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Timmins and Churla: The Drafting Kings

Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase. Hakuna Matata! Ain’t no passing craze. It means no worries, for the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy: Hakuna Matata! Yeah, sing it, kid! It’s our problem-free philosophy: Hakuna Matata!

What a great motto! Fans – and sometimes media members – tend to worry too much. Yes, that’s an understatement but hear me out. We keep reading and hearing that Montreal Canadiens’ Assistant General Manager Trevor Timmins is terrible in his role, people only citing some of his draft misqueues. Often times, in order to differentiate the forest from the trees, one must take a step back… or two… or oven three as we can’t see what’s right in front of our nose. You want to be critical of Timmins? That’s fine. But at the very least, compare him to his peers, not to some preconceived narrative, or by listening to what you’ve been told by some biased, disgruntled, attention-seeking individuals. Wow! Now there’s a new concept!

This is not the first time that we try to analyse his work as we have touched before on Timmins’ overall performances, which placed him at the top of his class since he took over that position in Montreal in games played by players he had drafted. But then, it was pointed out that he is particularly struggling in the first two rounds of the draft, which we also researched on this very blog site. Then again, particularly in the second article, we didn’t really compare him to the rest of the NHL.

Trevor Timmins has a lot of reasons to smile.

Let’s just demystify Timmins’ work in the first two rounds and see exactly where he and Director of Amateur Scouting Shane Churla rank amongst their peers since 2003. For this exercise, I started tabulating up until 2013 as for every team, as the 2014 picks have several players who are just starting their career in the NHL so it’s too early to classify them as success or “flop”.

It is important to note that by “flops”, I used the same criterias for all teams: how are these players doing based on their drafting ranks, the number of NHL games played compared to their peers from the same draft year, and overall production. I was quite lenient for all teams. For example, if a first rounder played 200+ games, I didn’t consider them as “flops” even if their offensive numbers weren’t that great… unless they were a top-5 pick.

Admittedly, this type of analysis is very fluid, even quite murky at times and far from a top scientific go-to guide. But at the very least, it’s a measure of comparison with all teams in the NHL. You will also notice that I didn’t include the Winnipeg Jets, who started drafting in 2011, or of course the Vegas Golden Knights.

First Round

In this table, let’s only look at the columns with the yellow heading, the first round picks. The team with the fewest first round selections between 2003 to 2013 are the Detroit Red Wings with only five picks and their only “flop” was in 2008. Every other first round pick has turned out to be a decent NHL player. The Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes, on the other hand, have had 14 first round selections each. Only two of Anaheim’s 14 picks turned out to be “flops”, in 2006 and 2007.

As you can see, the league success rate average is 68,55% (100 flops out of 318 picks). The Habs are slightly above average at 72.73% success rate with three flops in the first round: David Fisher (2006), Louis Leblanc (2009) and Jarred Tinordi (2010). I did not include Michael McCarron in there (yet) as he showed some great signs this season until he was injured. Nothing to write a book about, but Timmins isn’t as bad as some make him out to be in the first round it seems.

Second Round

In the second round (blue columns header), the league’s success rate drops to 33.53%. The San Jose Sharks lead the pack with a 55.56% success rate while the New York Islanders, Vancouver Canucks and the Philadelphia Flyers are all below 20%. Note that the Chicago Blackhawks had the most second round picks from 2003-2013 with 21 selections, while the Calgary Flames only had five.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Canadiens find themselves 4th in the entire NHL at 45.45% success rate in the second round. They messed up on Cory Urquhart (2003), Ben Maxwell and Mathieu Carle (2006), Danny Kristo (2008) and Sebastian Collberg and Dalton Thrower (2012). GM Marc Bergevin did turn out Collberg into Thomas Vanek for a playoffs’ run however.

Combined

And that’s where we see the ensemble of the NHL’s teams’ draft work in the first two rounds. The league average sits at 50.46% success rate as the Chicago Blackhawks topped everyone with a total of 33 picks, followed by the St. Louis Blues with 29, and the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers close behind them with 28 picks each. Amazingly enough, only 11 of the Capitals’ 28 picks are considered “flops”, putting them second in the rankings at 60.71% success rate. The LA Kings lead the NHL at 62.50% while the Philadelphia Flyers rank third, thanks to an amazing first round success rate of 88.89%.

