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Top Cheese: January 2019 Edition

Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ as the team is entering the second half of their calendar, entering the exciting portion of the season and pushing for a spot in the playoffs. Feel free to share on Social Media and post your comments as they are always welcomed.

Having reached the 41 games mark, the Canadiens have now played half the season. With a 22-14-5 record good for 49 points, they occupy the last Wild Card spot but find themselves only one point back of both Boston and Buffalo, and have closed in to within five points of Toronto. And they did that with Carey Price struggling through the first couple of months of the season and without Shea Weber in October and November. At what point can we agree that this team has had a major positive turnaround?

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When Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk were traded, many people were wondering where the offense would come from after trading the team’s best two goals’ producers and that, on a team already struggling to find the back of the net. While we know that the addition of Max Domi provides some of the answers, other players have also upped their game as well:

TOMAS TATAR

SeasonGPPts+/-
2017-20188234-19
2018-20194131+9

ARTTURI LEHKONEN

SeasonGPPts+/-
2017-20186621-11
2018-20194121+7

JONATHAN DROUIN

SeasonGPGoals+/-
2017-20187713-28
2018-201941130
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Are there still people doubting that Shea Weber is one of the NHL’s best defensemen? He has done a tremendous job since coming back for a full year absence, and his 11 points in 17 games with a plus -7 rating while impressive, isn’t telling the whole story. Averaging over 25 minutes of ice time per game, he plays against the top lines, kills penalties and is a huge threat on the powerplay, and his leadership, often underestimated by some fans, is not amongst the hockey community and certainly not on the team. The Canadiens are 11-6-0 since his return.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Julien said. “I think it’s you getting your top defenseman back who’s got an unbelievable presence not just on the ice, but even off the ice with the team. As a coach, you’re happy to have your top leader — which is your captain — in the room because he’s managing that. As coaches — I’ve always said that, anyways — you go in the room and you tell them what needs to be done and you have your pregame meetings and all that stuff. But if there’s not a follow-up to that — if guys just kind of take off and there’s not a follow-up — it’s hard. But when you have a captain who believes and who’s going to go in there in the dressing room while they’re getting dressed — he’s not the only one — but who’s going to reiterate what we’ve talked about: ‘Hey, guys, let’s make sure tonight we’re doing this and that as what we said in our pregame meeting,’ it makes a difference. So are our guys even better prepared? Probably. I’m sure he has an impact there as well. We were good before he came back, I thought we did a great job. But we’ve gotten a little better now that our captain is back.”

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Speaking of Weber’s return, no one has benefited more than his good friend Carey Price, he whose performances were a legitimate concern for many. But since the return of the Habs’ captain, Price has returned to form. As a matter of fact, since Weber came back on November 27th, the Canadiens’ goalkeeper has allowed more than 3 goals only twice. He has a .924 Sv% since then and that, folks, is a good sign for the second half of the season

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Remember when Dallas’ Stars President Jim Lites did the unthinkable by calling out his team captain Jamie Benn and his assistant Tyler Seguin? Well since then, one Benn has taken Lites’ words serious… Jordie Benn did. The Habs’ Benn has accumulated five points in the five games he’s played since that time. As a matter of fact, the Benn with the nicest beard is plus -5, out producing his younger brother who has three (3) points and is minus -1. Jordie has turned his game around since the return of Weber and his experience has proven valuable. With David Schlemko on the verge of returning, it will be interesting to see who will be spending time in the press box. Benn should be safe.

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The 2019 World Junior Championships are coming to a close and seven of the Canadiens’ top prospects got to participate this year. While Canada and Sweden were upset, participating in this very competitive tournament will have been a very valuable experience for all of them, win or lose. Most have shone for their respective team and they will all take something from it. Ryan Poehling and Cayden Primeau were leaders on Team USA, as was Alexander Romanov for Russia, for whom Habs’ fans have finally got a chance to discover. Perhaps Trevor Timmins knows what he’s doing?

