It's not a secret that I wasn't sold on Andreas Engqvist being the Habs 4th line center. Which is why I was a happy camper yesterday when I found out that the Montreal Canadiens had acquired Blair Betts off of waivers from the Philadelphia. Not to be overly critical of Engqvist but in my opinion, a 4th line (also known as your 'energy line') should exhibit just that, energy! I'm not sure why it appeared so but from my impressions it just seemed as though Andreas lacked intensity. Was it because this was preseason or did he somehow figure that with the injuries at camp that he would be a lock for the job? I really don't know, but in either case those are unacceptable excuses for a rookie/prospect trying to earn his way into the NHL. You can allow for some of that type of attitude from a well established veteran but not from someone in Engqvist's position.
No matter the cause, what I did see, I didn't like and that's why I slept much better last night knowing that the Habs now have a decent and useful NHL-caliber player manning their 4th line. The best part, is that it cost the Habs nothing (if you don't include the miniscule waiver fee). In fact, the Canadiens actually saved $200K off their cap by demoting Engqvist who stands to earn $900K in the NHL vs. Betts' $700K. The advantages don't stop there. Betts brings with him size at 6'3", very good penalty-killing skills, as well as a face-off winning percentage over 50% (a rarity among the current crop of Habs).
An overlooked aspect of having a quality penalty-killer on the Habs is the fact that it will help lessen the load on Tomas Plekanec and Scott Gomez to do that same work. In theory, allowing them to exert more of their stamina and energy into scoring goals. That does not mean that Plekanec, who remains your best penalty-killer, will no longer kill penalties but it does mean that when the Canadiens end up taking 2 or more penalties in succession there will be a good chance that Plekanec and/or Gomez will not be completely exhausted once those penalties have been killed. And hey, should there be a makeup call to go the other way, well then you would have two of your best play-makers ready to jump on the ice and create some offense.
The one knock on Betts is that he is getting old and that he may have a bum shoulder but it should be noted that Philadelphia did not dispose of him easily. They had signed Maxime Talbot to an over-sized contract (in my opinion) and were obviously going to give him preference to takeover many of the same types of roles that Betts would've been utilized in. Add to that, the fact that they wanted to make some room for promising prospect Sean Couturier to play with the big club and develop.
At the end of the day, let's not get over-excited as Betts is a 4th line guy who'll most likely play less than 10 minutes a game. He's not the final piece of the puzzle but what he does is improve your Montreal Canadiens at almost no cost.
I'll take it.
***Update [3:41pm 09OCT11]: After failing his physical, Blair Betts has now been returned to the Philadelphia Flyers effectively reversing the waiver claim. So I'm back to worrying about the Habs 4th line and I guess the title should be rewritten to: "Thanks for Nothing Paul Holmgren"***