Holmgren analyzed his team very well after the Finals appearance and filled all the holes very nicely. He moved salary in the Gagne move, he added stability on the defense with Meszaros and O’Donnell. He added offense up front with Zherdev and promoted the well-developed Nodl from the Phantoms. He did however sign a much unneeded Jody Shelley and did not waive Matt Walker in training camp. But these two moves still yield him an A- to this point.
I must admit to be unimpressed with Laviolette when he was hired last year. He came in and the team got immediately worse! However he stuck to his system and the team recovered. This year he has been everything that any fan wants in a coach. He refuses to accept mediocre play. He keeps the players sharp even through the travel and grind of the season. There have been a few bad games (see Florida and Vancouver around the Christmas break), but even in those games he was going to the whip and the players just did not respond! My big complaint with Peter is the handling of the goalies. He tends to play one guy too much. The backup gets stale! Peter still gets an A+.
I am going to hand out the grades based on their performance, salary, and the role the team expected of the player.
Bobrovsky – B+. He started out like a house on fire, but has slowed some over December. It is a long season and he needs to be ready when he gets the next call.
Boucher – A. Brian has been everything you want in your goalie all year. He does not complain. He works for the betterment of the team. When he gets the call he just goes out and stops the puck! I have always loved Boosh!
Pronger –B+. He does not get an A because he has not been 100% all year. But his B+ is still better than most players in the league. He doesn’t get an A because he has not dominated the game, YET!
Carle – A. Carle has picked up right where he was last year and has even played better during the non-Pronger games. He moves the puck and has cut down on his turnovers.
Timonen – A-. Kimmo is the steadiest player on the team. He just never seems to have a bad shift let alone a bad game. He plays through all kinds of pain and is a true defensive warrior. My only complaint is that his offense seems to be slipping a little and this is very evident on the power play.
Coburn – B+. He has been improving almost every game. I love how this guy skates and now he is starting to use his size to his advantage. He is learning from watching Pronger!
Meszaros – A. This guy was brought in as insurance for a top 4 injury and to stabilize the 3rd pair. Check and check! He also has allowed Coburn to move from the powerplay and has a great shot from the point!
O’Donnell – A. The best #6 man in the league. He knows his role. He provides toughness and can really kill penalties!
JVR – B. He started awful and has become almost dominant in some games lately. He needs to continue that play and fulfill his status as a future star. He really is a factor when he just out skates people.
Richards – A. There is not enough I can say that hasn’t already been said. He is the leader and plays like it shift after shift.
Nodl – B+. Expected to be simply a checker has started to blossom as a true NHL top 9 forward. I didn’t really expect any offense out of him, but his offense has not hurt his defensive zone play.
Hartnell – A. Is a true pest/power forward. The other teams hate him and we love him. He creates a lot of space on the ice for Briere and Leino.
Briere – A+. Danny has been the MVP of the team so far. He has scored goals when they need them and has provided the limited punch to the powerplay this year.
Leino – B+. I love this guy and when he “wants” it he is hard to deny. Some games he seems to just skate on the perimeter too much. When he drives the puck into the middle, he is dangerous as any player in the NHL.
Zherdev – B. They signed this guy to score and he has delivered. He was not signed to provide PK or defensive zone play. They just need to play him consistently and let this guy fill the net.
Carter – B+. Jeff just needs to show a little more heart. He has as much if not more talent than any player on the team. He needs to vary his offense from the shot to a few drives to the net to get everybody honest on him again.
Giroux A- – Claude has the best offensive skills on this team. That is saying a lot! He has delivered early but slowed down recently.
Powe C – he is really a 4th line guy that most nights does not deliver energy in the offensive zone. He kills penalties but is really just a marginal guy in my opinion.
Carcillo C+ - he just has not found a role on this team. I don’t know why. He is a quality pest in the league, but can’t seem to crack the lineup consistently.
Shelley – F. This guy is awful. He cannot play a regular shift. He is too slow to play with anyone on the team. The really bad thing about him is that he can’t win a fight either! He needs to be shipped to the AHL to round out his career.
Betts – B-. Another 4th liner that most nights cannot provide any offensive zone time. I love his PK skills and he is great in the defensive zones. He is not as good on face-offs as many think he is.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! Good Night and Good Hockey!
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