Nick Suzuki (CAN) 5GP – 3A
Josh Brook (CAN) 5GP – 2A
Jacob Olofsson (SWE) 5GP – 0Pts
*Ryan Poehling (USA) 6GP – 8Pts
*Cayden Primeau (USA) 4GP – 1.25GAA .947Sv%
*Jesse Ylönen (FIN) – 6GP – 5Pts
*Alexander Romanov (RUS) – 6GP – 7Pts

*One medal game to play

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Speaking of the World Juniors, what a shame to see the treatment given to Team Canada captain Maxime Comtois by some idiots hiding behind Twitter handles. The good news is the outburst of support Comtois has received from fans, coaches, Hockey Canada and even some NHL players including none other than Sidney Crosby himself:

“I feel bad,” Crosby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s too bad that people have to react that way, and social media gives them that opportunity. My advice to him would be to ignore it. He’s a great player. He’s going to have a great career. That’s not going to define who he is — that penalty shot. The real fans and the players who are behind you … I think everybody is there to support him. Anything can happen in hockey in a quarterfinal game like that. You see [Dobson’s] stick break, it was one of those things. It’s easy to be a good fan when you’re winning. It’s a little tougher when you’re losing. I think everyone should keep that in mind.”

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Speaking of broken sticks, I’ve been swearing at those sticks for a long, long time as an advocate to the return of the wood sticks. Baseball resisted the aluminum and composite sticks. Hockey should have done the same. Al Iafrate and Al MacInnis were shooting at over 100mph with wooden sticks. Why couldn’t today’s players do that? But we have to laugh at a Tweet from a Finnish sticks company who jumped to the occasion to tease Noah Dobson, offering him a new stick.

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It would have been fun to see Jesperi Kotkaniemi play for Finland at the World Junior Tournament but let’s face it… the Canadiens need him. Since the start of his draft year, KK as they call him has made it a habit to surprise everyone with an incredibly rapid development. While some were shocked – even angry – to see the Canadiens draft him third overall, few question that decision today. He has now reached the 40 games plateau which ensures that this will officially be his first year pro and as a result, he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at… 25 years old! But he should be a Montreal Canadiens for many, many years to come.

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This week saw a very incident involving Kotkaniemi and Vancouver Canucks rookie sensation Elias Pettersson. As Pettersson was trying to join the rush when Kotkaniemi hooked him to slow him down. Feeling the tug, Pettersson tried to reverse hit the Finnish rookie and both players got tangled up, falling to the ice. Had Pettersson’s leg not bent in a way a leg shouldn’t, no one would be talking about it but since the Canucks’ best player missed time after a concussion suffered after being slammed to the ice by Florida Panthers’ defenseman Mike Matheson earlier this season, Canucks’ fans were livid. After the game, Vancouver players, coaches and even Pettersson himself called it an accident, stating that it wasn’t a dirty play. Some Canucks’ fans need to channel their frustration elsewhere.

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Let’s just take a minute and give some well deserve praise to Canadiens’ head coach Claude Julien for having the guts and ability to completely change his system from last season, making this team fun to watch, win or lose. The arrival of new assistant coaches Dominique Ducharme and Luke Richardson are no coincidence I’m sure but ultimately, it’s Julien who makes the final decisions and he has done the right thing.

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At least two Montreal Canadiens’ players were more deserving to get an invitation to the All-Star game than Carey Price but they fell victims to the NHL’s flawed system. Max Domi should be the Habs’ representative, most fans and members of the media agree on that. Jeff Petry, a much underrated player, is another one who would be more deserving but they simply couldn’t beat other players at their respective position. Really though… who cares about the NHL All-Star game? Players are better off taking a bit of a break to lick their own wounds and prepare for the tough stretch of games ahead.

Atlantic Division (All-Star Appearance)
Auston Matthews, TOR (3rd)
Jack Eichel, BUF (2nd)
Nikita Kucherov, TBL (3rd)
David Pastrnak, BOS (1st)
Steven Stamkos, TBL (6th)
John Tavares, TOR (6th)
Thomas Chabot, OTT (1st)
Keith Yandle, FLA (3rd)
Jimmy Howard, DET (2nd)
Carey Price, MTL (7th)

But Habs’ fans can still vote for Shea Weber to join that group as NHL All-Star Last Men In.

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So here you have it folks! Your Canadiens are NOT is as bad of a shape as some want you to believe. As a matter of fact, they are in pretty good hands in spite of what some want you to believe. The future is bright and the sun will rise again tomorrow in Montreal. Enjoy this time of year and hop in for the ride, it will be a fun season! Go Habs Go!!!

