Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bears add more toughness

The Caps didn't trade Ribeiro to replenish the organizational depth yesterday.  No, they went the opposite way and traded one of their best prospects, Filip Forsberg, for an old winger in Martin Erat.  I am not a fan of the move...BUT it brings a new player to Hershey so at the end of the day it works out.

Michael Latta is a 6 foot, 213lb center who will be a prime candidate for an energy/checking line.  Latta comes from the Milwaukee Admirals were he had 9 goals and 26 assists in 67 games this season.  Last year, his first full pro season, he had 14 goals and 13 assists in 51 games.

Oh and he has 184 penalty minutes this year.

That now ranks 1st on the Bears.

So far this season the Bears have earned 965 penalty minutes.  Second fewest in the Eastern Conference.

That should change now.

With the addition of Latta, Dane Byers, and Joel Rechlicz the Bears added 478 penalty minutes.  That's a lot.

Geez, what do you think Yingst and company thought was the weakness on this team??? 

Latta could be the most interesting of the three.  We all know what Wrecker brings to the table and he will be an incredible addition to the general atmosphere surrounding the team.  Byers is a big body that has seen some pretty good success in the AHL over the years and is looking to turn things around in Hershey this year.  I don't remember seeing him play, but I am envisioning a Graham Mink like player.  This year he has struggled with only 6 goals and 4 assists in 58 games, but just last year he scored 16 goals and added 23 assists in 61 games. 

Guys who come to Hershey generally experience better offensive numbers.  It was always this way in the past under Boudreau and Woods and it is continuing under French.  Proof?  Look at the forwards who have come this year:

Casey Wellman -
  • Before Hershey - 37 gp | 7 goals - 16 assists
  • Since Hershey - 24 gp | 8 goals - 15 assists
Peter LeBlanc -
  • Before Hershey - 34 gp | 4 goals - 8 assists
  • Since Hershey - 24 gp | 5 goals - 9 assists
Nicolas Deschamps -
  • Before Hershey - 50 gp | 7 goals - 9 assists
  • Since Hershey - 7 gp | 3 goals - 1 assist
All of those players improved their points per game numbers with Hershey.  Hopefully Byers (and Latta) can continue this trend.

Latta is thought to have NHL potential.  Not as a top 6 forward, but as a Boyd Gordon like player I think.  Or a Jay Beagle if you would rather a current Caps comparison. 

Here is's thoughts:
Latta may not have ideal size for an NHLer, but he has shown that he has ample heart. He's displayed a willingness bordering on zeal for competing in the corners and in front of the net. Latta's an effective playmaking center who improves his linemates both through skill and by setting an example on how to pay attention to the intangibles that separate winning teams from the mediocre ones.
I envision him as a Beagle or Steve Pinnizzotto type player.  Someone who can probably give you 15-20 goals a season and be an absolute pest on the forecheck.  Willing to stand up for teammates, finish their checks, and just make the opposing player think twice before carrying the puck too long.

It's hard to really gauge a players role without having seen him so take my comments on Byers and Latta lightly until we see them play this weekend.  But based on what I am reading and seeing with their measurables, I think I am probably pretty close.

A commenter a couple of days ago said that this might just be an average Bears team and that we shouldn't expect too much.  I disagree with that.  Yes, maybe the team that started the season was average, but it seems to me that with the trades the organization has made the Bears are in much better position heading towards the playoffs. 

Will it payoff?  We will see.  But it will be fun to watch and follow along over the next 3 weekends.

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