Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Louis Leblanc, Travis Moen get another kick at the can at Canadiens camp.

 Watching the videos, here's what struck me about two players who had trying seasons last year:

1)  Louis Leblanc has really added some size and thickness, compared to last summer, when quite a few were struck at how slender he looked during a fan event he was interviewed at.  At the time, he looked more like a teenager trying out for a boy band.  He's now got some size on him, but he still has a way to go, compared to some of his teammates who are absolutely jacked.  Maybe he's a late bloomer physically, maybe mentally it took some time for it to sink in that he needed to train in a different way to make it in the pros, more off-ice stuff and power moves and upper body work.

Much has been made of his disappointing season in Hamilton, but what is lost in the narrative is that before he was felled by the high ankle sprain, he was having a promising start on a line with Blake Geoffrion.  Both of these guys seemed unfazed by AHL competition, and seemed poised to be the dominant line for the Bulldogs.  Then Louis wrecked his ankle in a reportedly unnecessary fight, and Blake later suffered a career-ending skull fracture.  When he returned, Louis was not able to play to the level he'd shown so far, which is unfortunate but not shocking with that type of injury, which may be 'healed' but not 100% for months afterwards, as the athlete struggles to regain proprioception in the joint.

There were also whispers that he was unhappy with the direction and coaching he received from Sylvain Lefebvre and his crew.  They tried to sell him on a career path that would make him a third-line defensively-oriented winger in the NHL, and he resisted that apparently, thinking that he has more to offer, and should shoot for a role higher in the lineup.  Taken along with other stories from anonymous sources (but which to me clearly came from a parent), that for example there were attempts to overhaul his skating stride with the help of tools like rubber bands, we can see that it's likely there were more than one reason for his dispiriting season.

If I could provide him with advice, I'd recommend that he speak with Guy Carbonneau, who once was a prolific scorer in junior, but was asked by the Canadiens to assume a defensive role to eventually take over for Doug Jarvis and Doug Risebrough once those veterans moved on.  The story goes that he was hesitant at first to sacrifice offence as it would affect his earning potential in the NHL, but he was assured that he would be paid as a frontline player even if the points didn't pile up.  We all know how that turned out, he focused his hockey IQ and superlative skating in the manner the team wanted, teamed for years with Bob Gainey and Chris Nilan on one of the most effective lines in Canadiens' history, and he went on to have a twenty year, four Stanley Cup career.  Maybe Guy can help him out with this decision/transition.

2)  Travis Moen is surprisingly lean, compared to what I thought of him.  Probably my mistake, but I thought he was a little more burly, more bulky, so when I saw his weight listed as 222 lbs, I thought that made sense, and he could comfortably play at 230 and slim down as the season progressed.  Instead, he's shredded, he has that hockey player body, lean and no extra weight around the middle, but thick in the chest and shoulders.  Whatever happens this season in terms of icetime and linemates and style of play and playing a physical role, we can't ever accuse him of slacking off during the summer since he has a long-term deal in his pocket.  He's come to camp as fit as could be, he's ready to go in that sense.

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