Thursday, November 1, 2007

Price, Chipchura & Grabovski staying in Montreal

All three were told today to get an apartment in Montreal which is no surprise at all when you consider the overall situation. Of the three, I'm sure Grabovski raised some eyebrows... especially those who feel he's blocking the return of Maxim Lapierre from Hamilton or Sergei Kostitsyn from the pressbox. As I wrote previously, there is a very real possibility that Mikhail Grabovski would sign with a team in the Russian Super League rather than accept a demotion to Hamilton so for now he stays. My belief is that Grabovski will eventually be traded this season as part of a package deal to fill other needs, specifically a goal-scorer. As a natural center Grabovski has been playing left wing on the 3rd line showing a lack of strength to compete along the boards so he'll continue to play out of position barring an injury to Koivu or Plekanec.

That said, so long as Sergei Kostitsyn exhibits laziness when he doesn't have the puck and a lack of hustle when backchecking Grabovski will stay in the lineup. The hope is that healthy competition will spark one of them to win the job so look for Carbo to insert Kostitsyn back into the lineup tonight against Philadelphia in an effort to see who wants the roster spot more.Kyle Chipchura on the other hand is everything they expected him to be. His hockey smarts more than make up for any concerns over his speed and his one-on-one play and strength on the boards is already NHL calibre. Being asked to kill penalties since game two of his NHL career and winning between 50-60% of his faceoffs with just 8 games of pro experience is very indicative of what can be expected from Chipchura for the next decade. He also brings leadership abilities and character traits very similar to Chris Higgins, the leading candidate to be the next Captain of the Montreal Canadiens.

The reason Radek Bonk wasn't re-signed during the summer and Brian Smolinski only signing for one year was to keep the 3rd line Center position warm for Chipchura. Gainey knew it would be expecting too much to ask Kyle to become the team's #1 defensive Center immediately so it was a shrewd move to allow him to develop and learn on the 4th line. Come playoff time, Kyle Chipchura will be playing shut-down hockey.

So how about that Carey Price? Talk about being thrown into the fire with two games against Pittsburgh, a tilt against Ottawa and a game against Atlanta where he was the only player to show up. Price is here to stay and will easily get 30 games to adjust and learn how to handle NHL shooters and like Chipchura will be counted on heavily come playoff time.