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Afternoon Analysis

Afternoon Analysis: Francophone Shuffle

TSN reported earlier today that the Minnesota Wild and the Montreal Canadiens had swapped young forwards. Going to Montreal is Benoit Pouliot, a former 4th overall draft pick who has obvious talent but has been an enigma so far in Minnesota.

Headed to the Twin Cities is Guillaume Latendresse, also a big winger with upside who has had a tough start to the season in Montreal.

Sufficed to say neither club was happy with what they were getting from their former charges. Pouliot, though never a big scorer in junior, came to the Wild with high expectations and amid considerable fanfare as he was a highly touted junior player thought to have considerable offensive upside. It appears that the Wild’s patience for waiting for that upside (and listening to fan complaints about passing over some talented Minnesota high schoolers in the same draft) finally gave out today with the trade.

There is no denying Pouliot’s obvious talents. Having seen him in several games, a couple practices and three different training camps, one is acutely aware that he possesses skills that most of the other lunch-bucket Wild players could only dream about. That said, he has been unable to apply those skills at the NHL level. Nor has Pouliot retained any of the grit he displayed as a junior. Once a very skilled pest (even showing these traits at the AHL level), Pouliot has apparently suffered a crisis of identity in the NHL.

Though he has battled injuries in his young career, the move to Montreal should hopefully be the change of scenery he needs to resurrect his career. Freed from lofty expectations and poor results in Minnesota, Pouliot may be able to find a comfort zone in Montreal. Lets hope he finds it fast though, as Habs fans aren’t known for being patient with prospects, especially failed picks from other organizations.

The Wild, in acquiring Guillaume Latendresse, pick up a player with a lesser draft pedigree than Pouliot, but also get a guy who scored more in junior and has seen some of that success translate to the NHL.

Standing the same 6’3 as Pouliot but having an extra 30 pounds on his frame, Latendresse is a horse on the wing and can use his size effectively. He fits in perfectly to coach Todd Richards’ aggressive fore-checking game plan and should produce results for a Wild team that has size but lacks a player with Latendresse’s combination of size, speed and skill.

He is also at a stage in his career where some new scenery should help. I would imagine he will be counted on to fulfill a much larger role with the Wild and should see his share of action in the top 6. If he were to be paired with someone like Cal Clutterbuck, the Wild would have a line that would be a holy terror to play against.

In any event, its nice from a fan’s perspective to see an actual trade. Lets hope that both Pouliot and Latendresse enjoy success in their new homes and spur other GM’s to start making calls.