Okay, this may not be politically correct but hey, this blog doesn’t thrive on political correctness now, does it? No, it doesn’t mean that the Montreal Canadiens are an aging team, far from there. As it stands at the time of writing these lines, the Habs form one of the NHL’s youngest teams. Still, it doesn’t prevent them, or the forward group at the very least, from suffering from the old man struggle. You know? When the bottom and middle gets heavier and the top is very thin?
After team GM Marc Bergevin traded Lars Eller and picked up Andrew Shaw, the Canadiens seemed to have a pretty good draft. Time will tell on that point, but fans all agreed to say that adding to the bottom-six might not really be the team’s biggest need, although recognizing that Shaw is not your typical bottom-six player. The team missed Brandon Prust and Shaw is a younger and healthier replacement for the former fan favourite.
As it stands right now, the Canadiens already have the following players pencilled in for their bottom six:
Then you have a few players who have done quite well for themselves in that role last season, young players hoping to crack the line-up this upcoming season, guys who, for the time being, are also considered bottom-six:
Jacob De la Rose
Add to that other young players who seem close to be NHL ready, although perhaps with top-6 potential:
Where do those guys play if they are ready? Sure, Marc Bergevin has always told anyone who would listen that it’s up to the players to force his hand and if one has an impact, he will make room for them. The fact remains that it’s a lot of names for just a few somewhat unproductive spots, particularly for a team struggling for offense.
The Canadiens are thin… very thin on the top-six, it’s no surprise. As it stands, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec are all but guaranteed a spot on the top two lines and David Desharnais might be there out of necessity, although most would agree that his time with the Canadiens should come to an end this summer, either by trade or buy-out.
Out of curiousity, I was looking at the top earners amongst Habs’ forwards earlier this week and I was shocked to see that Plekanec leads the way at $6 million per season (some will say overpaid), followed by… Max Pacioretty at $4.5 million. When you invest so little on your forward group, no wonder this team lacks on scoring talent, especially when comparing to other teams around the NHL.
It is however early in the off-season and experts all agree that this summer should be filled with trades, buy-outs and player movement. With the expansion draft coming up next summer, teams will start preparing their protection list and good players will change teams, no doubt. The salary cap, originally scheduled to be close to $78 million, will be at $73 million, leaving top spenders tight against it, another factor forcing their hand.
I have been a big supporter of Marc Bergevin and his work but I have said for a while that he is playing big this summer, which could be a make or break for him. He MUST address the top-six this summer and provide his team, his goaltender and mostly his coach, with some offensive talent to turn what was a bad season into yet, another successful one under his reign.