Fourth overall is where the Canadiens and Trevor Timmins sit, with a very impressive success rate of 59.09% in the first two rounds of the draft. While this may (or may not) be enough to debunk the misconception of Timmins’ work, at least it is somewhat supported by information other than perception and dislike for the guy.

Most people will agree that his last couple of draft seasons, which include the likes of Noah Juulsen(2015), Mikhail Sergachev (2016), Ryan Poehling, Josh Brook, Joni Ikonen (2017), Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jesse Ylonen, Alexander Romanov and Jacob Olofsson (2018) will go a long way in bringing the Habs closer to the top of the league in the first two rounds. Here’s hoping that Timmins and his team can repeat again this coming summer in Vancouver, with three more selections in the first two rounds. Go Habs Go!

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Carey Price And The Shea Weber Effect

Injuries are part of the game and it’s a cliché to say that one should not use them as an excuse to justify sub-par performances and that, whether it’s for a player specifically or for an entire team. But while few people want to hear clichés, it doesn’t change the fact that they are clichés for a reason. As as matter of fact, American author Diana Gabaldon was once quoted saying: “The most irritating thing about clichés, I decided, was how frequently they were true.”

No one knows the impact of a key injury more than the Montreal Canadiens and their fans as they have gone through not one, but two examples of its devastating impact in just a few short years. First, it was Carey Price who, coming out of a MVP season where he racked up all of the hardware possible, only appeared in 12 games in 2015-2016 before being shut down for the season. We know the rest. The Canadiens finished 28th overall and got to select third in the following NHL Draft.

Just last year, the Habs suffered another huge blow when stud defenseman Shea Weber injured himself in the very first game of the season, breaking his foot. True competitor, it was impossible to shut him down until he did more damage by continuing to play injured until he was forced to call it a season after only 26 games. Once again, the Canadiens finished 28th overall without their number one defenseman.

Weber’s impact on Price

Both Weber and Price are two of the undisputed leaders of the Montreal Canadiens. Both born in British Columbia, they have been friends on and off the ice for several years prior to Weber joining the Habs, as both make the Okanagan Valley their summer home, in Kelowna, BC and playing together for Team Canada internationally. When it’s time to hit the ice in August, they do so together alongside other NHLers, most times by renting the ice at Prospera Place in Kelowna, I’m told.

Shea Weber and Carey Price on Team Canada

Just watching the games, it was apparent that the Canadiens’ defense was suffering without their stud defenseman and no one suffered more of his absence than his good friend Price. But how much did Weber’s injury affect the Canadiens’ netminder? I’ve compiled some numbers to see if the eye test matched the statistics and here’s what I found.

Weber started the 2017-2018 season against the Buffalo Sabres and we were told later on that season that he had broken his foot in that game. He managed to play another 25 games on one leg that season and here are Price’s numbers with the one nicknamed Man Mountain in the lineup, even on one leg:

GPRECORDGASASVSV%GAASO
219-10-259623564.9052.991

Those number are not earth shattering by any means, as you can attest. But let’s now have a look at the goaltender’s numbers without Weber in the lineup, after he was shut down:

GPRECORDGASASVSV%GAASO
287-16-589864775.8973.190

As we all know, Weber didn’t start the 2018-2019 season with his teammates, still rehabilitating from his surgeries and while the Canadiens did pretty well to start this season without their newly named captain, they did it somewhat in spite of Price’s worrisome performances. Here are Price’s numbers prior to Weber returning to the lineup this season:

GPRECORDGA
SASVSV%GAASO
177-6-454523469.8983.171

Finally, the much anticipated return of Weber happened on November 27th against the Carolina Hurricanes. With the elite defenseman back in the lineup, Price’s numbers skyrocketed and the goaltender returned to his old form. Some will say that it’s all on Price but everyone else knows that Weber’s return played a huge role, as with the captain in the lineup this season, the goaltender posted elite numbers once again:

GPRECORDGASASVSV%GAASO
4928-19-210714291322.9252.253

In total for the past two seasons, here are Price’s numbers…

Without Weber in the lineup:

GPRECORDGASASVSV%GAASO
4514-22-914313871244.8973.181

With Weber in the lineup:

GPRECORDGASASVSV%GAASO
7037-29-416620521886.9192.474

To put things into perspective, let’s now look at where Price ranks amongst his peers, shall we? Amongst goaltenders appearing in a minimum 35 games this season, Price is:

  • 2nd in most games played
  • 5th in most wins
  • 3rd in most shots against
  • 3rd in most saves
  • 9th in best saves percentage
  • 10th in best goals against average
  • 9th in most shutouts

Now where would he be had Weber started the season with the team? Probably in the running for another Vezina Trophy. Yes, that’s the impact a Shea Weber has on a team and on a goaltender folks. The eye test showed it and the numbers are also backing it up. Go Habs Go!

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Bergevin Making The Habs Great Again

He was a rookie General Manager. Highly sought, but a rookie nonetheless. And he was the choice of not only Geoff Molson, but of former Canadiens’ GM Serge Savard as well, who was hired by Molson as a special consultant to help him find the right guy. Marc Bergevin was it. Known around the league as a great hockey mind and talent evaluator, Bergevin decided to return home, knowing full well that the challenge wouldn’t be easy. The team had just finished 28th out of 30 teams, the bank of quality prospects was non-existent. He had his work cut out for him… but he knew it.

There is a lot of misinformation circulating, most spread by people who are still hot at Bergevin for trading P.K. Subban, let’s admit. So let’s start by addressing some of the “rumours” or plain made-up stories out there, and set the clocks straight, shall we?

In the summer of 2017, Bergevin wanted to re-sign Andrei Markov and they had some talks. The problem is that for the longest time, Markov insisted on a two-year contract while the Canadiens were offering him one year. Players like Niklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Joe Sakic – just to name a few – all signed 1-year deals at the end of their career but Markov seemed to think that he was above that. Had he been represented by an agent, he might have received proper guidance but he waited too long and by the time Markov changed his mind, it was too late. The Canadiens went to plan B and signed Karl Alzner (which they shouldn’t have done in retrospect). Markov’s stubbornness indeed cost the Habs… and himself to reach 1,000 games with the Canadiens.

Alexander Radulov followed the money.

And the Alexander Radulov story… the Canadiens’ GM did offer Radulov contract extension back in January, but the player wanted to wait in the summer before making up his mind. Again in June, the Canadiens offered him the same contract that Radulov ended up signing with Dallas, but he wanted to wait to July 1st, to gauge the offers, and he wanted $7M from Habs. Facing the same salary cap as any other teams, the Habs didn’t want to pay him that. When Radulov received his offer from the Stars, Bergevin offered to match that offer but Radulov chose the Dallas, likely due to the taxes, and “sold” to fans that the Canadiens’ offer came in too late, that he had accepted the one in Dallas. Having enough of the lies, Bergevin retorqued publicly, something the organization rarely does.

Transactions

In one of his most underrated achievements, Bergevin picked up Paul Byron off waivers – free! He then re-signed him at $1.1 million per season. If you want to see how valuable Byron is to the Canadiens, here’s a recent article on this blog.

Shea Weber for P.K. Subban: the only reason why this transaction seemed, for a while, to go against Bergevin and the Habs was because of Weber’s injury. Prior to that, they were nose to nose in offensive production, with Weber being more physical and much better defensively. Now that the one nicknamed Man Mountain by Mike Babcock is back healthy, the entire Habs’ team is playing better hockey. Coincidence? I think not. But I’m working on a 3-year recap so stay tuned…

Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev didn’t look so good last year according to many, but lopsided in Habs’ favour this year. With one game left to this season, Drouin is one point shy of his career high. Sergachev plays only 17:55 minutes per game, 1:31 minutes of it being on the powerplay. He has 6 goals and 32 points this season. I still believe it’s a good trade for both teams.

Tomas Tatar/Nick Suzuki/2nd for Max Pacioretty: literally a steal by Bergevin. Pacioretty now has a cap hit of $7M starting next year. Has Tatar (without a NTC) at $500k rebate (paid by Vegas) who has reached the 20-goal plateau this season for the fifth consecutive season. Suzuki is tearing up the OHL and the 2nd in 2019 is the Blue Jackets’ pick.