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Habs’ Prospects: When Quality Meets Quantity

The NHL draft process is not a pure science, we all know that, but nobody knows it better than the people having to scout and make those tough but crucial decisions. You see, it’s one thing to compare players at the same age and their current on-ice performances, but then you add the different competition they’re facing, the leagues they play in, the teams they play for and the support they’re getting and it’s a different story. Every player will eventually reach his development plateau but with the exception of a few gifted ones, few are certainties to play hockey at the NHL level and even fewer will have an impact. Choosing amongst a bunch of 17-18 year-old teenagers, trying to predict when they will reach their own plateau is almost impossible.

As a head scout and a General Manager, you can dot the “i” and cross the “t” all you want, there are too many factors out of your own control that can or will affect the young men they’re selecting. Some will be in a positive way, but others will be affected negatively. Injuries, coaching, life events, mental toughness as a teenager and young adult, reaction to early “fame”, maturity level, dedication to put in the necessary effort on and off the ice, all play a key role in a kid’s future.

When Marc Bergevin took over the Montreal Canadiens in May 2012, he soon realised that while he had some promising young players on the team (Carey Price, Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban). But he also rapidly found out that the prospect cupboards were almost empty and that, for a GM, is not good news in a cap era.

Here’s a list of the Top 15 prospects of 2012, when Bergevin took over the team:

  • Alex Galchenyuk (drafted under Bergevin)
  • Jarred Tinordi
  • Nathan Beaulieu
  • Danny Kristo
  • Sebastian Collberg
  • Brendan Gallagher
  • Morgan Ellis
  • Dalton Thrower
  • Michael Bournival
  • Steve Quailer
  • Patrick Holland
  • Tim Bozon
  • Darren Dietz
  • Daniel Pribyl
  • Joonas Nattinen

Off this group, only Brendan Gallagher (a former 5th round pick) has turned into an impact player. We all know the story behind Alex Galchenyuk, which led to his departure for Arizona in return for Max Domi. And Nate the not-so great, who once was one of the Habs’ top prospects and seen as a potential partner for Shea Weber, is struggling to keep a spot on the bottom defense pairing in Buffalo.

A complete turnaround

It soon became obvious that Bergevin understood the need to keep his high draft picks and his game plan was to build through the draft. Oh he did trade some of them, but always ensured to get some back in return. For example, he did trade two picks to get his hands on Andrew Shaw, but he also got similar two picks in return for Lars Eller.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi could have many reasons to smile in the future with the Canadiens

Trevor Timmins has a bad reputation with some Habs’ fans but as shown in a previous article on this blog, his record is not as bad as they seem. The issue, up until recently, has been the results from his top two rounds and something tells me that this cycle is about to change.

Without further ado, let’s move to today, shall we? In no particular order, here’s the list of the Canadiens’ top prospects:

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Jake Evans

Lukas Vejdemo

Nick Suzuki

Ryan Poehling

Jacob Olofsson

Cam Hillis

Joni Ikonen

Allan McShane

Cole Fonstad 

Jesse Ylönen 

Victor Mete

Cale Fleury

Alexander Romanov 

Josh Brook 

Cayden Primeau 

I don’t know about you folks but when I look at that list, I’m more excited about the prospects in this organisation than I’ve felt in a long, long time. As a matter of fact, the last time I was this optimistic about the Habs’ future, many of you weren’t born or old enough to be aware of the team’s prospects.

If my 50+ years on this planet have taught me anything, it’s that there’s no certainty that all of those prospects will pan out. But when you have that many quality prospects, the odds are that the Canadiens’ future is very bright and, whether some want to believe it or not, they are in good hands. Yes, Bergevin knows what he’s doing folks.

Many talk about his so-called 5-year plan, a made-up story by reporters and fans. When hired, he answered the famous 5-year plan question by turning it around, saying instead that his plan was to build a team that will contend year in and year out. And that’s exactly what he’s doing folks. With a young core with Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi and company in their early 20’s, with the addition of the new prospects, this team will be exciting to watch for years to come. And like most of you, I’m planning on enjoying every minute of it. Go Habs Go!

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Weber’s Partner: 24 Potential Trade Targets?

