Friday, September 27, 2019

Artturi Lehkonen Autographed Card

(As per years past, this is a twin-post with my "regular" blog, where I predicted the Montréal Canadiens would finish fifth in the Atlantic Division in 2019-20).

Artturi Lehkonen scored 18 goals in his rookie season in 2016-17, then 12, then 10. Did his ice time diminish? No, it was below 14 minutes in his rookie year, spiked to 16:29 in 2017-18 and was at 15:53 last year, and he was playing with Jesperi Kotkaniemi, a player many pundits seem to feel had a great year but in my opinion still needs to bulk up, gain experience and learn to play better defensively.

No, I think it's more of a coaching thing: for the last two years, Claude Julien has been behind the Montréal Canadiens' bench, and he does not know how to come up with a system that creates offense; he can shut down the opposition ok, but every time the Habs score the first goal of the game to gain a lead, it mostly feel like luck or at least as if offensive-minded talents found a way outside the system to be creative and were rewarded.

Former head coach Michel Therrien had his flaws (terrible communicator, had clear favourites, waited until the intermission to make any adjustments, changed his lines too often), but he felt the game a lot better than Julien does; his line-ups would look like a gambler's long shot, but the oddest element in it usually found a way to make his decision end up being the right one, and he knew how to put players in the best situation to excel.

Lehkonen has been playing on the Habs' third line since he came to North America. He got the bulk of his starts outside the defensive zone, which is not a habit of Julien's, for whom, traditionally, a third line plays against one of the opposition's top two lines with the sole goal to stop them from scoring.

After signing a two-year deal this summer worth $2.4M on the cap, he spent the summer working on his shot and asked for a chance to play an offensive role when he got to training camp. We'll see if he does when the real season starts - especially if Jonathan Drouin keeps getting locked in Julien's doghouse.

Here he is sporting the Canadiens' classic red (home) uniform, on card #108 from Upper Deck's 2018-19 O-Pee-Chee set:
He signed it in blue sharpie at the team's golf tournament last month. He slots in perfectly as #62 in my Habs Numbers Project.

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