Tuesday, October 6, 2009

If All Else Fails Part 2: Free Agents

On to the second and final part of this rundown of what the Canadiens could do to shore up the defense now that Markov and O'Byrne have gone down. There are several free agents out there that are available, and even some that are heavily rumoured to be in contract talks with the Canadiens, or have at least offered their services. Let's take a look at the players available and what they would bring to our team.

Pros: I lived in northern Alberta from 1998-2005, and went back there from May to August from 2005-2007, so I've actually seen Bergeron play a lot when he was with Edmonton, while my experience watching him is a bit old, I've asked around and apparently he hasn't changed much. Bergeron has a wicked shot, an absolute rocket. Possibly better than Yannick Weber's shot as far as power goes. Bergeron is also a very good skater, he brings speed and acceleration above the average on our defensive corps right now. He has a fairly good pass, but not elite, shooting is where he makes his money. He would undoubtedly contribute on the powerplay, that's his bread and butter. Bergeron is also a Quebecer, so it would be very appreciated by the Francophone members of the media to have another player to interview, as well as the Francophone fans watching on RDS to see the opinion of another player.

Cons: And there are some big ones! While his shot is extremely hard, it is also wildly inaccurate. I can't even count how many times I've seen Bergeron tee up for a massive shot, with no bodies in the way, and miss the net by 12 feet only to see the puck bounce off the boards and out of the zone on a powerplay. If Habs fans found Mike Komisarek's constant shooting into a player's shin pads frustrating, wait until you see this shot cause multiple 2-on-1 breaks for the other team on the same powerplay. Bergeron is also a little reckless in his own zone, and because of his small stature and lack of strength, he can rarely cover up his mistakes by muscling players off the puck. His positioning in his own zone is also not the best we could hope for. I don't see this as a necessary move for the Canadiens unless Yannick Weber struggles mightily offensively. With Ryan O'Byrne going down I would much rather see a more defensive minded defender coming in. There's also the issue of salary, I don't think Bergeron is going to take a bargain basement deal to play, even though he may be desperate. He made over 1.5 million last year and had a solid year, so he may still be looking for over 2 million. It easily fits in while Markov is gone, but when he's back I would think Bergeron would be trade bait at best. 2 million in the cap world his harder to move than say, under a million. Also he may kill our goalie in the first game of the Stanley Cup finals, like he did to Roloson. Sometimes being a veteran (the only clear advantage Bergeron has over Weber) doesn't necessarily make you a better option. If anything players have become used to Bergeron's turnovers and he may be more of a risk than he's worth. I think that while Bergeron may be initially cheered for offensive prowess as well as being French Canadian, he may in a few short games become the next Patrice Brisebois, constant source of ridicule. Speaking of the Breezer, apparently he's offered his services, so....

Pros... Cons: I'm sorry Breezer but the time has come and gone for you to make an impact. I appreciate that you absolutely bleed bleu, blanc et rouge, but at 38 you no longer have the speed and endurance to make up for the turnovers. Even though you'd surely be willing to take the NHL's lowest salary to play one more year, it's time to give the youngsters a chance, and there's nothing you bring to the table that I can't see Yannick Weber doing just as well, and getting better as the year drags on, not worse. I think Mike Boone said it best...

Pros: Dandenault is a familiar face to most of the team, the fans and the media. He couldn't crack the San Jose Sharks lineup in training camp which I found fairly astonishing, because I really like Dandenault as a player. He was easily one of our best last season. He possesses blinding speed, and surprisingly (at least to me), excellent offensive capabilities according to some analysis done by Lions in Winter contributer Topham. He's also solid in his own zone, very good positionally and strong enough to handle most forwards. Another French Canadian, it would be useful to have him on the team for that purpose alone, as it's been pointed out several times already this season that 3 French speakers on the team is not enough. Mathieu is also extremely versatile. He played forward for most of his time with the Canadiens, and he excelled last year especially on the fourth line. I think most would agree with me that his constant beating out of icings is very valuable in important games. Dandenault is a good mixture of offense and defense that could undoubtedly help the Canadiens depth on defense right now, as well as contribute on the 4th line when Markov returns from injury. It's also very likely that Dandenault would be willing to settle for a small salary, allowing the Canadiens to save some of the cap space created by Markov's injury for future deals throughout the season.

Cons: It's easy to forget after how good he was last year, but Dandenault was rarely a happy player in Montreal. He complained constantly in his first few seasons about being a healthy scratch when he knew he could contribute. Seeing his play last year it would seem very difficult to argue with him, but his play the two years before as a minus player didn't do him any favours. He also complained a bit when he was forced to play forward, as he would much rather be playing defense, which might be a problem again as it's likely that when O'Byrne returns from injury, Mathieu would be bumped down the depth chart on defense and only draw into games as a forward on the 4th line, if he gets into games at all since it seems like Jacques Martin likes Georges Laraque and Gregory Stewart. There's also Chipchura and D'agostini to think about, both of whom are looking to break out this year. Having a complaining Dandenault in the dressing room, reverting to his form of two years ago would not be good.


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