What were you doing on November 23rd? If you were Guillaume Latendresse, you were probably going through several different emotions like excitement, confusion, fear, and even anger. It was on this day that Montreal apparently gave up on their big francophone player and traded him to Minnesota for another struggling youngster, Benoit Pouliot.
Guillaume Latendresse has had a classy rebound to his career in Minnesota
Up until the trade, I think it’s fair to say that Latendresse had been, for the most part, a disappointment. I still remember that training camp he had in 2006 where he was awesome and you thought for a second that Montreal had a major power forward on the rise. His first season, he showed good promise, scoring 16 goals and 29 points as a 19 year old. I figured that once he put on some more muscle, could potentially be the next Todd Bertuzzi, when Big Bert was in his prime. I’m sure many Canadians fans felt the same way back then.
However, you know it’s not a good sign when your career season continues to be your rookie season. Latendresse’s point total declined in his sophomore season, where he scored only 27 points, and it dropped again in his third season to just 26 points. Follow that up with his first 23 games this year where he had 2 goals and 1 assist. Ouch. Clearly, the relationship between Montreal and Latendresse was broken and Bob Gainey decided he’d had enough and shipped him out of town. In fact, Latendresse’s season in Montreal was going so badly this year that he failed to register a shot in 10 of his 23 games. By mid-late November, he was playing only 6-7 minutes a game too, which makes sense, seeing as how he didn’t score a single point in his final 8 games as a Montreal Canadian, and only took 3 shots on goal in that span.
Fast forward to January 2010, where he appears to be a completely different player in Minnesota. He’s routinely playing around 17 minutes a game with the Wild, where seems to play a vital role on the team and is having fun again. Here’s the real interesting part. In the 23 games he’s played for the Wild since the trade, he’s scored 10 goals, 6 assists and is +5. He was -4 in Montreal this season. He’s also put together a serious hot streak as of late. As of Saturday, his last 6 games have seen him score 4 goals and 5 assists.
Has Latendresse turned his career around in Minnesota? It’s hard to say. 16 points in his first 23 games is a great start and is far higher than the production he ever generated in Montreal. Yet, the question surrounding Latendresse is whether or not this kind of play can be sustained. Remember back to the training camp in 2006 where he looked dominant? Remember back in junior how he was a star player in the QMJHL but looked lost when playing for Canada at the World Juniors in 2005? According to Brent Sutter, who was the coach of the Canadian squad that year, Latendresse didn’t listen to the coaching staff and always went his own way. If you didn’t realize that Latendresse was on the WJ team that year, don’t feel badly – He was benched for most of the tournament anyway. This was also the WJC team that featured Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Cam Barker, Corey Perry, Mike Richards and Dion Phaneuf, among others. Thank you, NHL lockout. Actually, now I’m wondering how Latendresse even made this team in the first place. Anyway, the point here is that Latendresse is one of those players who so far in his professional career, has only really been able to play well for short periods of time.
Time will tell if he can keep up this kind of play for Minnesota. 23 games is a good quarter of the season and he’s been especially hot lately, so I hope for his sake he can keep his strong play up. It’s worth noting that even though he’s in his fourth year in the NHL, he’s only 22 years old. Some players, especially the power forward types, take a little longer to develop and it does feel a little harsh to write off a 22 year old kid as being washed up. So maybe we should give him a little more time before disregarding him completely. Hopefully, Minnesota can help him develop into the player many of us thought he would have already become by now. If they can do so, they may have found a real diamond in the rough, as Benoit Pouliot wasn’t getting much done for them. For what it’s worth, Pouliot has 5 goals in his first 10 games as a Hab.
In conclusion, I think Guillaume Latendresse has got a great opportunity to become a solid 3rd line player in the NHL, with the ability to play 2nd line minutes if necessary. I think he could potentially be a 40 points per season player with Minnesota. What do you think – will Latendresse turn his career around? Or is his recent hot streak just more of the same from him? You tell us.
Your Reporter in the Field,
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