Habs Pick Up Blair Betts Off Waivers
Okay, that makes no sense, and it was totally a cheap plug for our new site. Moving on...
Betts comes to the Canadiens after being cut by the Philadelphia Flyers out of training camp. Before you panic and wonder why the Habs need a Flyers castaway, keep in mind that Philadelphia is incredibly deep up front, and needed to make room for several youngsters, including the recently drafted Sean Couturier, who is slated to start the season with the NHL club at 18-years-old (for more on the Flyers' recent roster moves, click here).
The 31-year-old, 6'3" 210lbs center has played 477 games and six full seasons in the NHL, mostly after the lockout. In his time with the Calgary Flames, New York Rangers and, most recently, the Flyers, Betts has tallied 41 goals and 38 assists, with a -18 rating. Last season, Betts scored 5 goals last year, 8 the year before, and played just about every game in the Flyers' recent playoff runs.
But the real value of a player like Blair Betts is beyond his offensive stats, even his size. In 75 games last season, Betts only went to the penalty box four times, despite the fact that he doesn't seem to have trouble throwing his body around (82 hits) or blocking shots (72). Moreover, Betts was the Flyers' best player in the faceoff circle, with 50.03%, a skill that the Canadiens desperately lack. Moreover, Betts led the Flyers in shorthanded ice time last season, playing an average 3:37 with a man down.
Betts is however categorized as relatively slow in the skating department, and tends to miss a few games every so often with injuries, which might offset some of the positives above.
In the grand scheme of things, he's essentially a younger, bigger version of Jeff Halpern, and a type of player that the Canadiens were lacking coming out of training camp. With Lars Eller on the shelf, Brian Willsie failing to impressed and little else to brag about in the ways of a bottom-two center, the Habs were starting the season pretty much without anyone in that fourth spot. And that meant trouble for Tomas Plekanec, who basically broke down late last season after being pulled in too many directions by a team decimated by injury.
With a player like Betts to take the brunt of the defensive work, and with a presumably refreshed Scott Gomez and a motivated David Desharnais in the two and three holes, the really winner of this waiver pick up could very well be Tomas Plekanec.
Notes: As the Canadiens prepare for their season opener in Toronto tomorrow night, the team has sent forwards Michael Blunden and Aaron Palushaj to Hamilton. Defenseman Jeff Woywitka is on waivers. The demotions mean that Alexei Yemelin and Raphael Diaz will be making the team to start the season. While Yemelin's debut with the Habs is seven years in the making, Diaz is a very positive surprise out of camp, signing with the Canadiens out of Europe basically in Yemelin's shadow.
Check back tomorrow to see Betts in action in the Canadiens' season opener in Toronto, and make sure to join our Opening Night Liveblog as we cover all the fun.