NHL

Pouliot thriving in a fresh start with Canadiens

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TSN.ca Staff
1/13/2010 8:51:06 PM
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It is extremely rare in professional sports that both teams involved in a trade walk away completely happy with the results, however in the case of the deal that sent Benoit Pouliot to the Canadiens from the Minnesota Wild for Guillaume Latendresse, both sides are smiling at the moment.

At the time of the transaction, it seemed to be a completely inconsequential deal.  Both players involved were scuffling along and appeared to be in desperate need of a change of scenery. 

The 22-year old Latendresse was feeling the weight of the expectations on his shoulders in Montreal of being a local product that earned his reputation as a sniper and supreme agitator in junior, yet was never able to translate that success to his professional career.

Meanwhile the 23-year old Pouliot was feeling the burden of being of being the fourth overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, just behind Sidney Crosby, Bobby Ryan and Jack Johnson, but drafted ahead of players such as Carey Price, Anze Kopitar and Paul Stastny.  As well after being an all-offense option for the Sudbury Wolves, he was having difficulty adjusting to a much more defensive style of play under former Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire.

"Things weren't working out with Jacques and his style of play," admitted Pouliot.  "I had to change my style of play to fit in the role he wanted me to be for the team to be good.  That role was completely different from what I was used to playing."

Despite Lemaire moving on to New Jersey and the promise of a more offensive style of hockey under new coach Todd Richards, Pouliot started the season slowly.  While attempting to battle through a wrist injury, he was limited to only two goals and two assists in 14 games. 

At the same time Latendresse was not faring any better with only three points in 23 games with the Habs.

Fast forward to November 23rd and suddenly both players were gifted a fresh start in a new environment, and both have taken full advantage of their new surroundings. 

Since the trade, Latendresse has been one of the top goal scorers in the league, with 10 goals in 21 games heading into action Wednesday.  Meanwhile after recovering from his wrist issues, Pouliot has fit in nicely in La Belle Province, earning some rave reviews from teammates.

"He's like (John) LeClair or somebody like that," said linemate Brian Gionta, favourably comparing Pouliot to the three-time 50 goal scorer.  "A power forward that's got good hands in front."

Just like LeClair fit in so well with his "Legion of Doom" linemates in Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg, Pouliot has found a home alongside Gionta and Scott Gomez on a line in need of a nickname.  Since the threesome has been put together, Pouliot has four goals in seven games with two of them being game winners.

Pouliot admits that playing with veterans like Gomez and Gionta makes his job easy.

"They are going to put the puck on the net," said Pouliot.  "I've just got to be in front, prepared for loose pucks.  So far things have been good and it's been awesome playing with those guys.  If we keep going like this, I think good things will happen."

As TSN Insider Bob McKenzie states, so far the Canadiens really like what they see.

"The scouting report on Pouliot has always been that he's big, he can skate, he's got skill; but the question was: 'will he get his nose dirty by going to the net and will he make things happen in the really 'dirty' areas to try to score goals?'  And the experience so far from the Montreal Canadiens and their coaching staff is that they have seen a player who is really committed and willing to pay a physical price to win battles and score goals in the tough areas."

While it has been a success story thus far, Pouliot realizes that from now on he will always be compared to Latendresse.

"People talk about it every day," said Pouliot.  "If Guillaume has a good game, I'll hear about it.  I don't know if he hears about my good games but it doesn't really matter.  It's good for him that things are working out so well down there." 

Pouliot says he feels no bitterness and is just happy to be contributing in Montreal.

"Things weren't working out here for him here and it wasn't working out well in Minnesota for me and now things are kind of going good for both of us."

At the end of the day that is all that Canadiens GM Bob Gainey and Wild GM Chuck Fletcher could have hoped for.

Brian Gionta, Benoit Pouliot and Scott Gomez (Photo: Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
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