Perhaps it's because we were expecting more transactions, but aside from Olivier Bouchard's En Attendant Les Nordiques posts, there hasn't been much critical analysis of the players Marc Bergevin brought in during free agency.
There is a general 'Rah rah!' sentiment and a lot of empty platitudes about the team getting tougher, or at least tougher to play against, but what do these players actually bring to the table?
Personally I was very negative about Bergevin's moves because I don't believe they addressed the team's most pressing needs, but let's look at the data instead of jumping to conclusions. We'll start with the signing I liked the most; Colby Armstong.
Armstrong is coming off of two disastrous seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the two worst of his career, which resulted in him being bought out and the Habs signing him for roughly a third of his last annual cap hit for just a single year.
Colby grew up as a Habs fan in Saskatchewan, which automatically makes him cool in my eyes, I'm sure Bruce Peter feels the same way. But will Colby Armstrong make the Montreal Canadiens a better hockey team? Let's find out.
As far as we can tell currently, Armstrong sits at #3 on the depth chart at right wing, pushing Louis Leblanc down and Mathieu Darche out. So comparing him to those two players is probably the best course of action. For explanations of the stats used, please refer to the glossary of analytical terms. All statistics used are even strength only and are courtesy of Behind the Net and Time on Ice.
|Colby Armstrong||Name||Louis Leblanc||Mathieu Darche|
|50.4||Off Zone Start%||48.5||51.6|
|52.7||Off Zone Finish%||52.9||48.9|
|0.153||Rel Corsi QoC||-0.123||-0.459|
|-1.298||Rel Corsi QoT||-0.854||-1.666|
|425||Shot % [close]||459||463|
|396||Fenwick % [close]||437||445|
|425||Corsi % [close]||446||462|
Right away we can draw a few observations from here. Armstrong played the toughest competition of the three, but had slightly better linemates to help him do it. Armstrong also produced the least offense, but considering his absurdly low 4.4% on ice shooting percentage and the fact that he was injured all year, I think we can assume he can produce a lot more offense than that. Armstrong was far and away the worst possession player of the three, but this may again be due to injury. Armstrong managed to push the play up the ice in at a similar pace to Leblanc, and much better than Darche. It seems that Armstrong is probably a better player than Darche at his stage if he is healthy, but slightly inferior to Leblanc, although much more disciplined and likely more defensively aware.
As I said before, Armstrong had a terrible season, which was also plagued by a multitude of injuries. His advanced stats may not be entirely indicative of what he can bring. Perhaps a better idea would be to look at his recent career. We can use individual game information as far back as the 2007-08 season to see how Armstrong's career is trending. The following chart uses 10 game rolling averages for overall Fenwick percentage as well as offensive zone start percentage. By doing this we can see both Armstrong's role and his performance. Gaps in the chart are due to games Armstrong did not play.
Click to enlarge
Unfortunately this is exactly what we don't want to see. Over the past 5 seasons Armstrong has become more and more sheltered while his performance consistently wanes. Considering the amount of time he lost to injury in Toronto, and that this decline became dramatic after he joined that team, we should be open to the idea that he could bounce back, but according to the data we have, it seems like Armstrong is in heavy decline. If Armstrong can turn it around, he's a bargain for the salary, but Bergevin was very wise to keep this to a one year contract.