Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Attitude Is Everything:

Latendresse And Pouliot After Big Night For Gui

You know those cliches you don't like to hear? Like "attitude is everything".

That really is the last thing you want to hear when you're trying to get something done and it's just not happening. Kind of like when you're battling for your NHL job as a scorer and you just can't score a goal, get an assist or even put two games together that would merit your inclusion on a top line.

"Change your attitude, attitude is everything" is exactly what Guillaume Latendresse needed to hear in Montreal. It's exactly what he didn't want to believe.

6 weeks on from a trade that sent the Guillaume with a terrible attitude out of town for Benoit Pouliot, we are seeing proof positive at what an attitude adjustment can do for a player.

3 games ago, Guillaume had a good game with 7 shots on net for the Wild in their win against Calgary. The next game, he took less shots, but was rewarded for effort with 2 goals in a big win against Chicago. Last night, Guillaume posted a 4 point night with a goal and 3 assists vs. the Penguins – he figured in every goal and potted the game-winner. Not only is Guillaume making up for lost time in the stats races, he's also helping his team win in the process – two things which he had lost touch with in Montreal in his closing shifts.

The renaissance of the player reflects his new positive take on life, and his teammates positive take on him. Everything about the change is evident in this quote below:

"It's great for me to have the chance to play on a team like that," Latendresse said. "The chemistry's great. I like everything here."
He likes everything. Everything! That surely stands in contrast to his exit interview on RDS during which he slagged off managers, coaches, media and just about anyone else. The day he left, you'd be right in saying he liked nothing about being in Montreal.


The remarkable trade

Tempting as it would be to castigate Bob Gainey over the shipping of the new 12-goal man, you have to think his mere removal from the lineup in the condition he was in was a boon for the team. Add to that the fact that Gainey too picked up a reclamation project that looks to be going right.





Benoit Pouliot, like Guillaume was on the outs on his former team. The day he was traded to Montreal, he hadn't played much either in minutes or games for the Wild. Yes, there was an injury, but there were also benchings.

Although Ben's new start hasn't been the stuff of NHL front page like Gui last night, he's certainly done alright. In 9 games, he's netted 4 goals with no assists in 5 wins, 3 losses and an OTL. Moreover, he's actually been a complement to someone other than Maxim Lapierre, which is something Guillaume tried and failed to accomplish many times over in Hockey Mecca. I can also tell you that Pouliot has already eclipsed Latendresse's marks in both star selections and domes, despite only appearing in one third the games Gui played in. In his interviews, Ben has been positive too, probably belying his new found positive outlook away from the Minnesotan winter.


Statistically speaking...

Montreal Canadiens play


Player
Record
GP
G
A
Pts
+/-
G/G
GWG
Sh
S%
Latendresse
11-11-1
23
2
1
3
-4
0.087
0
27
7.41
Pouliot
5-3-1
9
4
0
4
0
0.444
2
22
18.18




Minnesota Wild play


Player
Record
GP
G
A
Pts
+/-
G/G
GWG
Sh
S%
Pouliot
4-9-1
14
2
2
4
0
0.143
0
19
10.53
Latendresse
15-6-0
21
10
5
15
4
0.476
2
51
19.61

As you can see, back in the bad old days, Guillaume was a bad player on a better team, while Benoit wasn't winning many friends as someone who could have been helping but instead allowed the 4-9-1 start to happen.

Since the trade, things have turned around for both. Guillaume's taking more shots, with many more going in – 0.48 goals/game – and a much improved shooting percentage. Amazingly, Pouliot has matched Guillaume goal for goal, shot for shot, rate for rate. 0.4+ goals per game is nothing to sneeze at, and is hard to duplicate. Pouliot has done that in his 9 games, netting 2 game-winners in the process. What's more, Pouliot has been shooting 2.5 times a game, like Gui, to fuel his goal totals.


The future

While we don't have eyes into the future, we do have some knowledge of the past. People know, for example, that 20% shooting is not sustainable over time, people know that streaks come and go and 30 games is not enough to project with (much less 9 games). Both these players will slow, both will settle into something a bit less than their current streak suggests. Where that will be is an answer for another time.

For the moment it is unclear to me who will win the Latendresse-Pouliot trade in absolute terms, one thing that is clear is that both teams to this point are winners. Both teams have replaced a tired and negative cog in their machine with a well-oiled component that contributes in a big way to productivity and winning.

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