The big free agent signing of the summer for the Florida Panthers is former first round pick of the Montreal Canadiens, Christopher Higgins. Higgy as he is sometimes called, has had seasons of 20 plus goals three times. He’s also been struck with some injuries and other issues that may have led to some confidence problems. Higgins was traded twice last season, once to the New York Rangers and then to the Calgary Flames. His production last season was the lowest that he’s had with only eight goals and nine assists for 17 points. Snake bitten? Confidence blown? Too much time on the party circle? Could be all of the above. Will bringing his talents to South Beach Florida be any better? We’ll have to wait and see how that decision turns out.
Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers are taking a chance on Higgins, and for one year it’s a chance that can go either way. Tallon and the Panthers are hoping that Chris regains his scoring touch. So are we. What kind of player, and person are we getting? Well, to best answer that from a fan point of view, I contacted my new friend and Montreal Canadiens fan Laura from The Active Stick. A site that you MUST read every day. Laura is extremely intelligent, witty and well spoken. She knows her hockey too. She was kind enough (did I say what a great person she is?) to answer some questions about Higgins so us Cat fans might get a better idea of who we’re getting.
Here’s part one of what I’d like to call: Finding Christopher Higgins.
1) When Higgins was drafted in the first round by Montreal, it seemed to be that a couple of his best attributes were his speed and shot capability. Initially it seemed as though those were working for him and he fit right into the the Habs system. A good assessment or not?
I’d say that that is a fairly good assessment of Higgins’ strengths at the time. One underrated attribute Higgy has is hockey sense, or hockey smarts, whichever you want to call it. He sees the game and the ice very well, and his attempted plays (notice I say ‘attempted,’ not ‘successfully completed”) are incredibly smart, sound plays. That’s one of the reasons he is useful on the penalty kill. Chris also prides himself on his conditioning, which was one of the best on the team when he was in Montreal. Obviously, as anyone who has met me knows, I also appreciated his conditioning. A lot.
As much as I hate to admit it, because I love him, Higgy also has his downsides, the biggest of which is his mental game. His confidence gets shot incredibly easily, which results in him over thinking things and trying too hard on the ice, which in turns results in pretty big gaffes (as any player can tell you). The other is his lack of finish – Higgy takes a lot of shots, and converts very few, relatively speaking. He hits the post so much, it’s basically what he’s known for around the league (or the NorthEast division at least). I joked one year that for Halloween I was going to get a stamped, addressed, envelope and slap it around all night and go as Chris Higgins.
I think overall, when he’s at his best, he is what my friend Mike likes to call a ‘meat and potatoes’ player. He’s the one you want making the decisions with the puck while the people that are supposed to score goals score goals and the people that are supposed to dish out the hits hit big. Basically, if you notice him, it’s probably not for a good reason.
2) After three straight seasons of 20 or more goals he slipped. Not to blame injuries as the sole source, what do you think happened?
I think it was a perfect storm of sorts. He was injured for quite some time, and any player takes a while to come back for that. At the same time, there were a lot of trade rumours surrounding the Habs and his name kept coming up. I think that was pretty damaging to his confidence. There were also a lot of stories in the media about the Habs and their partying habits. While I honestly can’t recall his name specifically coming up in the media at all, the team was given a collective reputation for being heavy on the partying and that was partly given the blame for all of their poor performances in the second half of that season. Again, I want to stress that Chris’ name was never mentioned by people he could sue, but it’s a safe bet that a young, single, attractive, well-paid athlete in Montreal is enjoying himself here.
3) Did Chris have any off ice issues that may have contributed to his going backwards? Will playing with all the distractions in South Florida be a problem?
I think that if they were a problem in Montreal, they will be twice as much of a problem in South Florida, where life is just as hedonistic but includes the added component of beaches and good weather. And more bleached-blonde chicks with better tans.
Thanks again to Laura for collaborating on this for me. Part two will be posted Monday. Please make sure you check it out.
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