Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Final roster thoughts

Well, cut down day has come and gone. So now we know who we've got to start the season (barring anything crazy, like a last minute trade...which keeps being a hot rumor). This was to be a "no surprises" post, but that changed in a hurry. Once I saw that Sobotka has been assigned to Providence. I really was caught off guard by that one. As surprising as it would have been if it happened yesterday, I am STUNNED by it happening today. Why basically tell him he made the team, then ship him down the next day? Only reason I can see is, perhaps there are other moves coming? Possibly a 2 for 1 trade (or more), so Chiarelli may have had to clear a spot to accommodate that deal? Interesting for sure. Sobotka is a classic example of a guy getting caught in a numbers crunch. Kid had an amazing playoff last year, and quickly became a fan favorite. And it's hard not to root for an undersized kid that plays such a physical style. His skill level is also impressive. Apparently the knock against him is, he's a natural center. And the B's have a lot of them. His downfall is that he isn't as good (supposedly) playing the wing, especially the left side, where he'd probably have to go to make the team. Also, not having to clear waivers was the last straw in his bid to stay. Hate to see him go down, but I guess playing a big role in Providence is better than watching from the press box in Boston. He'll be back fairly soon, I'm sure.

Anyway, as far as the rest of the moves, nothing shocking there. Good guy Jeremy Reich will be missed, but he was redundant with Thorton around. Reich will be keeping an eye out for the kids on the Pro-B's, so that's a good thing as well. Keep working hard Reicher, you'll probably be back in Boston eventually yourself. I was beyond happy to see Schaefer get waived. By all accounts he's a good guy, so you hate wish ill will on him. But lets be honest. He was an unmitigated disaster in a Bruins uniform. A career role player, he came here and was supposed to be a top line wing? Poor experiment which didn't last long. Even when shuffled down to his natural third or fourth line slot....he did nothing. Stepped it up in the playoffs, but too little too late. Even more discouraging was his play in camp this year. In the face of a pack of hungry rookies, he never put up a fight for his job. He was given every opportunity, but just didn't seem interested in seizing it. Julien again had him riding with Savard and Ryder in the last Pre-season game. Schaefer's response? A stunning ZERO shots, ZERO hits and ZERO take-aways. Not a guy that screams "competitor". Full props to Chilly for admitting the mistake and eating his contract to send him down. Under the former regime(s), that never would have happened. If you made that much money, you automatically made the big club. Good to see the B's brass do everything they can to put the best players out there, regardless of contracts. And yes, the much maligned Jeremy Jacobs has to be given kudos on this as well. At some point, he had to approve of paying a minor leaguer over $2M this year (and probably half of that after they buy him out next year).

Sending Nate Thompson down didn't surprise me, since I've honestly never been all that enamoured with his game. But the brass seemed to really like him, and he did wear the C in Providence last year. Only surprising thing about it was, pretty much everyone knew the Islanders would claim him off waivers. So, would it have been wise to try & trade him there, even for a pick? Not sure what the thought process was there. I assume everyone knew he wasn't making the big club, so they'd try to claim him off waivers instead of giving up a pick. Takes two to tango as they say, and if Chilly couldn't find a partner, we can't blame him.

So for today, this is our line-up. As I've mentioned, I'm impressed with their depth this year, at least up front. The defense can be scary. Ference & Alberts are both prone to the big give-away in their own end. Hnidy isn't exactly fleet of foot, but has a good veteran presence and plays with an edge. Stuart is a very steady guy back there, and another really physical kid. Opponents won't be feeling real good about hanging around in the corner with him on the ice. He played every game last year, and got better as the season went on. I can't see why he can't continue to progress. Kid has a nice future ahead of him. Ward is bound to miss some time with injury. He plays a physical game, and blocks a ton of shots. Tough to keep that aging body healthy with that recipe.Wideman.....oh, Wideman...Which Dennis Wideman will show up this year? Hopefully it's the one that started coming around mid-season last year. He simplified his game, and limited those "river boat gambler" plays that got him in so much trouble earlier on. With luck, he plays up to the expectations the hefty raise he earned warrants. If not, he'll hear it early and often from the boo-birds at the Garden. Chara is a given. freed from the "no fighting" order imposed on him by Dave Lewis (I throw up in my mouth a little every time I type that name), Chara has once again become an intimidating force behind the blue line. As much as I wince watching him trying to play pucks in his skates, or keeping it in at the offensive line, he is a dominant presence back there. The one guy a thin group of D can absolutely not afford to lose.

So all in all, I really like the make-up of this team. Terrific mix of veterans and youngsters. If they can all get on the same page, they can do big things this year (at least as compared to recent years....I'm not predicting a Cup just yet). Montreal will NOT enjoy the same regular season success they did last year, I will say that.

Puck drops on the season in just over 24 hours. Will it be a season to remember, or another heart breaker? We'll find out soon enough. DROP THE PUCK! - Kynch

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