Habs Challenge: My 12-man roster
Most of you who follow me on twitter know by know that blogger @shmitzysays challenge a large portion of the Habs blogging community to post their own 12-man forward lines for the Montreal Canadiens. Not what they think Jacques Martin would do, not what might be the line-up on opening night next week, but what they think should go into the Canadiens' forward lines as the season commences.
Naturally, many of the blog posts that have already been submitted (you will be able to view the full list with links at 4PM here - nice job getting us all to plug your stuff Scott, by the way) vary greatly in line composition and even with some (or on Habs Laughs' case, all) players finding themselves in the minors or on waivers that might be pegged to make the team next week.
Personally, I've taken the roster for what it's worth this upcoming season, and while, just like anyone else, I would have probably done a thing or two differently than the coaching staff or even other fans. That being said, here is what I would like to see as the Canadiens' forward line-ups next week, when the Habs go to Toronto to renew their rivalries with the Leafs.
The first two lines, in my opinion, are interchangeable depending on the game and which team's are focusing on which of the Canadiens players, so don't focus too much on the "first" or "second" line tagline.
Pacioretty - Gomez - Gionta
I may have turned a few heads already with this first line for the Canadiens. I doubt there are many people out there that expect Max Pacioretty to make the team, and frankly, he could likely use a little more time in the minors, but from what I saw of him in the game I went to last weekend, Pacioretty deserves a chance to show us what he's got. He has size, he's added a ton of muscle and gotten into incredible shape over the summer, and the scoring touch is there and we all know it. Paired with the leadership and experience of Scott Gomez, and the new captain, Brian Gionta, Pacioretty might finally be able to pan out and break out. It's a risk, considering Max Pac is close to being eligible for waivers, but it's a risk I'd be willing to take to finally try and get him to perform at the proper level.
Cammalleri - Plekanec - Kostitsyn
Two of these three make sense to me, and should to everyone. As far as I'm concerned, Cammalleri and Plekanec were one of the best tandems in the NHL last season and through the preseason, they've picked up right where they left off before Cammalleri's knee injury last spring. As for the right winger on this line, even I don't really understand why I put him there. I guess he makes too much money to be waived or to sit him in the pressbox, and he'll be hard to trade unless he starts performing, so to start the season, Andrei Kostitsyn kind of has to go on one of the team's top two lines. Might as well put him with the players he knows best and the players he'll have an easier time clicking with. Let it be known that if he doesn't perform within the first 20 games, he's outta here.
Just like the first two lines, I find the bottom two a little interchangeable, depending on the game and the situation. The only reason the "third line" is ranked above the "fourth line" is probably NHL experience:
Moen - Lapierre - Pyatt
What could be considered the Habs' "shutdown" trio. Moen and Lapierre are obvious choices due to their experience and status with the team, and Pyatt earned himself a spot on the team late last season and in pre-season. Being placed with two experienced shutdown gritty forwards who also have a bit of a scoring touch could definitely favor Pyatt.
Boyd - Halpern - White
Usually, most NHL teams use the 4th line as a jumble of players they have nowhere else to put. In this case, my Canadiens' 4th line is a carefully crafted line of speed, scoring touch, grit, hitting, and two-way play. Every player on this line brings something different to the table. Boyd - who I was shocked to see left off some line-ups in the challenge - has some untapped scoring potential and an overall two-way game. Halpern is in a similar boat with Boyd, albeit obviously older and a little slower. White is the wildcard on this line. As we've seen, there are plenty of things he can do to help the team, and has very deceiving speed. If Ryan White doesn't make this team, I riot.
Mathieu Darche and Benoit Pouliot
I'm aware of the fact that Pouliot has a lot of potential, but even in pre-season, he can't bother to show up. He looked ok in the first game and then faded into the void in the upcoming games.
Unfortunately, the team has too much to lose by sending him to the minors, but I don't want two underachieving forwards on my team - the other, of course, being Kostitsyn - so he sits in the pressbox until he learns what it means to be a team player. As for Darche, he was signed to sit in the pressbox until needed, and he won't be sent down after signing his last contract, so he stays as the "13th forward"
Lars Eller, Ben Maxwell
Lars Eller had an impressive game on Monday, with three assists, but as far as I'm concerned, the only reason so many people have him making their line-ups is to justify the Halak trade. And if he's judged solely on the players he was traded for, then giving him a spot on the team would be a huge mistake. Eller isn't going anywhere, and the Canadiens won't lose anything if he spends a few weeks or months in Hamilton until he's called up with some injuries.
As for Maxwell, sitting in the pressbox will do him no more good and there's no spot for him on the team, so he has to go down as well.
There you have it, my top 12 for the Habs, plus the next two, and the two after that. Naturally we can't all agree on every player, and the final line-up will probably end up looking a little different, but as far as I'm concerned, this combination of these 12 (+2) players is what will benefit the Canadiens the most come the start of the regular season.
Post your comments and your own line-ups in the comments below!