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!


Patrick Storto's picture

Looks ready to be destroyed a week from tonight.

Pacioretty on top is intriguing. Keep me updated on whether or not that actually happens so I can snatch him up in fantasy leagues.

Tyg's picture

The only reason Eller made my lineup is because I am done with CHicken and barely hanging on with AK46. Don't want Gio/Gogo and Cammy/Pleky carrying the entire offensive load on their own, and I think Eller could contribute as well as learn a lot. Pleky said he's NHL ready, and I trust that judgment, so I was unwilling to send Eller down as a result.

Patches is certainly interesting on the top lines and I see your argument. If White doesn't make the team I shall riot with you. I dislike Darche enough that I wouldn't even box him anymore. Solid work ethic. Beyond that? Nothing special. I also put the CHicken in there, and I think we're probably the only 2 that did, so that makes me smile.

George Prax's picture

I like Eller, but he's much more of a playmaker than he is a goalscorer and I don't think the Habs need that, especially not on a line with Gomez. Gionta should be good for 30+ goals, and I guess if you stick Eller in front of the net he could end up being a 20 goal scorer somewhere down the line, but I feel like if you put him there and he doesn't produce right away, all people are going to do is start losing hope and start criticizing the Halak deal again.

I agree about the lost faith in Pouliot as well, and he's on my bench (as to not lose him for nothing and hopefully to send a jolt once he realizes he's only on the team on a technicality). And I'm glad we agree on that!

My pick for the top line is Pacioretty. He's paid his dues and he's received the same jolt with the Dogs, I think, whether it shows in the stats or not. I was impressed with what he came into camp with and I feel like he deserves a shot. He's a big body, something the Habs need on those two lines.

Thanks for the comment!

Phil T's picture

There's no way Pax makes the first line; he's injured and his spot on the team is in jeopardy.

Here's my opening night forwards lineup, book it (barring injuries):

Gionta - Gomez - Eller
Cammy - Pleks - AK46
Pouliot - Boyd - Lapierre
Moen - White - Pyatt

George Prax's picture

For the record it's what MY opening line-up would be. Regardless of injury he impressed on Sunday night and I think he's exactly what that first line needs (which Pouliot has but refuses to give).

Phil T's picture

Gotcha. He's still injured though.

They don't really have a choice to give Eller the chance to perform on the first line. They need to justify trading Halak Tongue

demez's picture

Based on what lines we'll actually see, I'd like to see Eller on the 2nd line in Pouliot's place and I really hope that White makes the team. The only reason I don't care that Pouliot is still on this team is because it serves as a reminder that Latendresse is gone.

George Prax's picture

Phil, that's precisely the reason why I DIDN'T put him in. If you're looking to justify the Halak trade, you're going to be disappointed. In the long run, sure, but right now, let the kid develop properly. If Pleks says he's NHL ready, give him a shot, but not because of Halak.

Also, tonight Eller plays center with Kostitsyn. Should be a VERY interesting experiment.

And Demez, touche about Pouliot Tongue

czechtacular's picture
George Prax wrote:

Pacioretty - Gomez - Gionta

YAYYYYY you see this too and you put them first. I thought I was crazy.
Actually a lot of our lines are similar Laughing out loud

George Prax's picture

Kind of a bad loss last night but there was still some good. White looked great again, Halpern was +2 with only 12 minutes of ice time. Eller wasn't all that great but with Pacioretty injured this doesn't really make my line-up any truer lol. Pyatt scored and played well so that should pretty much guarantee him his spot.

Only question mark really is O'Byrne... played horrible defensively at times but made up for his mistakes a bit with his goals and improvement later on. But with Picard getting 1st unit minutes I don't know who stays and who goes. Not to mention Weber hanging around as well.

Jason Pietroniro's picture

Pouliot Gomez Gio
Cammalleri Pleks Pyatt (eller)
Boyd Lapierre Eller (pyatt)
Moen Halpern Kostitsyn

This Pouliot hatred has gotten out of hand. Guy makes small salary and will easily bang in 20+ this season IMO. Get him off the line with AK46, and throw him with GIO and Gomer and he'll be fine. He's big body forward, and will create some space for GIO and Gomez. If he's willing to go to the hard spots on the ice, he will find succes on the first line.

George Prax's picture

No Ryan White??? GET OUT!

Jason Pietroniro's picture

LOL. I think he strung together some good games. I think another year would improve him even more. and he'd be a great sleeper to bring up for injuries or when players aren't producing. Forcing him to prove himself in regular season rather than a secure spot would do more for him IMO. Love him though. Great energy. Him and Pyatt are my two favs.

George Prax's picture
Jason Pietroniro wrote:

LOL. I think he strung together some good games. I think another year would improve him even more. and he'd be a great sleeper to bring up for injuries or when players aren't producing. Forcing him to prove himself in regular season rather than a secure spot would do more for him IMO. Love him though. Great energy. Him and Pyatt are my two favs.

Thing is his spot during the season wouldn't be safe anyway. He he doesn't perform he'll be sent back down. I think he's pays his dues and has earned himself a shot on the 4th line, plus he's exactly what we need. Size, grit, heart, deceptive speed. He NEEDS to make the team!

Thanks to both of you for posting your line-ups!

Cinerichabs88's picture

Ellar Gomez Gionta (Pouliot)
Cammy Pleky Kosty
Lappy Boyd Pyat
Moen Halpern White (Darch)

the reason why id play moen and white is because white almost excites Moen. remeber the game against Florida i think they would really play great togther.