Friday, January 20, 2012

Around the League: Catching Up With Old Friends, pt 2

Back in November, I compiled a post under the name Catching Up With Old Friends to look at former Habs around the league and how they were faring. Given how attached we as fans become to some of these players, after (in some cases) the sting of their departure passes, I often find myself interested in their performance and hoping for the best for them. As we are now past the halfway point of the season, it seems like a good time to catch up with some players who once sported the blue-blanc-rouge.

Marc-Andre Bergeron - D - Tampa Bay Lightning
Bergeron started the season on fire in Tampa, being at or near the top of the league in terms of defensemen scoring. He has slowed down since, registering just 3 points in his last 16 games on a struggling Tampa squad, but what might be surprising to many Habs fans is that he was a +7 over that span. In fact, on the season, he is a +8 (a team high!) to go along with his 24 points while averaging 19 and a half minutes a night. It seems he has found a good fit with the Lightning.

Sheldon Souray - D - Dallas Stars
Like Bergeron, Souray was also never known for his defensive zone play, but he has impressed in Dallas, with his +9 rating being the best of all Stars defensemen. He has missed a couple of games due to injury, but has still scored 17 points while playing over 20 minutes per game. He also seems to fit in well in the locker room with frequent pictures being posted on the internet of Souray with bombshell girlfriend Kelly Kelly alongside teammates and their significant others.

Jaroslav Halak - G - St. Louis Blues
Halak was slow out of the gate to start the season, but he has turned it on in a big way. He is 12-1-5 in his last 18 decisions, riding a 6 game win streak that includes 3 shutouts in his last 4 starts (even if they were "easy" shutouts of 22, 19, and 15 shots against respectively). His 4 shutouts on the season rank 4th in the league, while his sparkling GAA of 2.00 ranks 6th. The Blues have a very underrated team, and if Halak can play anything like he did during the 2010 playoffs this post-season, the team could be a sleeper to make a run.

Matt D'Agostini - RW - St. Louis Blues
D'Agostini isn't enjoying as much success as his teammate between the pipes, unable to successfully follow up on last season's breakout with 21 goals and 46 points. He has fallen outside the top 6 on the depth chart, putting up just 17 points (though 9 are goals) in 46 contests. It was struggles with consistency that ultimately led to D'Ag's departure from Montreal, so hopefully he can put things together soon.

Roman Hamrlik - D - Washington Capitals
Many - myself included - were saddened by Hamrlik's departure this past summer. Though he is showing clear signs of aging, throughout his time in Montreal, he was a steady rock on the back end, answering the bell whenever Andrei Markov went down with an injury. At 37, his years seem to be catching up to him as he has had a tough go in Washington, scoring just 5 points in 41 games (he had 34 points in 79 games last year in Montreal), with a -2 rating. Unhappy with his play, the Caps had limited his ice time back in November and early December, but over the past month, he has been back to his 20+ minute self. At this point, it seems the Habs made a good move not to offer him the two-year contract he really wanted.

Jaroslav Spacek - D - Carolina Hurricanes
Immediately following the deal that sent him to Carolina, Habs fans watched closely as Spacek put up a goal and 3 assists in his first 5 games with his new team. In 10 games since, he has failed to register a point, while seeing his ice time diminished of late. Spacek is a depth d-man and nothing more, but was a great locker room guy. A number of Canadiens players have spoken out about that, with Max Pacioretty even suggesting he was the best teammate he had ever had. It will be interesting to see if Spacek gets a contract from an NHL club this coming summer or faces a decision between retirement and playing in Europe.

Sergei Kostitsyn - RW - Nashville Predators
The younger Kostitsyn brother has had a hot-and-cold season, which got off to a great start but then went through a spell where he had points in just 2 of 17 consecutive games. Things seem headed in the right direction for him lately, on a streak which started with a hat trick on New Year's Day against the Calgary Flames. Starting with that game, he has 6 goals and 9 points in his last 9 games as a run by the Predators has them in the driver's seat for a playoff spot.