Some of the world’s certainties… Christmas has come and gone but will return next year… New Year’s resolutions will be made only to see most of them get broken… There will be an election with a bunch of people wanting a change, like at each previous election… Gary Bettman will be booed when comes time to hand the Stanley Cup to the winners… Donald Trump will lie about something and he will do or say something stupid… some Habs’ fans will be complaining about something… and the Montreal Canadiens will be trying to figure out who can play with Shea Weber on their top pairing.

As a fan of the team, this situation is getting frustrating and even ridiculous. Since THE trade, the Canadiens have been unable or unwilling to pay the price to find someone capable of playing 25-30 minutes with Weber. Not that the Habs’ captain is difficult to play with, but the lack of quality on the left side has been an issue for that long. A situation that was further emphasised when veteran Andrei Markov took too long to accept a one-year deal from Marc Bergevin and had to return to Russia to continue his career in the KHL.

The 3 Options

When looking for a solution, the options are not illimited. After all, much like centres, top-4 defensemen capable of playing quality minutes are not always made available but when one is, it is important as a GM to be ready to pounce. With his recent trades and picks, there are now many factors working in Bergevin’s favour. For one, he has plenty of cap space to play with, and he has few impact players needing to be re-signed in the near future. Also, he and Trevor Timmins have done a great job at replenishing the cupboards with quality prospects, some of which could be used as trade baits for the right defenseman. But mostly, with the team performing above most people’s expectations this year, he is under no pressure crunch to overpay to get what he wants.

1- Stick with the plan

The Canadiens are developing from within and they form one of the youngest teams in the NHL. With the exception of Shea Weber and Carey Price, their core is extremely young. They have some good young players on the team and in the system. Brett Kulak and Mike Reilly could still be developing into good defensemen and they have 20 year-old Victor Mete. While he has the potential to become a top-4, Noah Juulsen is right handed and so is young prospect Josh Brook. Yes, he’s playing on the left side with Team Canada but that’s not an ideal situation at the NHL level, particularly when it’s time to keep the puck in the offensive zone and sending it to the net quickly. As for Alexander Romanov, he will need a few seasons to mature in order to fill such an important role. Still, Bergevin can afford to be patient and see where this group leads them.

2- Get a stop-gap veteran

Price and Weber still have a few good seasons in them but they will soon be getting long in the tooth. If a veteran defenseman capable of eating up some quality minutes alongside Weber became available at the right price (without sacrificing a blue-chip prospect), Bergevin could be tempted. He tried to do so with Karl Alzner and that blew back in his face. It doesn’t mean that the next move will, however. Bergevin has always claimed, as many other GM’s have, that the goal is to make the playoffs as once you’re in, you never know what the outcome might be. Such veteran could help bring some valuable playoffs’ experience that will serve the young group as they mature.

3- Youth for youth

What is the Canadiens’ strength in the prospect pool? Quality young forwards, including much sought after centres, which come at a prime cost. With Jesperi Kotkaniemi having developed much sooner than expected, with Nick Suzuki almost making the team at training camp, and with Ryan Poehling on the verge of being ready to sign his first pro contract, the Canadiens are deep with youth and quality in the middle. And I’m not counting Jacob Olafsson, who is playing on Sweden’s top line (although moved to the wing) for the World Junior tournament currently taking place in B.C. You then add Joni Ikonen, Jesse Ylonen and the numerous others playing junior or internationally.

To be totally honest, that third option is my favourite. No one likes to so-call “give-up on a young prospect”, as some have told me on Twitter. But you see, I don’t see this as giving up. I see this as displacing assets strategically based on the team’s needs. Good, smart GM’s trade from a position of strength and the Canadiens’ strength is at forward. For other teams, their organizational depth is on defense.

What I see happening is a trade like the Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets consumed a couple of years ago. Nashville, deep on the blue line, traded away Seth Jones to Colombus for Ryan Johansen. Young player for young player, in the lines of what the Habs did when trading Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev… except that now, Montreal is deep at forward.

Potential trade target?

Before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s look at what makes teams decide to trade.

