Googling PJ Stock Returns A Lot Of Stock Photos Of Pyjamas
Once upon a time, Elliotte Friedman wrote sports columns in Western's Daily Student Newspaper, the Gazette. I read them - they were the only sports columns worth reading in the Gazette. Now, fifteen years later, Friedman and I have another thing in common: rambling, disjointed blog posts, the point of which (when they have a point) is difficult to discern.
Friedman's blog, From the Pressbox, is hosted at the CBC website. His latest post, Can youth, Koivu co-exist in Montreal? suggests that Saku Koivu is being (or should be) edged out by a youth movement. It features lots of speculation about Koivu's feelings.
Here's my response, which follows the classic blogger template of a hack & slash snip job of the original article followed by my witty remarks.
"...the Canadiens signed Markov, while making a below-market offer to Sheldon Souray. They knew Souray would decline and leave as a free agent."
Keeping up appearances of trying to sign the record-setting PP point man to appease the fans, knowing full well that Souray would receive and accept a better offer elsewhere? If this is really the way it played out, then it was a brilliant move by Bob Gainey. The thing is, the reported offer of $22M over four years (Hamrlilk's contract) was a bit more per annum than the offer Souray eventually accepted from Edmonton - $27M over five years. Gainey might have been cutting it a little bit too close with his bluff. If the move had backfired, this would truly be the season from Hell. In Gainey's defense, maybe Souray made it clear that the fifth year was non-negotiable.
Anyway, signing Markov was not a deliberate move toward a younger player. It was a deliberate move toward the better player.
"The team stuck with Christopher Higgins and Tomas Plekanec during good and bad, and it’s working. Higgins, 24, is an assistant [sic] captain while Plekanec, 25, is second behind linemate Kovalev in scoring. Carbonneau is following the same process with Guillaume Latendresse and Sergei Kostitsyn, both 20, and Kyle Chipchura, who is 21."
It would be nice to be able to look at these names and see a bona fide star. We can be pretty sure that none will be the player Koivu is. Someone might, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Over at Lowetide is a recent post mentioning that the Oilers have had "only" six top six picks in their history. Over the same time period, Montreal has had three, and none of them 'earned' by being a bottom six team. There was the Wickenheiser 1st overall in 1980 (acquired in a trade), Svoboda at #5 in 1984 (again, acquired in a trade) and Carey Price at #5 in 2005 - the result of the Crosby lottery. The last time Montreal 'earned' a top 6 pick, there were only 6 teams in the league. The highest pick they've been granted since the WHA merger was the 2001 #7, Mike Komisarek. As bad as the Habs have been over the last decade, they haven't been bad enough to earn a star.
This post at IOF nicely explains the Habs' LOFT issues. Be sure to look at the chart. Star players come early in the draft. A #10 forward pick only has about a 30% chance of becoming a mere 0.5 ppg player. Montreal has not had many top 10 picks. There are diamonds in the rough (see Detroit), but I think that's almost entirely luck.
My point is that going further with this youth movement is unlikely to result in improvement. The young Habs aren't the young Penguins. No one can step into Koivu's role yet, and I have strong doubts that anyone in the system will ever be able to do Koivu's job as well as Koivu.
"What I can see is Koivu looking around and realizing his friends are gone. The faces are younger, not familiar. He feels threatened. He wonders if he’s going to be next. (Although, it should be pointed out he has a no-trade, and, as of last Friday, says he hasn’t been asked to waive it.) He sees his offensive role eroding."
Well, since I'm not privy to all of Saku's hopes and dreams, all I can see is Koivu outperforming every other forward on the team at EV. If (big if) his offensive role is eroding, it's chiefly because his defensive role is expanding due to a lack of centres capable of taking faceoffs in their own zone against the other teams' top lines.
"P.J. Stock made the point in the pre-game the other day that Koivu was being turned into a checking centre."
Jesus Murphy, I can't believe this 110% hogwash* is now polluting the commentary on HNIC. P.J. Stock made a career out of absorbing blows to the head. He now goes by P.J. because it's easier for him to spell than 'Phillip Joseph.'
Chris Higgins has been a fixture on Koivu's wing. Checking lines generally don't feature the team's best scoring winger (Higgins). Maybe nuances like that are a little too subtle for a former NHL goon to notice, so how about this: if Koivu has been used as a checking centre, then Sundin, Sakic, Datsyuk, Lecavalier, Jokinen, and Marc effing Savard have too.
I'll stop here. The fact is, at 33, Saku Koivu is still the best forward on the team (granted, this team is dressing two #6/7 defensemen as forwards so the title of 'best forward' carries less weight in Montreal than it does in, say, Detroit). The Canadiens are still on pace for a playoff spot. Just what is the point of all the criticism?
* - This is weird - I Googled "tqs 110%" to find a link to the TV programme. It came up #1. #5 was this page describing stats courses at the University of Washington. Apparently, "TQS 110... Addresses introductory statistical concepts and analysis in modern society." There it is in black and white.