The 2009-2010 edition of the Montreal Canadiens will offer Jacques Martin a blank canvas to work from; a chance to literally build this team from the ground up.
And for Martin, the Habs’ new bench boss, that groundwork began this week with the start of rookie camp at the club’s training facility in Brossard.
A total of 27 players took to the ice yesterday for the start of two-a-day sessions that will conclude on Friday. On Saturday, the entire club will report for the official start of training camp as the Canadiens prepare for game 1 of the regular season, Oct. 1 in Toronto, against Mike Komisarek (!) and the Maple Leafs.
Between now and then, Martin will take a look at some 54 players, give or take a body or two, as he pieces together his final 23-man roster.
“For me coming in new, I’ll be experimenting with a lot of people at camp,” said Martin as he addressed the media at the team’s practice facility after the rookies wrapped up their morning session. “Hopefully by the end of camp we’ll know where they are in their development and where they fit in, in the organization.”
Some of the rookie forwards skating in Brossard who a have a shot at still being around with the big team once the club breaks camp at the end of September, some with a more legitimate shot than others, include Max Pacioretty, Ben Maxwell and Kyle Chipchura. Of the three, Pacioretty would appear to be most ready for prime time. Like Pacioretty, Maxwell had a cup of coffee with the Canadiens last season. However, Maxwell would certainly appear to need more seasoning. As for Chipchura, just one year ago at this time, his days with this organization appeared to be numbered. However, the team’s massive off-season makeover could open up some room for the former first-round draft pick.
Martin suggested that there might be more room on this roster for new blood, than some observers might have thought.
“I think so…being new to the organization. The one thing you learn over the years with experience is that you hope some players keep getting better year after year.”
Martin feels the Canadiens’ organization has done a good job drafting and developing players. “We hope that some of those kids stand up and show the organization that they’re ready to play here this year,” he added.
Yannick Webber stands to be among them. A power-play specialist with an accurate blast from the point, the native of Morges, Switzerland, has the potential to be a blueline quarterback in the NHL. However, at 5-11 and a shade under 200 pounds, he is undersized, and needs to do a better job at taking care of business in his own end. Then again, unless the injury bug rears its ugly head, the Canadiens seem to be set on defence with a veteran group.
Speaking of veterans…
While Martin was addressing the media, some 16 veterans were on the ice taking advantage of some ice time at Brossard for an informal scrimmage. It marked the second straight day that veterans laced up the skates for a little shinny. The group today included newcomers Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, Travis Moen and Hal Gill. Yesterday, Scott Gomez was part of the group.
Martin was pleased to see them on the ice.
“Yes, definitely. That’s a great sign…veterans who are here, skating, and anxious to get started. I think there is a lot enthusiasm around them, and a lot of enthusiasm around training camp that will start Saturday.”
Which begs the following question: Which veteran will be wearing the Captain’s C once the season starts? It’s a question that Martin was not prepared to address today.
“This week we want to focus on the kids that are here and on the rookie camp,” said Martin. ” The captaincy issue is one that will be addressed next week when training camp opens.”