Well, it has been a miniature whirl of wind hasn’t it?
A mere 27 regular season games and 3 (!!) post season appearances into it and the William The Tenderness experiment has come to an end.
For a guy I made repeated jokes about being the heir apparent to the Alex Kovalev 50% Off Jersey at Sports Experts Award before the season even started (a prediction that has now sadly come true) I thought this would end better than it did. Gui and I got off to a bad start when six games into the season the injury plagued winger went down with …I think it was diagnosed as The Bends at one point but I actually ended up liking him more than I expected as the season rolled on.
That said, once playoff time rolled around things got ugly. The optics of getting benched for not showing enough passion against the team that rushed you and subsequently booted you, the city who’s media tore you to shreds and made you a scapegoat is truly a rough way to close out the season here in the nation’s capital (hi haters). Considering he is a player who lives on the absolute margins of a team’s top six, for some reason there is always a surprising amount to unpack with Latendresse. It’s pretty hard to believe he only just turned 26. I came across an RDS message board while searching for an image of Gui and read an article and comments (blech) from October 2009 that you’d swear were written yesterday. Always a lightening rod, let’s have a brief chat with undertones of sensual espionage about this…(Ugh, weird, sorry… THANKS FOR READING!)
What I Liked About Willy
I think it would be completely bratty to say Latendresse made zero contribution to the team this year. In a season where injuries decimated the team to the point that ERIC GRYBA WAS FILLING IN FOR ERIK KARLSSON the experience and skill that Latendresse brought to the team during some dark days was not lost on me. Critics will forever (fairly) point to the lack of speed that Latendresse possesses. It was especially noticeable with already sluggish skater having missed the past two seasons. That wasn’t the end of the world necessarily though, Ottawa has had some very slow scoring wingers in the past. Dani Heatley was positively tortoise-like but made the most of it by always getting into the mid-high slot. Jonathan Cheechoo, well, certainly looked like a guy who had suffered multiple sports hernias and was a shell of his former self. I would say that Gui was no Heatley but wasn’t quite that Cheechooesque shell either. To his credit he was trying to forge an identity as that immovable object in front of the goal. He also still had his hand skills. As we saw, Gui could compensate for his lack of skating at times by providing beautiful passes to faster players as he did with memorable set ups to Neal and Turris goals. He could also be that guy that I’ve been hoping Colin Greening would evolve into for a couple seasons now by “scoring” some absolute trash bag goals off of his butt shot by far better players like Daniel Alfredsson. Lastly, on top of the size and weight he did have the ability to capitalize on scraaaaaaaamble situations down low evidenced here by what I think was one of the best Senators goals of the entire season:
I’m gunna miss that 73-93-33 line a bit (buuut not as much as I’m looking forward to the possibility of more of that 89-93-33 line). He was far from perfect and again I think he’s a player on the margins of the top six, but his 6 goals in 27 games (2 more than the far more skilled Michalek put up in 23 games) were much needed on a team that was in the toilet in terms of Goals For.
What I Whatever the Opposite of Liked Is About Willy
Look, I get that not every player is going to be Scott Stevens out there but I did come to appreciate the knock on his game that he’s as the Germans would say, “Not the most intense dude.” There is a lack of urgency to his play that when combined with his slow foot speed makes for a very frustrating player to watch. The talent is there but he just can’t make himself a big factor on a consistent basis. This was especially noticeable given that there are very few slow players on this skating based, hard back checking team. I mean shit, even Chris Neil has pretty decent wheels. Much like Matt Kassian, who gets far less ice time, Latendresse does not fit Paul MacLean’s system of a 200 foot game. Colin Greening can potentially play a similar game but can skate like the wind…also Greening is in tremendous physical condition…which is…a subject I’m trying politely to avoid.
Most importantly, the thing that you just can’t ignore is that Latendresse was benched for a bunch of the series against Montreal DESPITE SCORING A GOAL! Damn. I’ll get into it more in a bit but that is just awful looking. I said going into the series that his performance against Montreal would be the pivotal point of his comeback. Well, a lengthy benching through two rounds of playoffs (in some cases Matt Kassian the only player on the team slower than him drawing in) is a spectacular failure indeed. He could have/should have been a bull against a small, injury depleted Habs squad. He wasn’t.
Well, for starters is 73 the worst number in Sens history? Those sale jerseys at Sports Experts had it rough to begin with but man that number looks dumb. Especially considering the font on the home and away jerseys butchers most numerical configurations.
I think Latendresse will in large be a guy who will not be remembered fondly in terms of his play and his signing will be looked upon as a mistake a la Pascal Leclaire but to me it’s not that simple. He was unspectacular, sure, but I think he helped get the team through a very rough patch. When he came back from his neck injury he was a guy who could actually play a top six role at a time where the team was basically half AHL call ups. I think it would be unfair to say he was a passenger this season. He scored a couple of timely goals that helped Ottawa ultimately make the post season. I just wish he’d have played better once they did.
His singing was far from a mistake too. It was as if Murray was hedging his bets more than taking a gamble on signing Gui. With such a young squad with so many injury prone stars (Spezz, Milo) and a 40 year old captain, he provided MacLean with that extra guy in case. That’s pretty much what he was. On a bonus laden contract at only 1 year, with several rookies showing they can indeed hang at the NHL level the Senators are in a position to say “Thanks for your service and good luck in future whatevers” to Guillaume and fill his roster spot with someone else.
It would appear that Latendresse’s career path is very uncertain at this point. Again, it’s hard to believe that he is only 26 years old. When you take into account that Bryan Murray is Monsieur Reclamation I wonder if any GM would be willing to pick up his scraps. They sure passed on the Cheechoos and LeClaires of recent memory.
Much like how Peter Regin’s agent has it in tough cold calling teams for tryouts this fall, “How many goals did my client score last season? Well, umm, let me ask you THIS: did you see the first round of the playoffs in 2010? Let me tell ya…” Latendresse will similarly be pretty hard pressed to have a team take a flyer on him. Despite having two 25+ goal seasons under his belt, he does have a significant injury history, speed issues, conditioning issues and motivation issues working against him. Cons appear to outweigh the pros at this point. I don’t know if he’s cut out for the speed and lateral game of the KHL and he’s probably not going to settle for the AHL; a league he skipped entirely in his development.
Prediction: Let me be the first to introduce you to the newest panelist on the popular RDS show L’antichambre