Saturday, January 5, 2008

Downtown Curtis Brown

Carbo continues to show confidence in both his fourth line and his third defensive pairing. But that confidence hasn't been rewarded with exemplary play. Let's look at the last three games:
  • Carbo had all five on the ice against the Rangers' Straka-Gomez-Jagr line (with disastrous consequences, as noted in the last post).
  • He did it again against the Lightning's St. Louis-Prospal-Lecavalier line. This time the goal was almost entirely due to Bouillon and Gorges: an absolutely terrible exchange between the two in front of the Habs net, while the Lightning's entire top line was hovering around trying to create a turnover. No need. Gorges did it almost single-handedly.
  • And against the Capitals, Carbo had Chipchura and Kostopolous as his #1 PK unit. On the Caps PP goal, Chipchura loses the draw, Nylander pulls the puck back to Ovechkin, who rips it past the helpless Price.
Now while Carbo can be taken to task for being overconfident in Chipchura, Dandenault, Kostopolous, Gorges and Bouillon, one could argue that he doesn't have much choice given his personnel. Indeed that was where we left things last time.

As noted in the last post, Carbo has struck upon a set of line combinations that on the one hand takes advantage of the roster's offensive talents but has also woefully exposed their defensive liabilities. This post is dedicated to a proposition that would rectify that situation: swing a trade with the San Jose Sharks for Curtis Brown.

Brown would be the missing link to Carbo's latest plan, allowing him to keep the first three lines intact, while gaining a much more effective fourth line -- one that would both excel as an "energy" line as well as having some defensive chops. Brown could probably center a line between Begin on the left and Kostopolous on the right.

Brown has always been a great faceoff guy, and a very good defensive forward as well. He's not the energy type of player one would normally see on a fourth line, but with him at center, Carbo would have an alternative to Koivu's or Lapierre's line for defensive zone draws. With his addition, the only truly defensively less-than-adequate line would be Plekanec's. If Carbo did get stuck with his 4th line out against Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson or the like, we all wouldn't have to wait for the inevitable red light to start flashing behind Huet's head. Brown's skills could also help the Habs' woeful PK, mired near the bottom of the league for most of the season.

Interestingly, Brown's strengths are exactly why the Sharks haven't used him much this year. They need goals, not defense. They are second in the league in goals allowed per game, but a shocking 22nd in goals scored per game (with Marleau, Cheechoo, Thornton and company??). They are also #1 in faceoff efficiency -- all without using Brown's skills in the faceoff circle.

And how exactly does this rectify the Habs' 3rd defensive pairings liabilities? There are already a number of guys, beyond Kostopolous and Begin who were vying for 4th line minutes. Smolinski, Chipchura, Dandenault and Streit specifically. Adding Brown further crowds the mix, no?

So Streit and Dandenault should move back to the blueline. Streit is an easy argument. He's extremely valuable as the #1 powerplay QB on the NHL's #1 powerplay. Find him some minutes, anywhere. Dandenault? Well, he was passable as a 6th dman last year. He was certainly better than Gorges or O'Byrne have been this year. And probably no worse defensively than Brisebois, though nowhere near as efficient on offense.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Dandenault. In fact, it might be better to keep Brisebois as the #6 dman, where his defensive liabilities would be minimized and his offensive skills used on the PP as the 2nd QB. But Brisebois is the guy the Sharks will want. This post is already way too long, so wait for the next posting to find out why.

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