Max Domi is happy in Montreal

Max Domi for Alex Galchenyuk: Not really wanting to put Galchenyuk down here, as much as to praise Domi, who has shattered his career-high in points by about 20 points. He has played admirably well at the centre position and leads the Habs in scoring. Highly in Habs’ favour.

Mike Reilly for a 5th? Okay, Reilly has slowed down after a very hot start to the season, but he’s played top-4 minutes most of the season. No matter how you look at it, getting that kind of return for a 5th round pick is unbelievable value. Further, it’s not the Canadiens’ 5th, it’s the Washington Capitals’.

Phillip Danault & 2nd (Alexander Romanov) for pending UFA’s Dale Weise/Tomas Fleishmann: Much like Domi, Danault has beaten his career high in points in 22 fewer games this season. The new father has been the Canadiens’ second line centre while playing against the oppositions’ top forwards. Many “experts” and “fans” were complaining last June that Trevor Timmins took a no-name, Romanov, so soon in the draft. None of them are complaining today as he’s perceived to be one of the NHL’s top prospects.

Josh Gorges for 2nd: That pick was later traded to Chicago to get Andrew Shaw.

Thomas Vanek & 5th/Sebastian Collberg & 2nd: Vanek was the biggest pending UFA that year and Garth Snow was holding back trying to get the maximum for him. He waited too long and Bergevin pounced like a mountain lion on an unexpected pray. Vanek played outstanding in regular season but disappeared in the playoffs, so Bergevin cut him loose. At that price, he was worth the shot.

Michael Ryder & 3rd (Connor Crisp)/Erik Cole: While this trade won’t go down as remarquable in history, getting Ryder back when Cole’s play was fading rapidly was a good trade. That is when young Brendan Gallagher gave up his number 73 to Ryder, and picked number 11, which he’s still wearing to this date.

Andrew Shaw / 2 x 2nd: As mentioned above, one of the 2nd round picks was acquired in the Josh Gorges trade. When you can turn a fading and banged up Gorges into a proven competitor like Shaw, that’s gold. Shaw is tied with Tatar on the Habs with 0.73 points per game.

Jeff Petry was a great pickup

Jeff Petry / 2nd & 5th: This might be one of Bergevin’s most underrated trade he’s made. Petry is a very serviceable top-4 who has done a good job under difficult circumstances filling in for Shea Weber last year. This season with one game to go, he has reached a career-high 45 points.

Joel Armia, Steve Mason, 4th, 7th / Simon Bourque: That was a strategic trade. The Canadiens had cap space, the Jets needed to clear some so Bergevin bought out Mason’s contract and got Armia and two picks for a guy that will never see the NHL. Highway robbery.

Kerby Rychel, Rinat Valiev, 2nd (Jacob Olofsson) / Tomas Plekanec, Kyle Baun: While Rychel and Valiev have not panned out, Olofsson is a very good prospect in the Canadiens’ organisation. Plus, they got Plekanec back as a UFA so he could play his 1,000th game with the team that he loves.

Jakub Jerabek (UFA) / 5th: Bergevin had signed Jerabek as a UFA so he didn’t cost him anything. The 5th round pick was the Washington Capitals’ pick, which Bergevin flipped to Minnesota to get Mike Reilly.

Nicolas Deslauriers / Zach Redmond: Deslaurier is a physical fourth liner with grit, a local product who loves being in Montreal. Redmond played three games for the Sabres since the trade.

Jordie Benn / Greg Pateryn, 4th: Benn has had his ups and his downs since being acquired by the Canadiens. He finished his first season with the Habs very strong, which earned him a new contract. Last season, he did not play well mostly due to injuries to Weber, which put everyone in a role they weren’t suited for. But he has bounced back this season playing on the third pairing and killing penalties.

2nd in 2017 (Joni Ikonen), 2nd in 2018 (traded to EDM) / Lars Eller: If people complain about Andrew Shaw costing the Habs two second round picks, they have to be happy that Bergevin received two second round picks for Eller. It’s almost like a Shaw for Eller trade. Then you add Ikonen who is one of the team’s best prospects.

Christian Folin, Dale Weise / David Schlemko, Byron Froese: Weise is thrilled to be back in the Canadiens’ organisation. Schlemko had become an dead weight and Froese is a good AHL player, nothing more. Folin has played some very good hockey alongside Benn down the stretch.

