Saturday, September 13, 2008

As An Answer, Robert Lang Poses More Questions

Tired of waiting for Mats Sundin to figure out what he wants from life, Habs GM Bob Gainey yesterday, jumped at the chance to bring in the well travelled Robert Lang to fill in an opening at center. One previously reserved for the indecisive Leaf at large.

This trade announcement, it doesn't quite pack the same punch, dropping down from the bald Swede to the hairy Czech, now does it?

My first thoughts were, "Hold on a minute. Isn't Lang supposed to be the dude that is too old, too slow, too soft, and too expensive for the role of a third line center?"

Like really, isn't this the third coming of Radek Bonk?

I have the gnawing feeling I've seen this movie before.

Admittedly, I can't drink to this. It's a big tall glass of confusion here, with a shot of disappointment for a chaser.

Journeymen players, like Lang, are exactly that, for a reason. I learned that lesson last season, after a brief spark of joy over the Habs adding Bryan Smolinski.

After much excitement in Detroit upon his acquisition a few seasons back, the Red Wings realized fairly quickly that Lang's addition did not bring them closer to the Cup. There's been lots of whispers about him just not having that crucial edge ingredient that makes winners what they are.

It said that when the going gets tough, Lang goes sightseeing!

Yes, Lang perenially posts decent numbers, but it has mostly been on also ran teams that never seem to go playoff deep. That's not comforting at all.

Can Habs fans expect him once again to reach the 20 goal, 50 point plateau?

I say, if we see 15 netters and 20 helpers from this 38 year old, we've struck gold!

Among Lang's attributes are a rare right handed shot from center, strong faceoff skills, experience, and familiarity with former team mate Alex Kovalev.

In addition to that, Lang is thrilled to be coming to Montreal, of course. He'll be sporting the expression and smile that would have been way more soothing had it been worn by a dithering, follically challenged Viking.

Looking for a silver lining here, it might just be that for the first time in a long time, Lang might not be asked to shoulder an offensive burden with Montreal.

High hopes and weighty expectations of helping carry the club's offensive attack will not fall solely on Lang, and that might help him.

He will likely be pencilled in on a line featuring Guillaume Latendresse and one of either Chris Higgins or Sergei Kostitsyn. While such a line combo offers promise, it will only work as much as Lang's committment works.

As for him seeing ice with Kovalev, that will happen in practice. Coach Carbonneau won't break up the Plecs - AK27 - AK46 line barring an unforeseen drought.

Another of Lang's attributes is his size. At 6' 3", and 215 pounds, it looks as though he fills the club's prerequisit of getting bigger down the middle. What worries me is that size means little unless it is used, and that's contrary to Lang's reputation.

Truly, I cannot pronounce myself one way or another on this latest Gainey move. I have loud reservations. I trust the Habs GM's judgement more often than not, but instinct and gut are telling me this move is a risky one.

Back about ten days ago, Gainey spoke in analogies about the Habs chances of landing Sundin. Ironically, as Sundin prepared to announce a sponsorship deal with Poker Stars, Gainey compared potential moves to a deck of cards.

Barring a Sundin bagging, Gainey pointed to teams presently over the salary cap limit, and suggested his plan B involved hitting on those teams.

His quote was, "We have cards we can play, but 8, 10, 12 cards down in the deck....that's not a card we want to play."

Is Lang, Gainey's ace? The real deal?

I'm standing still on this call.

I'd rather be raising a Sundin!

Here's a clip of some of Lang's better Detroit highlights. Keep in mind that fans clips such as these, never show a player's low lights.

Get excited all you wish, my verdict comes later in the year!

BallHype: hype it up!


Anonymous said...

Lang has scored consecutive 50 point seasons and there's no reason why he wouldn't match if not exceed that on a talented and speedy Montreal squad that stresses offense, even on a 3rd line. The best thing about this move is it lays to rest the Habs/Sundin saga. Personally Lang was my top choice of the personelle available edging out Havlat. The Habs just got better, and trading Grabovski for Lang plus a prospect is smart hockey in my books. Obviously when one has expectations of landing Mats Sundin, getting Lang instead might seem like a let down. I'd rather have a player interested and happy to be playing in Montreal than one who can't even decide whether or not he wants to play.

Robert L said...

"The best thing about this move is it lays to rest the Habs/Sundin saga."

How does that make it a good thing?

Come March, Lang does xxxx. Is any mortal soul going say "Yeah, and it ended the Sundin saga."

Les_Habitants_85 said...

The Habs were small down the middle last year and brutal in the face-off department. Lang brings both plus some added offense. Considering what we gave up I fail to see what is wrong with this move. Of course I would have preferred Sundin but considering we would in all probability have to wait a few months then just as likely get a No! for an answer, this is a good move.

