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Gui!Gui!Gui! Some Notes on #84 Becoming #48

January 12, 2010, 10:24 AM ET [ Comments]
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In watching Guillaume Latendresse rip apart the Penguins last night (1G, 3A in a 4-3 win), a few thoughts came to mind that I wanted to share with you.

It occurs to me that there will be a buzz around town today, likely of the “The Habs gave up on this guy too soon, even if it was for Pouliot-- who’s played well in nine games for them” variety. Maybe that’s true, but even if they were going to get an inspired effort from Latendresse eventually, there was no evidence to suggest they would, nor was he showing the promise to push for a better opportunity with the Canadiens. His time was spent in Montreal; a fact Jacques Martin and Bob Gainey were well aware of; a fact Guillaume played into as he took Ryan White and Tom Pyatt’s presence as an indication of his relegation to a periphery role, instead of taking it as motivation. It’s no secret that there was a spot to be had on the top two lines coming into training camp, and to suggest he wasn’t given a fair opportunity wouldn’t be a fair assessment of the situation.

Is it surprising that he’s doing well in Minnesota? Putting the obvious argument aside (you know, the one about him playing with Martin Havlat and Cal Clutterbuck/Kyle Brodziak) Latendresse has returned to the assets that saw him fast-tracked to the NHL in the first place. His intensity is where it should be on a shift-by-shift basis, he’s hitting hard, he’s keeping his feet in motion and he’s going to the net. His reward: 15 points in 21 games with Minny. Bigger reward: Minnesota’s 13-8 since making the trade (they started the season by losing 14 of their first 21 games).

A new opportunity to prove yourself, when you have the talent and potential, is usually the one you take advantage of. Latendresse has been given a great opportunity with the Wild, and because things started well his confidence is at its peak. This is not a Guillaume Latendresse we’ve never seen before. The key for him, and for Benoit Pouliot—who’s done nicely with the Canadiens—will always be to bring that intensity and passion on a consistent basis. It’s the key for any young player in a league where the next guy in line is waiting for you to not bring it.

Another note: Latendresse goes from the Mecca of hockey to a place where they can’t even pronounce his name, and something tells me he’s not rejecting all the attention he’s receiving in Minnesota—the same kind of attention he vehemently complained about as a Montreal Canadien. There’s a lesson there, and it won’t surprise me to hear Latendresse speak of his regret about the things he said as he left town, just as Mike Ribiero did after a couple of successful campaigns in Dallas. It’s part of growing up.

With that in mind, it put a smile on my face to see Latendresse do what he did against the Penguins last night. His successes thus far serve as evidence to the fact that playing for the Montreal Canadiens makes you a better player. His experiences prepared him for the pressure of starting anew in Minnesota, and his successes have enabled him to embrace that pressure as opposed to letting it negatively affect him mental-approach to the game.
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