  • Team aging and heading in the wrong direction (LAK, CHI,…)
  • Team’s window of opportunity rapidly closing (SJS, ANA, DAL,…)
  • Team spent lots of money on UFA’s to win now, under-performing (STL,…)
  • Team with upcoming cap crunch (TOR, ANA, EDM,…)
  • Team almost sure of missing the playoffs (list growing daily)
  • Team wanting to add for playoffs’ push (too many to list)
  • Team with disgruntled player(s)
  • Team like the Habs wanting to plug holes for present and future

Okay, you get the gist. Of course, many factors will dictate the asking price with most based on the market (RE: supply and demand). In the list of players below, some may not be available. Some may be available but it would be very costly. Some will be available but there could be a bidding war, or the Canadiens may not have what the other team needs in return. But some will also be perfect trade partners for Bergevin and his crew. I will refrain from trying to attempt to guess on what it would take to get any of those defensemen as 95% of the time, we’re all wrong when doing so. But let’s look at the names and what they could potentially bring, shall we?

TEAMNAMEAGECONTRACTSTATUSSCOUTING REPORT
(Sports Forecaster)
CHIDuncan Keith35$5.5M until 2022-23UFAIs as good a skater as you can find from the back end. Can log ridiculous amounts of ice time effortlessly. Excels at using his mobility to shut down opposing forwards. Has above-average two-way instincts for the blueline position. Plays a very cerebral game, too. Is a little undersized to play against giant-sized NHL forwards. Is not capable of taking his offensive game to the next level, as he is not a natural power-play quarterback. Could also stand to improve his shot from the point, which is only average (at best).
STLJay Bouwmeester35$5.4M until 2018-19UFAHas incredible skating ability, size and hockey smarts. A capable shutdown defender, he can log huge minutes and usually positions himself perfectly well on the ice. Does not play enough of a physical game to dominate in that department, but it has never been his style. Lacks a big shot and produces underwhelming offense.
ARIAlex Goligoski33$5.475M until 2020-21UFAPossesses plenty of puck-moving excellence. Has outstanding mobility, sound hockey sense and the ability to jump up into the play. Will also distribute hits, when necessary. Can log lots of minutes. Can at times cough up the puck under pressure. Is an undersized defender that can struggle when up against physical forwards, especially in front of his own net. Could use even more bulk.
PHIAndrew MacDonald32$5M until 2019-20UFAMoves the puck well and is generally good with the puck. Can log an awful lot of ice time at all levels. Very mobile, he also has a bit of offensive ability (especially at lower levels). Does not play a consistent game at all, in all facets of the game, so there is a true lack of dependability and reliability here. Is somewhat prone to injury. Lacks ideal size.
ARINiklas Hjalmarsson31$5M until 2020-21UFACan log big minutes and is adept at shutting opponents down. Has a very solid frame, grit and plenty of puck-moving ability. Gives his all every time he hits the ice. Blocks shots with aplomb. Does not own high-end offensive acumen, or the ability to quarterback a power play, so that limits his overall production in the NHL. Also, he lacks consistency in the physicality department.
LAKAlec Martinez31$4M until 2020-21UFAIs a strong, swift and well-balanced skater with two-way ability. Has solid puck-moving and passing skills, as well as defensive acumen. Usually keeps things simple and limits mistakes. Lacks consistency in terms of offensive production at the National Hockey League level. Is not overly physical, despite pretty decent size. Could stand to shoot the puck more.
LAKJake Muzzin29$4M until 2019-20UFAHas good size (6-3, 216 pounds) for the highest level and a great point shot from the back end. Moves the puck well out of danger. Can log big minutes. Despite his big frame, he isn’t the type of defenseman who will punish opponents physically with consistency. Also, his shot accuracy needs more work.
VEGNate Schmidt27$5.95M until 2024-25UFAHas excellent puck-moving skills and can jump-start the counter-attack effectively from the back end. Is capable of playing on either side of the ice and can log a lot of ice time. Isn’t very physical and somewhat undersized for the National Hockey League game, so he must prove capable of handling bigger forwards consistently at the highest level.
NJDSami Vatanen27$4.875M until 2019-20UFAOwns excellent offensive ability, solid puck-moving skills and plenty of hockey sense. Is capable of running a power play and also owns a very accurate point shot. Is somewhat undersized for the North American pro game, so he needs to add bulk and get stronger physically in order to maximize output and avoid long-term injury.
NYINick Leddy27$5.5M until 2021-22UFAIs a tremendous skater with outstanding mobility and acceleration. Can lead the rush and set up teammates with great vision and passing skills. Is willing to initiate contact and take a hit to make plays in the defensive zone. Is not overly big and could stand to continue adding bulk to his 6-0 frame in order to better handle bigger forwards at the National Hockey League level. Also needs to improve his shooting accuracy (and also his frequency).