Jeff said...

Robert, i like the deal and the post. well written as usual. Lang is exactly what we need--a puck possession player. The Habs faltered against Philly in the faceoff circle, in fact, they fell short against many teams. The habs offence is rooted in speed and possesion. Lang will win 50 plus percent of his draws back to Markov or Hammer and the rest is well...history. And yes, i am relieved to finally be over the Sundin dilemma, it felt like a sexless marriage for a while there, alot of anticipation but no hot nights to speak of.

Anonymous said...

One thing I like is that he seems to know to shoot as soon as he gets the puck, something Ryder forgot how to do last year. He gets a lot of shots from the side that is so dangerous on 5 on 3's. Right handed shot was important, that he is a veteran who can get points is even better.

Bonk? Please! LOL

The Teacher

AA said...

First of all Lang's acquisition addresses a lot of needs like the faceoff and getting bigger down the middle. It is a good second choice to Mats, i hope it succeeds. But what i see as an underline here is that Sundin is going to decide whether he wants to play by January they say. Well in my books if Lang doesnt turn out well and the habs are doin good otherwise then i dont see why gainey cant trade him to make room for Mats come decision time. Mats wants a cup, he knows hes more likely to get it with us rather than the Leafs.

Robert L said...

It's true that Mats could come into play should he decide he wants to be in Montreal at some point, but it has to be done by the free agent cut off date in December.

I'm starting to come around on Lang, but I hope people's expectations aren't too high.

pierre said...

I agree with the bulk of the positive comments made by Anonymous, Les Habitants and Jeff in reaction to the trade..... I, for one, never did fantisysed about Sundin being a Habs because the facts never encouraged me to do so from the beginning or at anytime onward... therefore I had concerns when projecting our 08-09 starting roster that were left unanswered and growing as time was passing by.... until yesterday, that is.

Even thought I was entirelly pleased with the added pieces to the puzzle that were Tanguay and Laracque I couldn't help myself but to think that an extra piece was still missing in order to nail the the whole thing in a way as to be suggesting that the integrity and completeness of the team as been raised to a new level.

The most obvious particuliarity that our team gains with our latest addition is true scoring depth... 3 lines that can score ... this is the core of our new identity as a team ... the model is simple and highly efficient ... coherent, cohesive, intuitive,.. it hardly needs a system to keep it all together game after game.

In a nutshell my feeling towards our latest aquisition is best summed up by Gainey himself.....

'' with Lang, Tanguay and Laraque we have improved our team in ways that we feel entirelly satisfied with ''.

I have been left wanting in previous off seasons with Gainey at the wheel..... but certainly not this one.... chapeau Bob !

Chris said...

"I'd rather be raising a Sundin"
Well Robert, wouldn't we all(particularly Gainey). It wasn't gonna happen. Get over it. Comparing Sundin to Lang is useless. Yes, we all know who is the better player-but that player has essentially turned his nose up at competing for the Cup w/ the NHL's premier franchise on the centenery for goin' on 4 months. If Bob walked away from his two hour meeting w/ Mats feeling that Sundin's heart wasn't in it, well good enough for me. I'd rather have an excited Lang than a half-hearted Sundin. Mats seems more concerned w/ his legacy as Laffs captain than winning a Cup. And after Wilson's dumb comments if Mats didn't want to stick it to that organization, well forget it. If you want to compare Lang to anyone compare him to the man he essentially replaces-Smolinski. No contest there- we've got a better player. In my mind our depth is better, we're able to play more puck possesion (ie. faceoffs), Koivu's fresher come playoff time, the 2nd unit power play is a nightmare for the opposition. Seems like all positives to me.

Doogie2K said...

It's true that Mats could come into play should he decide he wants to be in Montreal at some point, but it has to be done by the free agent cut off date in December.

I thought the final roster freeze was in late February (i.e. the trade deadline). Colorado signed Peter Forsberg last season something like three days before the deadline. At that point, I think it would be easy to give Captain Indecisive $2.5M for the final 25-30 games, which would prorate to something like $7-7.5M over a full year, which has been his going rate.

Robert L said...

Dougie, didn't Forsberg sign earlier though, and then joined in February once he was rahabbed?

I'm kind of fuzzy on the cut off dates and restrictions stuff. Have their been amendments done to the original clause in the CBA?

Doogie2K said...

According to Wikipedia, he signed with Colorado February 25, the day before the deadline, and played his first game on March 4, which sounds about right.

I don't know how it worked before, but it looks like the trade deadline is now a global roster freeze, with no signings or trades and a limited number of AHL call-ups permitted until the AHL season is over.

Anonymous said...

Is like a player who could be in front of the net on 2nd unit of PP?