In a series of individual reports, A Winning Habit will bring you it’s post-season assessment of every Canadiens’ player. We figured the best place to start would be with the team’s captain, Brian Gionta.
The diminiative right winger had an off year, by his own admission and standards. However, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Gionta, by far, was the most engaged of all the Habs’ forwards, game in and game out. If he wasn’t trying to dig the puck out along the boards against defensemen that stood much taller than he, he was posted in front of the opposition’s net, trying to get his stick on a rebound. His incredible speed left players in the dust, as he sped down the right side, and took shots at opposing goaltenders.
That, however, is where the problems begin. Whether it be his fault, or that of his linemates, or even the coaching staff’s, Gionta showed a lack of originality on the offensive side of the ice. Passing, on most occasions was not part of his repertoire, and that hurt him as the season progressed. It become apparent to opposing teams that when the puck was on Gionta’s stick, he would most certainly attempt a shot on goal.
And when I say it is partially his linemates fault, that is a big part of the equation. During the middle of the season, Gionta was lined up with Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, a stretch where all three players showed good numbers offensively. However, when he was placed back on the wing of Scott Gomez, his numbers dropped, primarily because of the horrible season Gomez was enduring. While saying that, the overly defensive style of play employed by Coach Jacques Martin isn’t conductive to offensive production.
In my opinion, Gionta needs to get more creative, and not play such a north-south style of game. He also needs to learn to distribute the puck more, and not try to force shots on goal when they’re not available. To be more effective, he has to try and take advantage of the middle of the ice more in the offensive zone, and using different shooting angles. After all, taking shots from the wing make a goalie job much easier.