LAKDerek Forbort26$2.525M until 2020-21UFAHas shutdown upside, plenty of size (6-4, 216 pounds) and great skating ability. Moves the puck swiftly and is a good overall defender. Is capable of logging big minutes. Must become a more physically imposing player, since he tends to lack consistency in the hitting department. Also, the jury is still out on his long-range offensive upside.
CHIErik Gustafsson26$1.2M until 2019-20UFAIs a quality puck-moving defenseman who can put up solid offensive totals at lower levels. Can be used a lot because he’s a minute muncher. Does not have ideal size for the blueline position at the National Hockey League level, so he needs to get stronger physically to maximize output.
STLJoel Edmundson25$3M until 2018-19RFAHas a mammoth frame and is a physical force from the back end. Generally keeps his game simple and uncomplicated. Is a big presence on the ice. Does not have a lot of offensive ability, so he is a limited producer at the National Hockey League level. Also needs to avoid taking bad penalties.
DALEsa Lindell24$2.2M until 2018-19RFAHas excellent size (6-3, 215 pounds) for the blueline position at the National Hockey League level. Owns a big shot from the point. Displays all-around ability. Lacks game-to-game consistency. Could stand to be a little more assertive when on the ice. Is a bit raw, so he needs to learn the intricacies of playing defense.
DALGavin Bayreuther24$925,000 until 2018-19RFAHas a history of quality point production at lower levels. Owns a projectable (6-1) frame and plenty of puck-moving ability. Can be an asset on the power play. A late bloomer, he could stand to fill out his frame in order to maximize ice time at the highest level. Also, he does not play an overly physical game from the back end.
PHIRobert Hägg23$1.15M until 2019-20RFAIs a tremendous puck mover with a smooth skating stride. Can play an effective shutdown role, mostly because of an extremely active stick. Can log huge amounts of ice time. Has the size NHL scouts love, but he must learn how to use it more effectively (and more often) to maximize output at the highest level. Is not a natural point producer.
STLVince Dunn22$722,500 until 2019-20RFAA mobile, ‘modern-day’ defenseman with excellent offensive prowess and plenty of puck skills, he thrives in an offensive system. Can also be a big factor on the power play due to his hockey sense and good point shot. Does not have ideal size (6-0, 187 pounds) for a National Hockey League defenseman, and also lacks a strong physical presence overall. Therefore, he must get stronger in order to maximize output at the highest level.
NSHAlexandre Carrier22$688,333 until 2019-20RFAHas excellent hockey sense, plus great mobility from the back end. Is a very good passer with a huge point shot for the power play. Also displays all-round ability. Is sound defensively, largely because of his active stick. Lacks ideal size (5-11, 174 pounds) and strength for the blueline position at the National Hockey League level. Therefore, he will need to add significant bulk to better compete with much bigger forwards at the highest level.
WPGSami Niku22$775,000 until 2019-20RFAHas outstanding puck skills, and is reliable in his own end of the ice. Makes smart, safe decisions and displays a sound hockey IQ. Skates very well and makes a good first pass. Owns a strong lower body and is solid on his skates. Is somewhat limited, both in terms of ideal size for the National Hockey League and high-end offensive upside. Must prove he can withstand the rigors of the North American professional ranks in order to maximize output.
PHIIvan Provorov21$894,167 until 2018-19RFAHas excellent skating ability and a penchant for displaying tremendous mobility on the ice. Is also extremely conscious of the defensive zone. Has all-round ability. Can produce good offensive totals, as well. Must prove capable of handling the front of his own net. Gets into trouble when he tries to do too much, so sometimes less is more with him. Needs to learn how to pace himself to thrive with a lot of ice time.
CGYOliver Kylington21$730,833 until 2019-20RFAIs an outstanding skating defenseman, which enables him to move the puck out of danger swiftly and also join the rush with aplomb. Owns both good vision and passing skills. Has great hockey sense and instincts. Doesn’t own ideal size to play at the highest level, so he could stand to become stronger in his upper body (to play a more aggressive brand of defense). At times, he is guilty of trying to do too much with the puck.
VEGNicolas Hague20$822,500 until 2020-21RFAA mammoth physical specimen at 6-6, 215 pounds, he skates very well for a hulking defenseman and can log huge minutes. Owns a heavy point shot and also displays the physicality to perform shutdown duties with aplomb. Needs to become a bit more consistent in all facets of the game in order to maximize ice time and output at the highest level. Can be guilty of being a little too aggressive at times. Is not a natural power-play quarterback.
WPGLogan Stanley20$863,333 until 2020-21RFAIs a huge, towering presence along the blueline. Uses his reach and active stick very effectively in defensive situations. Can also be a physical force. Could stand to add more bulk to his massive frame in order to maximize his physicality at the highest level. Also, he is a limited offensive producer.

