Friday, 3 October 2014

The situation on the Montréal blue line, according to l'Antichambre.

The Antichambre crew were chewing over the Canadiens young defencemen situation on Wednesday night.  All agree that at the outset Jarred Tinordi on paper would have been the better fit, for his "robustesse", but that Nathan Beaulieu has seized the #6 spot as of now.  Guy Carbonneau cautioned against getting hyped over pre-season performances, he repeated that there's a big step up to take when the regular season starts, and that players like Jiri Sekac and Christian Thomas should be evaluated in that context.

In that vein, he explained that it's a long season coming up, that Jarred Tinordi will have his say, a chance to contribute.  He brought up Hal Gill as an example of a big defensive defenceman who looked bad in pre-season, but when Christmas rolled around he was solid and dependable.

And darn it, I was going to write this this afternoon but it kind of felt like a pile-on Jarred session, so I backed off, but Gilbert Delorme stole my thought, and explained that Jarred thinks too much, too long with the puck.  He says that with respect, he doesn't have the vision or ability of an All-Star, so when he grabs the puck he should move it immediately to the first open man, not look for the show-stopper long pass.

I was thinking that precisely during the game against Chicago, when I saw him skating and searching for a pass option, and waiting and skating some more, and then finally trying one and seeing it abort.  Once, behind the net, he waited and surveyed the scene, and I thought why doesn't he just whip it to his partner, let him make the first pass.

That was so my go-to move playing minor hockey, I'd get the puck, dig it out in the corner, come across it by happenstance, and whip it across the ice to my defence partner, and let him take care of that end of things.  It was easy, I'd never fail at it, Jean Farly or Normand Chevrette or Alain Moreau were much better at offence and passing than I ever was.  My coaches wouldn't yell at me when I came back to the bench, just gave me a regular shift, lots of ice.  Once in a while, there was a winger or centre who was so unbelievably open that I had no choice but to pass to them, and it prevented opposition forwards from cheating too much, but otherwise, I kept it simple, let my partner gain the zone and set up, and then I'd wait for a chance to unleash my howitzer, it was usually good for one or two goals a year.

Jarred should just do that, pass the puck to the first open man he sees, immediately, and if that means passing to the right to his partner, then so be it.  Rely on him for that aspect, and he'll rely on you to cover for him, and clear the front of the net.

As for Alexei Emelin being more comfortable on the left, Guy Carbonneau asked how it is that the best players in the world can't learn to play their 'off' side.  He said that when he was the Assistant Coach in Montréal and youngsters Stéphane Robidas and Francis Bouillon were starting out in the league, they'd take 20 minutes after every practice and work on their game, their zone breaks while playing on their off-side.  He says that any player can pick this up through hard work, and to hope to have four leftie left wings, four rightie right-wings, two of each at centre, and three lefties and righties at D, is unrealistic for a team.  A player should maximize his chances to have a nice career by putting in the work and learning to play the other side.

And, sigh... , they had Francis Bouillon in their putative lineup as having already earned a spot as one of the seven d-men.

EDIT: Some thing which occurred to me regarding prospect development is that we obsess over the guys on the borderline, but take the rookies who ‘make it’ in stride, like there was no other result expected. So guys like Brendan Gallagher, we now take him for granted, and look over his shoulder at a guy like Michaël Bournival, and worry about him.

Similarly, if Jarred Tinordi had, after one or two seasons in Hamilton, graduated to the NHL and quickly assumed a regular role, like a nouveau Craig Ludwig or Rod Langway, we wouldn’t necessarily be high-fiving each other over it, we’d accept it, have expected it since he’s a first-rounder, and the debate would roil over Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn, and what's taking them so long.

It's been posted on social media that the career arc of other defencemen taken in Jarred’s 2010 draft year has been relatively slow, and showed that he’s not the only d-man who’s taking a while to develop. Aside from Cam Fowler and Justin Faulk, all the other defencemen in the first two rounds are being coddled.  3rd overall pick Erik Gudbranson has a bunch of games played in Florida, but he's produced little, and been given easy minutes during games as he picks things up.  It puts things into context.

Another thing to remember is that list we Habs fans have been posting every June, of the best players taken at the position we’ll be drafting that year. Two seasons ago, we looked at some of the sorry picks made at #25, Michael McCarron's draft position, and did the same this year at #26 overall for Nikita Scherbak.  Jarred was taken #22.

Sure there are some great finds on that list, Claude Giroux, Simon Gagné, our very own Wolverine, Max Pacioretty was taken at #22. But there are also some journeymen and flops taken at that spot. So we shouldn’t expect Jarred to be a sure-fire All-Star already, wonder what’s taking him so long.  If he has some more learning to do, let’s give him the time he needs.

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