Mikhail Grabovski - C - Toronto Maple Leafs
Grabovski is another who has had ups and downs this season, but through 40 games played would be on pace for a 30 goal year had he not missed a few games due to injury. He is unlikely to reach last season's total of 58 points with just 27 so far, but with 8 goals and 14 points in his last 16 games, it's not out of the question either.

Maxime Lapierre - C - Vancouver Canucks
Yappy Lappy looked rejuvenated last season during the Canucks' run to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, but the momentum hasn't so much carried over to this year. His one-time 15-goal season in Montreal seems destined to never be repeated, though with 5 goals and 9 points through 47 games, he may finish with his second best offensive season to date. He is a 4th liner in Vancouver, averaging 11:14 per game on the season, but frequently playing fewer than 10 minutes.

Chris Higgins - LW - Vancouver Canucks
Higgins was another forward who found his game during the post-season last year and he hasn't disappointed, scoring 10 goals and 24 points through 42 games this season. Like Lapierre, Higgins may never reach his career high 27-goals season in Montreal again, but he could very well reach the 40-point mark, which would be his second best offensive campaign.

Benoit Pouliot - LW - Boston Bruins
Bruins fans were quite unhappy with Pouliot at the start of the season, with the big winger even finding himself a healthy scratch on a few occasions. But more recently, he has shown flashes of the player he looked to be when the Canadiens first acquired him; a skilled player just waiting for the right fit to light it up. With 4 goals and 11 points in his past 16 games, it is fair to wonder if perhaps Montreal should have given him one more season to prove his worth.

Guillaume Latendresse - RW - Minnesota Wild
The player the Canadiens give up to acquire Pouliot once upon a time, Latendresse has sadly struggled with injuries for a second straight season. After being limited to just 11 games last year, he has played only 16 this season, though he remained quite productive, scoring 5 goals and 9 points when in the line-up. At 24, Latendresse is still young with lots of potential, but if he can't stay healthy, he may lack the longevity needed for a successful NHL career.

Tom Pyatt - C/W - Tampa Bay Lightning
I was always a big Pyatt fan in Montreal, and he forced his way into the Lightning's line-up with his strong and responsible play. He surprisingly already has 5 goals in 40 games this season, more than the total he scored over 101 games with the Habs. He played a season-high 19:11 in his most recent game against Boston and earned a two-year extension with the Lightning earlier this month.

James Wisniewski - D - Columbus Blue Jackets
The Wizz started the year on the sidelines in Columbus with a suspension, but his return failed to turn around a horrendous season for the Blue Jackets, who lead the Fail for Nail race. After being a +4 in Montreal last season, Wisniewski is a -18 in the 29 games he has been limited to due to suspension and injury. He does have 17 points, which would average out to a 48-point campaign over 82 games, but he has seen his role reduced to a more manageable ~20 minutes a night after starting the year playing close to 30 per game.

Saku Koivu - C - Anaheim Ducks
The second longest serving captain in Canadiens history, Koivu recently recorded a hat trick in a win over the Dallas Stars on January 10th. He remains a productive player in Anaheim, with 25 points in 37 games thus far, and his +12 rating far and away leads all Ducks. At age 37, Koivu has seen his ice time reduced from 19:08 last season to just under 18 minutes a game, which has helped him maintain a high level of play. I would love for the Habs to find a way to allow Koivu to retire a Canadien, or even more to see him spend one final season on the team's third line, but he seems happy to play alongside countryman and good friend Teemu Selanne in California.

Mike Cammalleri - LW - Calgary Flames
Cammy has appeared in 3 Calgary games since being dealt out west with an output of 1 goal and a -2 rating. His ice time has increased each night, going from 15 minutes to 20 and most recently 23 minutes in a shootout win over Los Angeles where he also had a marker in the tiebreaker. This one is still fresh, so we'll leave it at that, but keep in mind as I said yesterday, how Cammalleri performs in Calgary won't impact whether or not Montreal "won" that trade from the Canadiens perspective. Gauthier managed assets well in that deal, regardless of Cammy's performances for the remainder of his contract.

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