Thursday, 12 September 2013

1st day at Canadiens camp: Nathan Beaulieu is out of shape and injured, other thoughts

 Some thoughts:

1)  About Ryan White showing up out of shape, that's not great news, but we should take it with a grain of salt.  He's a guy who has a 'bad body' according to scouts, one of those guys who puts on weight easily and doesn't have a lot of muscle tone.  So even when he's fit he doesn't look like much.  Those pictures of him during the physical testing don't exactly inspire confidence, but let's not get carried away.  He's never going to be the kind of guy who's on the cover of Muscle & Fitness, but since his junior days we've never heard any complaints about his fitness.

2)  About Nathan Beaulieu showing up out of shape, he did the same thing last year.  There was an unflattering picture of him next to Aaron Palushaj, both running on a treadmill, not great.  Now I could use the same standard that I use for Ryan White, and say Nathan just has a bad body, but for him he also demonstrated being in poor shape with his play early in the season.  Meanwhile Ryan White is a wrecking ball out there, being the Tasmanian Devil and forcing his way onto the team.  So Ryan is in shape but doesn't look it, Nathan is out of shape and proves it next to the other d-men who've been working hard in the gym.  The bag skate exercise is just one indicator, he was consistently beaten by a bigger Greg Pateryn in that drill, even though one of Nathan's strengths is supposed to be his skating.

As far as being in Brossard "all summer working with Pierre Allard", that's patently false, he was at a golf tournament in Strathroy-Cadaroc, Ontario in June, you may have heard about that.  So he may have spent a good part of the summer in Brossard, let's agree to that.  Then let's understand that contrary to guys like Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller, P.K. Subban, Jarred Tinordi and Max Pacioretty, guys who we know are gym rats and love working out and built upon their previous gains to improve their fitness this summer, Nathan may have been starting from scratch.  I suspect that Nathan has relied on his natural ability and the fact that he was better than all his peers his entire career so far, and never paid attention to his off-ice conditioning or did much dryland training.

We all know the parable of the horse being led to water.  And about the girlfriend who goes to the gym with you but spends the entire time walking on the treadmill reading Vogue.  Pierre Allard can't make him drink.  Being at the gym and working hard at the gym are two different things.  So maybe Nathan's habits in the gym leave something to be desired, both in how frequently he attends and how strenuously he works once there.  And these are habits he can learn, and improve upon, and pick up by hanging around with the right guys.  But for this camp, he started far behind the others, and maybe didn't have the time or work output to catch up to them.

Let's hope the shoulder injury he suffered in the first scrimmage is a minor one and he can progress this season as much as we know he can.

3)  About Raphaël Diaz, we have to understand that he's more valuable now than he was last season.  While he may to some have seemed redundant on a defence that also had Yannick Weber and Tomas Kaberle, this year he's one of the three 'puck-movers' in the lineup, along with Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban.  The others are defensively-oriented, won't generate much offence, and can't really play the powerplay.  So while I understand the hesitation towards him, the fact that he's undersized and not physical, we need his skillset, and need to understand that he's the only rightie along with P.K. amongst the NHL defencemen.

As far as down the road, he needs to have a really good season this year to fend off the youngsters in Hamilton, and specifically Magnus Nygren, who seems to be a larger version of Raphaël, in that he's a rightie d-man who can move the puck and play the powerplay, but has a couple of inches and twenty pounds on him.  He apparently doesn't shy away from physical contact, and has a good shot from the point.  So Raphaël can be in our plans for this season, he shouldn't be exiled because of Eric Gryba, but that doesn't also mean that we should sign him to a long-term deal and lock him up.  He can play a big role this season, and we can then evaluate the situation next summer.  He's an asset to the club, and should be treated as such, not discarded.

4)  Simon Gagné interested in playing for the Canadiens?  Isn't he injury-prone?  Where would he play, isn't the lineup kind of set?  Wouldn't he just be a veteran re-tread who blocks one of the kids' ascension?

But still, I love that guy.  Sign him up, worry about the details later.

5)  About Lars Eller receiving less powerplay time than David Desharnais, we need to stop seeing it as a slight to Lars, and more of a practical necessity.  We all accept that Lars is a better defensive player, and that he gets used in defensive situation and the penalty kill, something which can't be said for David.  David is really useful in offensive situations, so he'll get a lot of offensive zone faceoffs and powerplay opportunities.  So in a sixty minute game, when you're trying to spread out the minutes, David will tend to get more offensive opportunities, and Lars the defensive ones.  And we can expect that to continue this season to some degree.

Lars will probably get an uptick on the powerplay though, since his wingers on the kid line will be more mature, and Michel Therrien will not need to protect them as much, but expect David to have a healthier portion of the powerplay time, and that's an appropriate use of this type of player.  If David is ineffective in that role, we can't swap out his role with Lars', that won't work, the decision will be more difficult than that.

6)  Love, love, love the kid line of Lars Eller centreing Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.  I'll be expecting great things from them this year.

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