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The Habs kicked off the 2010-11 campaign with a
pair of nail biting 3-2 games, a loss in Toronto on Opening Night but a victory
over the Penguins on Saturday.  With training camp gone, let’s take a
closer look at who helped and hurt their stock, while the Final Thought looks at
why Mathieu Darche is the better option over Ryan White…for now, plus new
power rankings, in the Recap.


As always, there’s a tweak for this season. 
Rather than ratings being cumulative, players will be rated from 1 to however
many players play on a weekly basis.  Rankings will be tracked weekly and
averages provided. 

1) Carey Price: For the second straight
year, he debuts at number one thanks to a stellar outing in Pittsburgh plus a
decent one in Toronto.  On the downside, you can make a case that he’s
allowed a softie in each game, that will need to change.  Still, a positive
start to the season.

2) Mike Cammalleri: I have to admit, he didn’t look all that dangerous
out there in Pittsburgh.  That said, I have to give credit where credit is
due, 2 goals in 1 game alone justifies this rating.

3) Maxim Lapierre: This will surprise most I’m sure, but to me, he was
the catalyst of the line that played the best overall last week,
Pyatt-Boyd-Lapierre.  He provided the physical presence that allowed his
linemates (even when moved to play with Halpern) to get their scoring chances.

4) Dustin Boyd: When he’s on the ice, don’t blink, otherwise you may miss
a rush.  Unfortunately, he’s demonstrated why he’s never been a big scorer
but sooner or later, he’s bound to cash on more of these chances.

5) P.K. Subban: It’s hard not to be hypnotized when watching him rush up
the ice, he just has that appeal to him.  It’s also nice to see him playing
a physical style though he’ll need to be careful not to mix it up too often and
take himself off the ice.

6) Jeff Halpern: In one week alone, he’s already demonstrated exactly why
the Habs signed him.  He’s solid on the PK, excellent on the draw (70% this
week), and can still score the odd goal.  For $600k, he’ll be quite the

7) Benoit Pouliot: Another that may come as a surprise but he was the
most consistent of the players on his line and he also picked up an assist in
each game.  He also leads all forwards on the team with 7 hits.  He’s
making a case to stay on that line, even if he isn’t scoring.

8) Lars Eller: Quite the Habs debut for the Danish forward in Toronto
despite not hitting the score sheet.  He didn’t play as well in Pittsburgh
but still made some good things happen.  Taking a penalty in each game isn’t a
good sign, however.

9) Josh Gorges: He had some up and down moments but in the end was the
same defenceman most were impressed with from last year – strong defensively,
blocking lots of shots (6 already) and completely uncomfortable on the PP.

10) Scott Gomez: He struggled offensively this week but it’s hard to
justify having a player who scored a GWG any lower than here.  At least he
was above average on the draw (just over 52%).

11) Brian Gionta: He’s getting the shots and the chances but something’s
missing.  He and Gomez clearly aren’t on the same page which has really
limited Gionta and his linemates’ effectiveness.  I’m sure they’ll get it
together though.

12) Tomas Plekanec: This was not the same player who led the team in
points and the league (tied) in goals during the preseason.  Defensively he
was fine but at $5 mil per year, he needs the offensive game to get going as

13) Hal Gill: Steady as she goes defensively and even had an impressive
rush from his own end that led to a shot on goal.  I hope to remember that
moment all year as that might be the only time we see such a thing.

14) Tom Pyatt: He looks a lot more comfortable on the ice and is showing
it by trying to drive the net much more often than last season.  He and
Boyd make for a very quick duo that could cause some damage.

15) Ryan O’Byrne: After what can only be termed a disappointing
preseason, he had a pretty good week.  He leads the team in hits and better
still (compared to last year), he hasn’t been benched yet.

16) Andrei Kostitsyn: Is it just me, or does he look like he’s lost a
step out there?  He still has a booming, heavy shot but he doesn’t seem to
be able to get into position to take it as often as he should.

17) Jaroslav Spacek: To be fair, I didn’t think he played all that bad
this week, him being here is a result of so many others having quality weeks as
well.  But, with Hamrlik and Markov out, he needed to do more than he did.

18) Travis Moen: In what was supposed to be a physical game vs Toronto
and what was a chippy affair in Pittsburgh, he was barely noticeable.  He
didn’t play poorly but certainly could have made more of an impact.

19) Alexandre Picard: The only player to change numbers from the
preseason (43 to 45), he failed to help the powerplay/transition game which is
what he was brought in primarily to do.  If I were him, I wouldn’t be going
apartment shopping any time soon.

20) Mathieu Darche: Taking a pair of penalties in your first game is not
a good way to earn yourself more ice time.  To his credit, aside from that,
he certainly wasn’t terrible.

 The Dog

The Bulldogs were inactive this week in
preparation for the surprisingly late start to the season this coming Friday in
Rochester.  Hamilton did, however, go 3-0 in a preseason series vs the
Binghamton Senators.  Click
for a recap of those games.