After looking at this list, I have a couple of questions for you. Which of the three options mentioned above would you rather see Bergevin do? Not address the need? Stop-gap veteran? Youth for youth? Second question is if you had to pick from that list (or elsewhere in the NHL), who would YOU target if you were Bergevin? Feel free to reply in the comments below or on Twitter. Go Habs Go!

Edmonton’s Crude Oil Reality

As a huge legal and moral battle is going on between the province of British Columbia and Alberta over the construction of a pipeline, the Edmonton Oilers seem to be pedaling in oil sands, and they appear to be closer to a spill catastrophe than on their way to up their production… and unlike the pipeline dilemma, not even Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Government can buy them a solution. Much like Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Peter Chiarelli‘s popularity is rapidly fading away and by the end of May, we could very well see some new blood in both positions, trying to fix the mess left behind by their counterparts.

But how can a franchise with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl as their cornerstones be in such a mess year in, year out? It’s a combination of things, really, but the main one appears to be poor scouting, drafting and/or player development. I mean, it’s not like the Oilers didn’t get their chances to turn things around over recent years!

Connor McDavid

Since 2007, the Oilers have drafted 88 players. 15 of those players were drafted in the first round alone and to make matters worse, only twice have them picked further than 20th overall, when they selected 22nd in 2008 and 2017)!

In those 12 years, they had 10 Top-10 overall selections. Six (6) of those picks were in the Top-5 including four (4) first overall picks! No other team in the NHL has come anywhere close to having so many quality picks in that time span.

YEARNAMEOVERALL
2007Sam Gagner6th
Alex Plante15th
Riley Nash21st
2008Jordan Eberle22nd
2009Magnus Paajarvi10th
2010Taylor Hall1st
2011Ryan Nugent-Hopkins1st
Oscar Klefbom19th
2012Nail Yakupov1st
2013Darnell Nurse7th
2014Leon Draisaitl3rd
2015Connor McDavid1st
2016Jesse Puljujarvi4th
2017Kailer Yamamoto22nd
2018Evan Bouchard10th

But there is more than the poor choices in their first round picks. When a team finishes so low in the standings, it also means that they often get to select early in each round there after. But ff the 73 other picks from rounds 2-7, only eight (8) have played 100 NHL games or more.

  • *Anton Lander (215)
  • Brandon Davidson (161)
  • *Martin Marincin (185)
  • *Tyler Pitlick (177)
  • Tobias Rieder (342)
  • Erik Gustafsson (118)
  • Jujhar Khaira (133)
  • Anton Slepyshev (102)

*Second round picks

Peter Chiarelli has completed several trades but force is to admit that very few had a positive impact on the Oilers.