Nate Thompson, 5th round pick / 4th round pick: That’s your typical, annual Kings/Habs trade. Remember the Dwight King trade for a pick? Then the Torrey Mitchell trade getting that same pick back? Thompson has taken some pressure off Phillip Danault for defensive zone faceoffs, winning 55.1% of his faceoffs.

Jordan Weal / Michael Chaput: Another depth move, this time bringing in a quality right-handed faceoffs’ centre (57% with the Habs), Weal has also been a key contributor offensively down the stretch. Don’t be surprised if the pending UFA gets offered a contract this summer.


As you can see, Bergevin has won a vast majority of his transaction and even the one he’s been most criticized about, the Weber / Subban deal is in his favour this season.

While some will get stuck on the Alzner contract, they also forget that he is also the one who signed some of the most one-sided contracts (in the Habs’ favour) in the NHL. Who could get a 30-35 goals scorer – Pacioretty – at $4.5 million per season long term? A 20-goals scorer in Byron at $1.1 million? Perhaps shall we look at another 30-goals’ scorer –Brendan Gallagher – at $3.75 million? Domi at $3.15 million isn’t too shabby either, is it? Or what about Danault at $3.08 million? But let’s focus on Alzner, right?

Now that the Canadiens are officially out of the playoffs, there’s this (same) group of people out there calling for his head because the team missed out for the second year in a row. Yet, Geoff Molson was quite clear last summer when saying that he had accepted Bergevin’s plan, which seems to be to get younger and add an attitude of hating to lose. Molson is a smart and reasonable man. He understands that going through a reset through youth likely meant that the team would miss the playoffs. You can bet that he’s satisfied with the way his GM turned things around, even after narrowly missing the playoffs. Oh I personally would have liked for him to do more at the deadline, but his overall work since last summer has been spectacular. Even his recent depth moves have paid off.

Now he must continue in the same direction this upcoming summer as he did for the past year or so. Trevor Timmins has 10 picks to play with at the upcoming draft and Bergevin MUST find a quality left-handed top-4 defenseman at the very least. Someone in the mold of Cam Fowler or Shayne Gostisbehere, who can also play on the powerplay would be ideal. Either way, the future is very promising in Montreal folks. Go Habs Go!

The Weal of Fortune – Jordan Agrees to Two-Year Extension With The Habs

Was there really any doubt in anyone’s mind that Jordan Weal would sign a contract extension with the Montreal Canadiens? An obvious favourite of head coach Claude Julien, Weal managed four goals, six assists good for 10 points in only 16 games for the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge since being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes for Michael Chaput. At that time, Weal had 11 points in 47 games with the desert dogs.

The 27 year-old centre is not the first Coyote to leave the Coyotes and find a home in Montreal as we all know Max Domi‘s story since leaving that organization. And like Domi, Weal seized his opportunity with the Canadiens. With a 55.1% success rate, he provides Julien’s team with a much needed right-handed centre who can alleviate the workload of Phillip Danault in the defensive zone, while being a surprisingly good fit on offense too.

The North Vancouver, BC native was rewarded with a two-year one-way deal with the Canadiens with a cap hit of $1.4 million. The news comes just one day after the team announced the signing of another trade deadline acquisition and pending UFA, Nate Thompson, to a one-year one-way contract worth an even $1 million.

“I was really just chomping at the bit to come back. It’s one of those groups where it’s not hard to jump in and to have fun with the guys right away. The core group that they have – the older guys, the younger guys – it’s just one of those special groups that you just want to be a part of.

I’m just so excited to come back because of where our team is headed,” said Thompson. “Everyone on the team, and you could feel it throughout the room, that guys were disappointed. More importantly, though, guys are mad, guys are angry, guys already want to get going and already start the season now because you could feel the hunger from everyone, including myself. We want to get back to work, we want to have a big season, and we want to build off of what we did last year. We want to continue to get better and make the playoffs.”

Marc Bergevin will have his work cut out this summer as he MUST finally fill the hole on left side of his defense on the Top-4. The right side is solid with Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Christian Folin, Noah Juulsen and Josh Brook but the left side has been the team’s weak point since the departure of Andrei Markov. It will be an interesting summer, folks! Go Habs Go!

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