The Bulldogs have undergone a notable facelift
this offseason though.  Gone is the entire coaching staff who have been
replaced by former NHL assistants Randy Cunneyworth and Randy Ladouceur. 
As for the on-ice product, here’s a quick look at the offseason turnover:

F Alexander Avtsin (Dynamo Moscow,
D Sebastien Bisaillon (Kassel, DEL)
F Jimmy Bonneau (Rochester, AHL)
F Andreas Engqvist (Djurgarden, SEL)
D Kyle Klubertanz (Djurgarden, SEL)
D Brendon Nash (Cornell, NCAA)
D Neil Petruic (Binghamton, AHL)
F Ian Schultz (Calgary, WHL)
D David Urquhart (Hartford, AHL)

G Peter Delmas and D Marc-Antoine Desnoyers remain in training camp on
tryouts though neither have signed yet.

D Chad Anderson (AHL free agent)
D Shawn Belle (signed with Edmonton)
D Andre Benoit (signed with Ottawa)
G Cedrick Desjardins (traded to Tampa Bay)
F Mike Glumac (signed 1 year contract with Kassel, DEL)
F Mikael Johansson (signed 3 year contract with Farjestad, SEL)
F Maxime Lacroix (team option declined)
F Eric Neilson (AHL free agent)
F Tom Pyatt (full time promotion to NHL)
F Grant Stevenson (signed a 1 year deal with Augsberger, DEL)
F Greg Stewart (signed with Edmonton)
D P.K. Subban (full time promotion to NHL)
F Brock Trotter (signed 1 year contract (plus option) with Riga, KHL)
D Mike Vernace (signed with Tampa Bay)

3 Up, 3

As we all know, training camp gives some of the
prospects a chance to move up or down the depth chart with a strong showing. 
Here’s a look at some of the players who improved or hurt their status in the

3 Up

1) Ryan White: There will be more on him
in the Final Thought but it’s safe to say that he made the biggest impact of all
the players who were cut.  For him, it’s not a matter of if he’ll be
called up but rather when.

2) Andreas Engqvist: It came as a surprise to many that he wasn’t amongst
the bulk cut of 18 players which is a telling sign that he made an impressive. 
He’s never going to be a top-6 forward, but with his size and strong positional
play, he may be one of the first to get a recall if someone goes down.

3) Brendon Nash: He may have only played 2 games but he stood out in both
of them for his quality defensive play.  It also didn’t hurt that he had a
2-point night in the second game.  He continued his strong play out East
during the Bulldogs’ training camp as well.  Though he may not be ready for
a recall yet, he’s forced his way up the depth chart by at least a couple of

3 Down

1) Max Pacioretty: Don’t get me wrong,
he didn’t play poorly but he certainly didn’t stand out either which isn’t good
enough.  The biggest telling sign though was when he was healthy to play –
he wasn’t given another look, he was simply sent down.  I can’t help but
wonder if he’ll be in Hamilton for the full season…which certainly wouldn’t be
a bad thing.

2) Mathieu Carle: This was a make or break camp for him and considering
what happened, it certainly wasn’t the former.  Not only did the Habs cut
him, but he also cleared waivers suggesting he’s fallen completely off the radar
for other teams.  Their loss is the Bulldogs’ gain though; if he can stay
healthy, he’ll warrant a recall sometime this year.

3) David Desharnais: This may come as a surprise to most, but more was
expected of him in the preseason.  At times, he looked much too nervous out
there in an offensive role, often making the wrong decisions and was physically
overmatched at times (such is life when you’re 5’7 though).  I’m sure he’ll
see some time in Montreal this year, but he’s further away from contributing
regularly now than he was at this time last month.

Final Thought

The biggest point of contention this training
camp seemed to be the decision to keep Mathieu Darche over Ryan White as the
13th forward.  With all due respect to White who had a solid camp, my
question is, why?  Let’s look at the facts here.  Darche is a veteran
(more experienced) player on a minimum salary who will be content with being a
reserve forward after spending years in the AHL.  White is a youngster,
waiver exempt, makes more than Darche before bonuses, and likely wouldn’t be
content sitting on the bench most nights.  Don’t take that as a slight at
White, he will be the better player, but riding the pine in Montreal isn’t best
for his development.

Those of you who have read these columns over
the past 6 years (dating back to the lockout when this was strictly a Bulldogs
weekly recap) should know my stance on this by now – if a waiver exempt player
is with the Habs, he better be playing basically every night, otherwise, he
be sent down.  Given the status of the roster, White wouldn’t be
seeing a lot of ice time – Pyatt earned it last year, Halpern is already showing
why he was brought in (solid defensive play and faceoffs), while Moen is another
veteran who will be given the benefit of the doubt if it came to picking between
those two.  Aside from Lars Eller getting sent down to play more minutes,
there really isn’t a spot for him as a regular, so why have him sit? 

It’s not like there’s nothing for White to
continue to work on either.  He was inconsistent offensively and his
skating still needs some work, both of these elements can be developed while he
plays most likely as a top-6 forward in Hamilton.  I don’t know about you,
but I’d rather wait and have a more well rounded player in a year than have a
uni-dimensional gritty player now.  As for Darche’s development, he’s a
soon-to-be 34 year old, we quite frankly shouldn’t care about it.  Rest
assured fans, Ryan White will be a regular in the Habs’ lineup soon enough, just
remember, good things come to those who wait.

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Writer’s note: The HW Recap will be appearing in its regular Sunday slot
starting this week.