YEARINOUT
2015Griffin ReinhartMartin Marincin
Cam TalbotBrad Ross
Eric GrybaTravis Ewanyk
Lauri KorpikoskiBoyd Gordon
Anders NilssonLiam Coughlin
Zack KassianBen Scrivens
2016Niklas LundstromPhilip Larsen
Patrick MaroonJustin Schultz
Adam LarssonTeddy Purcell
Zach PochiroAnders Nilsson
Martin Gernat
Taylor Hall
Nail Yakupov
2017Henrik SamuelssonMitchell Moroz
David DesharnaisBrandon Davidson
Justin FontaineTaylor Beck
Ryan StromeJordan Eberle
Michael CammalleriJussi Jokinen
Greg Chase
2018Al MontoyaBrandon Davidson
Pontus AbergMark Letestu
J.D. DudekPatrick Maroon
Cooper MarodyJakub Jerabek
Nolan VeseyRyan Strome
Ryan Spooner
Chris Wideman

In addition to the trades he’s made, Chiarelli has had several free agents’ signing. Some have been pleasant surprises, most have been disappointments.

YEARPLAYERCONTRACT
2015Andrej Sekera6 year $33M
Mark Letestu3 year $5.4M
Anders Nilsson1 year $1M
Justin Schultz1 year $3.9M
Tyler Pitlick1 year $761K
Brandon Davidson1 year $585K
2016Milan Lucic7 year $42M
Jonas Gustavsson1 year $800K
Kris Russell1 year $3.1M
Eric Gryba1 year $950K
2017Ryan Stanton2 year $1.4M
Ty Rattie1 year $700K
Brad Malone2 year $1.3M
Jussi Jokinen1 year $1.1M
2018Tobia Reider2 year $2.3M
Kyle Brodziak2 year 2.3M
Ryan Strome2 year $6.2M
Jason Garrison1 year $650K
Alex Chiasson1 year $650K

Now remember folks… this team has McDavid and Draisaitl as a draw and unlike the Pittsburgh Penguins with Sidney Crosby, the Oilers have yet to draw key free agents to Edmonton. They are still questionable in net, they still have some gaping holes on defense, and their secondary scoring is pretty much inexistant. How is that even possible?

Peter Chiarelli might be running out of time and options in Edmonton.

Peter Chiarelli lost his job as the Boston Bruins’ General Manager mostly because he painted himself in a corner, tying his own hands, by mis-managing the team’s salary cap. In three years, he seems to have done the same with the Oilers.

According to Capfriendly, Edmonton is the NHL’s team with the fourth highest cap only behind the Detroit Red Wings, the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks. Worse, they have no help in sight as they have $68.5M committed to 13 players in 2019-2020. Their only pending UFA’s are Alex Petrovic ($1.9M), Kevin Gravel ($700K), Alex Chiasson ($650K), as well as their two goaltenders, Cam Talbot ($4.2M) and Mikko Koskinen ($2.5M). Chiasson has 17 goals for the Oilers in 34 games so far, so he will require a substantial raise if Edmonton wants to retain his services. Gotta feel for those Oilers’ fans who are suffering through tough seasons year after year, only to see their team mismanaged to the point of wasting some key prime years of McDavid and Draisaitl.

HABS COMPARISON

Since Habs’ fans like to compare, let’s have a look at the draft history since 2007. The Canadiens have drafted 84 players in that time span. 12 of those were first round picks and only three (3) were Top-10, two (2) of which were Top-5 and none were first overall.

YEARNAMEOVERALL
2007Ryan McDonagh12th
Max Pacioretty22nd
2008No 1st round pick
2009Louis Leblanc18th
2010Jarred Tinordi22nd
2011Nathan Beaulieu17th
2012Alex Galchenyuk3rd
2013Michael McCarron25th
2014Nikita Scherbak26th
2015Noah Juulsen26th
2016Mikhail Sergachev9th
2017Ryan Poehling25th
2018Jesperi Kotkaniemi3rd

You will notice that Six (6) of those 12 first round picks were selected 22nd overall or later. Now off the 72 remaining picks from rounds 2-7, the Canadiens have drafted seven (7) players with more than 100 NHL games, with Victor Mete closing in on that mark with his 82 games.

  • Yannick Weber (431)
  • P.K. Subban (607)
  • Brendan Gallagher (450)
  • Charles Hudon (102)
  • Sven Andrighetto (177)
  • Artturi Lehkonen (183)
  • Jacob De la Rose (152)

Further, if you look into both teams’ pipelines, the Canadiens are well ahead of the Oilers with blue chip quality depth prospects. The future is bring in Montreal red… but there’s a lot of work to do before fans in Edmonton can wear their Oilers’ orange with pride. Go Habs Go!

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