It's "put up or shut up" time for Habs' Benoit Pouliot

benoitpouliot1.jpgWhen Benoit Pouliot was traded by the Minnesota Wild to the Montreal Canadiens for Guillaume Latendresse, it was viewed as a deal that sent team headaches going in each direction. For a while afterward, it looked like it was a great deal for both teams as the issues each player had in their old cities disappeared and they realized their potential.

For Benoit Pouliot, the hot start he had in Montreal disappeared and the final few weeks of the season and the playoffs looked like his old ways from Minnesota as an inconsistent performer returned. Despite all that, Pouliot got a raise from the Habs but as The Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey discusses, this could be Pouliot’s definitive season to show he can be an NHL star.

“It’s one year and you have to show what you have so you can get a longer deal,” Pouliot noted. “One year is not a lot but, on the other hand, it could be good for me. If I have a great year and we go far in the playoffs, it could pay off.”

Gionta said there’s no reason Pouliot shouldn’t develop into a solid top-six forward.

“You can see that he has the talent, it’s just a matter of confidence,” Gionta said. “So much of this game is mental.”

But Martin has made it clear he wants to see more from Pouliot. When he was asked where the Canadiens might have openings this season, he mentioned the left side and he wasn’t talking about Michael Cammalleri.

The Habs have more than a few players that can be plugged into coach Jacques Martin’s system if Pouliot doesn’t get his game together and play consistently better. Getting to play alongside Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta last season was a good way to get Pouliot to make better use of his size at forward rather than continuing to pretend that he’s simply a smooth-skating forward.

Somewhere along the way last season, that smart use of his size and ability to attack the net went away. Tapping into that mindset once again could help Pouliot be the guy that helps get guys like Gomez and Gionta room on the ice to create the offense the Habs are looking for and allow Pouliot to get to the net to wreak havoc.

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