1,
but I’m a big fan of having a player who can sub in up front and on the back
end.  He showed at the end of last year that he has something left, and
with several rookies vying for a roster spot, it may not hurt to have that
veteran presence.  I’d really like to put Schneider as a 1, but I’m
concerned that his salary and term request will price himself out of Montreal’s
range.  Tanguay is a player that the team coughed up a lot to get, and is
the one local star player they have; keeping him around could potentially have
some future benefits down the road in attracting players.

I’d welcome Kovalev and Komisarek back if the prices are reasonable, but
wouldn’t be overly upset to see either walk if the bidding gets too high. 
Lang and Koivu are classified 1/2 as a reason – 1 needs to stay, but there isn’t
room for 2.  I think both genuinely want to stay so this will likely be one
of the tougher decisions management has if they view their situations the way I



Mathieu Aubin, Shawn Belle (arb. eligible),
Loic Lacasse, Olivier Latendresse


Chad Anderson (2), Marc Denis (2), Ryan Flinn
(3), Mike Glumac (1), Dan Jancevski (Dallas UFA – 2), Doug Janik (3), T.J. Kemp
(3), Yanick Lehoux (2)


Moving into next season, there’s a couple of
potential vacancies that need to be filled, I presume 1 will be signed from this
list and any others will come from outside (P.K. Subban for starters).  I
think holding onto Denis wouldn’t be the worst move in the world, as I’m
skeptical that Lacasse will be around beyond this year and Robert Mayer isn’t
ready for full time backup duty right away.  But, if Denis wants to test
the NHL waters, there will be plenty of other veteran AHL goalies available to
bring in.

On offence, I’d like to see both Lehoux and Glumac return, but I assume both may
want to move on.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lehoux head back overseas,
and with the depth the team has at C on the roster currently, they could fill
the void from within.  Because of the organization’s lack of depth on the
wings, Glumac would be a bigger loss, so I’d like to see the Habs make a good
push to keep him onboard.


There’s a couple of things I’d like to cover in
this final column of the year.  I’ll start by mentioning something that a
lot of people are getting excited about the potential of utilizing the offer
sheet.  It ain’t happening folks.  And no, this has nothing to do with
the fact that Bob Gainey’s an old school GM, it just can’t be done for the
most part
.  In order to use an offer sheet, all of the picks must be in
the same season (unless it’s an offer sheet for over $5 million) and can only be
from that team (Montreal can’t use a pick from say Minnesota as a substitute for
their own).  In most instances, a 3rd rounder is required for compensation
and the Habs…don’t have one and cannot just use their 2011 3rd instead. 
This means that there’s only 2 offer sheet levels they can use: $1 to $2 million
(compensation a 2nd rounder) – but anything signed in that range will be matched
and over $5 million (compensation is 4 first rounders – 2010 through 2013) – is
there anyone even available worth moving 4 first rounders for?  This may
look like an attractive avenue at first, but unless the Habs make a move with
Atlanta to re-acquire their 2010 3rd by July 1st, this is all but out of the

The other part also pertains to free agency – I won’t weigh in any further about
who the coach/GM should be, those of you who read this column regularly know my
opinions on this already.  There’s 2 avenues I’d like to see the Habs
pursue and the second one really only comes into play if the first one’s a
no-go.  I’d love to see the Habs nab a marquee UFA for once (provided the
Lecavalier rumours don’t prove to be true – I’m hoping nothing happens on that
end); sadly the contract will have to be a long-term one but if that’s what it
takes, you have to take the gamble.  Failing that, as strange as it sounds,
structure the team back the way it was – bring in guys on 1 year deals,
supplementing some youngsters that will move up full time.  Yes, you run
the risk of having players play for themselves, but the added potential for
flexibility with a lower salary cap can pay huge dividends after next year –
they’d be one of the few teams with money to throw at a bumper crop of UFA’s. 
1 year of potential pain for long-term gain, doesn’t sound bad right about now.

And with that, the 4th season of the HW Recap has come to an end.  As
always, a big thank you to the loyal readers of this column, your support is
always appreciated.  Moving forward, our coverage of the World
Championships continues via our StatTracker, and the draft is just over a month
and a half away – look for our previews in June.  Be sure to also look for
our playoff predictions as the 3rd and 4th round of the playoff approach. 

If you’d like to drop me a line, please do so by
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than using the malfunctioning comment box below.