Swiss is Bliss: The Ascension of Raphael Diaz
Last year was an experiment. This year we have the results. So why is Raphael Diaz making so much noise this season? Well increased ice time is the obvious choice however I believe there are more factors at play here. At 26 Diaz made his NHL debut last season with seemingly high expectations, well for those who are aware of his offensive prowess in the NLA. Little did Diaz know that he would be a cog in the Jacques Martin system and we all know what that means. This was also an introductory season for Diaz and would have to adjust his game to the fast pace style of the NHL.
In 59 games last season Raphael potted three goals and thirteen assists combined with a -7 rating. Now when you consider the situation he was in as well as how bad Montreal played last season those numbers are not entirely that bad.
Now how much offensive impact is he capable of having this season? Well let’s take a look at his last two seasons with EV Zug of the NLA. In 94 regular season games, Diaz notched 70 points (17 goals, 53 assists). Not too shabby when given the opportunity to work with the puck which is something he was not able to do much of last season. Now under a new regime, new coach and new mentality Raphael Diaz has been able to flourish. His work this year has not only aided Andrei Markov in his resurgence but is also quietly putting together quite the sophomore performance as well. Through the first 10 games this season Diaz has compiled nine points (all assists) and a +1 rating. Armed with a two-year deal worth just $1.225M per year the acquisition of Diaz can certainly prove to be one of Montreal’s better free agent signings in recent years.
So just how good is the native of Baar, Switzerland? His abilities with the puck in the offensive zone are exceptional but it is his defensive game that concerns me. Standing at just 5’11 and 197 lbs and no threat to lay the body he does not exactly strike fear into oncoming forwards. Thus leaving Diaz to rely on his offensive abilities to be effective. I was probably his biggest critic last season and am happy he is now showing how much of an impact he can make, however small it may appear to be.