A recently closed poll on this site yielded surprising results.
When we asked: What to do with Pacioretty?
a) Continue to put him on a top line and hope he may score one day
b) Put him on the third line where he'll develop into a third round grinder
c) Demote him to Hamilton while we still can
d) Get him a shooting tutor
e) Change his number to something sensible
f) Get him into the weight room
I didn't expect there to be consensus. I didn't expect nearly two thirds of the sample to go for the extreme option of sending him to Hamilton. Very few went for the weight room or the third line, even fewer for persisting with the top line, or tutoring him on shoting at the NHL level. None agreed with my suggestion that #67 just isn't a good omen for the Habs player.
See the reason
I'll be honest, I voted once as well, and I chose Hamilton, but even so.
I'll go out on a limb and say that most of you probably chose the same way for similar reasons. Pacioretty is not bad player. In fact, he's a very good one. He seems to prevent goals like few others on the team not wearing a trapper. Alas, I don't think that's what we fans had in mind for the boy.
Do we need a 20-year-old shut-down man? Or, should the team work with the skills the boy has to bring them out – as a scorer (or at least a decent passer)? Do the Habs leave him with what he can manage for now and let him develop habits to follow? Or, does management get the youngster used to playing in scoring situation against competition he can actually compete with in that way?
It's a classic question, but a pertinent one, I think. Pacioretty was drafted highly because he could skate, is big and uses his body and balance well, and wasn't no slouch around the net. He's still that guy, but he's being trained to choose differently now: go outside, because you lose it inside; don't shoot, you can't score on NHL goalies; dump all the time, people anticipate your passes. His intelligence is to be lauded for adapting, but his confidence seems scarily shrunken.
The best development projects
In deciding what to do, I think it's worth a look at the best development projects on this team: Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn; and to contrast with the limper results: Sergei Kostitsyn.
Both Tomas and Andrei got good time and minutes in Hamilton. Both had top billing on the team and filled important roles. Once in the NHL, they came with some confidence and after some delay began to confidently deliver what was asked: goals.
Contrast with Sergei Kostitsyn who had almost no time in Hamilton and despite a quick NHL start has found it hard to crack defenders without also making mistakes (and getting benched). He too learns, and what he has learned is that to play, play safe.
Pacioretty may never score 20 goals in the NHL, but that was once the hope. I am of the belief that one way to ensure he never develops a scoring touch is to continue this way (i.e., options a) and b)). Hamilton may not be the answer, but it's probably better than the alternative.
In the meantime, how does it affect the Habs? Well they don't lose much offense that I'm aware of. They will of course lose a forward with a defensive conscience. The return of Sergei could offset that though. What's more, there are forwards to do that job with a call up or a waiver pick (Mathieu Darche, anyone?).
Thanks for all your responses, the surveys certainly add insight into this team and and indeed its fans. See the new poll on Max's replacement on the Plekanec line in the right-hand column.