There certainly has been lots of questions centering around the Montreal Canadiens line of Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and _______.
So far Jacques Martin hasn't been able to solve the equation of G +G + x = productivity, this season. Come to think of it, that problem was around most of last season too.
Benoit Pouliot seemed to be that answer after he and Gionta returned from injuries last December. Pouliot managed 11 points in his first fifteen games with the Canadiens, but tapered off 24 points in 39 games on the season, while battling more injuries. Come playoff time he was a non-factor.
Three games into this season, and with two assists to his name, Pouliot has found himself relegated to third and fourth line duty while coach Jacques Martin experimented with Travis Moen.
Obviously Martin wasn't big on that experiment either, as it appears Tom Pyatt will get a shot Thursday against the New Jersey Devils. Pouliot is not officially in the Martin doghouse, as he does remain on the power play with Gomez and Gionta.
We'll have to wait until Thursday night to see how the next test works.
Martin's second line experiment is reminiscent of Guy Carbonneau, who's problems trying to find the right line combinations in 2008-09 centered around Christopher Higgins.
Higgins struggled to find his offensive form, after three straight 20-plus goal seasons, eventually being demoted to the Canadiens third line, and even watching from the press box. Now with the Florida Panthers, his fourth NHL team in three seasons, he has yet to score a point in four games
Perhaps Martin is already concerned that he has another Higgins on the Habs roster.
Then again with coach Martin, his system is pretty much impossible to figure out, and downright confusing to the point even Stephen Hawking would say, "I give up!"
There's been a lot of debate too over whether the deal to trade Pouliot for Guillaume Latendresse, who had a career high 27 goals (two with Montreal), was the right thing to do. But keep in mind that the Minnesota Wild forward has just three points in his first five games, and came to training camp out of shape, has found him losing his spot in the Wild lineup until their last game.
Wait a second, they've both only played five games.... Are there not 82 games in a regular season?
Is it quite possible the masses, and Jacques Martin are jumping to conclusions too quickly on both Pouliot and the Habs second line?
The Habs are 3-1-1, and although Pouliot may not be on the offensive end of the score sheet, he has been dishing out the hits, leading the team with 18.
After some discussion as a member of the panel on The Habs Show on CJAD last weekend, we discussed what options there were for the Canadiens. Stick with Pouliot on the second line, use an existing roster or Bulldogs player, or search elsewhere?
I then passed on the question to my fellow EOTP contributors Chris Boyle, Francis Bouchard and Bruce Peter.
The general consensus seems to be in agreement that it's too early to be concerned, and that the fans have to be patient. "If the team was patient for Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, it can be for Benoît Pouliot," Francis said. "But, of course, the Habs have to make sure that he works hard."
Bruce also noted that the problem on the Gomez-Giona line may not just fall on a missing element on the wing. "The Gomez-Gionta line would be best helped by having Scott Gomez come back. Whoever is wearing #11 is not playing to the level of the player we saw for the 2nd half and playoffs last year," were Bruce's observations. "He's playing very soft... pulling up at the blueline, skating away from any defender."
That was echoed by Martin on Wednesday, when the coach indicated that both Gomez and Gionta have to take the lead on the line.
Chris too is not overly concerned about the lack of production from the Gomez-Gionta line, through five games, and noted, "If the Plekanec, AK, Cammalleri line continues to produce you don't need elite production from line two. They can plug Lars Eller and Dustin Boyd up there if need be." Chris also noted that Andrei Markov's eventual return will help bolster the offense both in five-on-five and power play situations.
The decision ton where to use Pouliot ultimately falls on Jacques Martin, but considering last season's Habs team never had a chance to gel, maybe he should give the 24-year old, and his linemates a little more time.
Pouliot in the meantime, seems to know that hard work will pay off. "“I’m trying to hit more. On the forecheck, if I hit a guy, it creates a turnover and we can get the puck,” the forward said . “That gets me in the game. I’m not too worried about it. I just have to keep working hard and the rest will take care of itself.”