Saturday, October 13, 2007

Guillaume's Rut

With content from separate pieces in this past week's Journal De Montreal

Guillaume Latendresse has caused concern with three low intensity performances so far in this early season. He was only slightly more involved in the Pittsburgh game than he seemed in the first two matches. This past week, Le Journal was on top of his connundrum, and examined what was going through the player's thoughts as he works on getting up to par. What Latendresse does have going for him, is the fact that has been honest about his bad play, and need no one to make him aware of it.

Perhaps because of how well he performed in the middle of last season, and in later stretches, people tend to forget how green a talent Latendresse still is. A work in progress, the player brings a distinct set of attributes to the team, and they are willing to remain patient with him as long as the work ethic remains in place. Like last season, hopefully the dividends will start paying off before more drastic measures need to be taken.

Latendresse breathed a sigh of relief yesterday upon arriving at the Bell Center. Hung at his locker, was the same coloured practice jersey as those of linemates Bryan Smolinski and Tom Kostopoulos.

During the session on ice at the Denis Savard Arena in Verdun, Latendresse found the same linemates that he will skate alongside tonight again the Carolina Hurricanes.

Those covering the Canadiens were curiously wondering about the status of Latendresse after two dismal games and a so - so performance in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Any further games of the like, and the player may be showing up for games wearing a suit and tie.

"I've thought about that myself", Latendresse admits. "I was happy to find out that'll be in the lineup for this game."

Playing practically invisible at most times in the first three games, he has no points and has registered only one shot on goal. He has spent little time in the corners, and even less in front of the net, while not being involved very physically in the games.

"I'll be glad once I'm though this", he suggested, "Not just the slump, but every aspect of my play."

Latendresse spent time with assistant coach Kirk Muller in the video room going over mistakes and corrections after the session and head coach Guy Carbonneau isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet.

"We are going to be patient with him", the coach indicated, "What's important is that he is working hard. Last season, with hard work, came good results."

It took Latendresse 14 games last season before he'd scored his first goal. This season he is no longer a rookie. He cannot afford to take as long at it this year.

For a player so young, the 20 year old Latendresse is blessed with a very mature perspective on things, being able to publically admit to his shortcomings as he sees them.

When discussing his faults, he could have taken the short route and suggested the season was still in the early goings, or blamed his lackof icetime for his troubles. He said neither.

Instead, Latendresse was refreshingly honest, and said after the Toronto game that he "was not satisfied with how things went against the Maple Leafs."

"I spent Sunday looking in the mirror and reflecting on what I did wrong on the ice.It did me good"

"If I haven't any points or shots on goal, I believe it is because I'm trying to do too much rather than going to the net for shots. I'm trying to be well placed defensively, but I'm too nervous with the puck. I'm late on the play. If I want to produce, I have to attack the net, rather than play in the perimeter. I have a good shot and I need to use it more, rather than trying to make pretty play with short little lift passes."

Latendresse promised to work harder on these aspects in practices and prior to the Penguins game coach Carbonneau made adjustments to the lines, placing Latendresse with Bryan Smolinski and Kyle Chipchura in order to work out some wrinkles.

When it was mentioned to Latendresse that he was the least utilized player on the team through three games, he recognized that he has "to earn the icetime. It's my second year and I will not be afforded as much patience."

One thing is for certain, the Canadiens need a contribution from Latendresse. He is one of those players upon whom Bob Gainey is counting on heavily this season to bolster the teams progression.

In Carbonneau's mind, Latendresse is committing the types of errors that are not uncommon to second year players.

"Last season everything was nice and new to him and he scored 16 goals. He's looking too far ahead of himself right now. Before he gets his 30th point, he has to get his first. Before scoring 40 goals, you have to get one."

Carbonneau simply asks that he continue to work hard on the ice.

"He has to work, he has to drive hard to the net. This is why we drafted him. Guillaume knows he is capable of much more than he has shown from the beginning of training camp."

Latendressse is risking living through the same experience that Maxim Lapierre currently finds himself in. The Canadiens can send him to Hamilton without needing to waive his rights. Things might not be at that point yet, the Habs need their biggest winger to start playing his game.

He has no interest in going to Hamilton, but knows full well he has to make a contribution in Montreal to avoid being sent down. Lapierre's performance so far with the Bulldogs makes his likely recall even more iminant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you're right in a lot of ways, especially that he is young. In 10 years he could be a great player, or so far out of the NHL that he is a footnote. Young people though don't often look beyond the today. To him the front of the net might be a bad place because people don't like him there. The AHL is a good place to learn to play with men who are making a living at hockey. I suspect M. Latendresse needs a significient event to change him, to move him into the NHL. That event could be provided by the opposition, or the AHL I suppose. But me, I like the young man, and would rather see the opposition waken the gentle giant into the professional ranks.