Tankin’ For Dahlin: The Race

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There you have it folks. The last week of activities in the 2017-2018 NHL season is about to start and it’s a six horse race… to the bottom. The grand prize? A Swedish defenseman by the name of Rasmus Dahlin, who is often compared to former Detroit Red Wings legend Nicklas Lindström. All things considered, it’s not a bad prize for finishing near the bottom of the standings for having a season of misery, isn’t it?

As the NHL has released the odds of picking first overall in its draft lottery, teams are now jostling for position in hope to get the better draft picks comes June in Dallas. Teams looking to improve are looking at those odds closely, and all are dreaming of picking first overall and land a franchise player. Those odds are as follows:

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With a week left to the regular season, it has now become a six-teams race to the finish and anyone can get that elusive first overall pick. Here are the NHL standings for mediocrity prior to Friday’s games:

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Individual Teams Schedule Remaining

Let’s take a look at the remaining schedule for those six teams, shall we? In order, from top to bottom…

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With four (4) games remaining, the Detroit Red Wings will be playing three (3) home games and one (1) on the road. Three of the four teams they will be facing are out of the playoffs’ race, with only the Columbus Blue Jackets (3rd in the Metropolitan division) being playoffs’ bound.

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The Montreal Canadiens will finish the season playing five (5) games in eight (8) nights. All but one team (Detroit) are playoffs’ teams and three (3) of those games will be on the road. That’s a tough schedule ahead of Claude Julien‘s team.

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Winners of three consecutive games, the Vancouver Canucks have been playing some better hockey as of late. They will be at home for three (3) more games before finishing the season in Edmonton against the Oilers. Columbus and the Los Angeles Kings are fighting for a playoffs’ spot but both the Arizona Coyotes and the Oilers are out of contention.

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The Ottawa Senators needed overtime to finally end a six-game losing streak last night against the Florida Panthers. That is rather mind-boggling for a team that finished in the final four in last year’s playoffs, and for a team that’s healthy as we speak. It must be full “tank mode” in Ottawa. They have two very winnable games against Detroit and Buffalo, but Winnipeg, Pittsburgh and Boston won’t be a walk in the park for the Sens down the stretch.

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Symbol of mediocrity year after year, the Arizona Coyotes will once again be in the hunt for another good draft year. The St. Louis Blues and the Anaheim Ducks occupy the two Wild Card spots in the Western Conference, while the Calgary Flames and the Canucks are out of the race. Two games at home, two on the road for the desert dogs.

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Ah the Buffalo Sabres… every year is supposed to be the year when they get out of the basement and yet, here they are again. Not an easy schedule to end the season either in Buffalo as they will have to square off against the likes of the Nashville Predators, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers (all on the road), with only the Senators as a bit of a reprieve at home.

So here you have it folks. Place your bets and see where the chips land after the dust settles comes April 8th, when it’s all set and done and the final standings are finalized. What will the Habs’ draft odds be when the seasons is all played out? Your guess is as good as mine, but if I were a betting man (which I’m not), I’d say that Marc Bergevin‘s team should finish in the bottom-five in the NHL. Sad and disappointing for sure, but with the team having eight (8) picks in the first four (4) rounds (including four in the second round), and with the possibility of adding one more if the LA Kings make the playoffs, finishing lower means better choices at the draft table… or the possibility of trading up to get an even better one. Try to enjoy this final week folks, as that’s the last you’ll see of this year’s edition of the Canadiens… thank goodness for that! Go Habs Go!

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Pacioretty: When, Where And How Much?

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With the Montreal Canadiens’ 2017-2018 season taking a turn for the worse, at risk of missing the playoffs, many fans and media members have reached the decision making point. In fact, there are three options: start a full rebuilt, a reload or load up at the deadline, a very unlikely scenario. With 40 points in 42 games, the Canadiens have to leapfrog six teams in hope to make the playoffs, or three teams to make it to the bottom three in the league for a better shot at the number one overall draft pick.

While showing his disappointment and acknowledging that the odds were stacked against his team, General Manager Marc Bergevin said, during his recent press conference, that he still believes that this group can turn things around this season. For that to happen, everyone knows that some changes need to happen and that’s where the rumour-mill is going wild around the NHL.

The most often mentioned name out there for the Habs? Captain Max Pacioretty who, with his 10 goals in 42 games this season, is far from his steady 30-39 goals production in the past few years. Many will agree, Bergevin included, that his failure in finding an offensive centre worth that title is what’s holding Pacioretty back and no one knows better than the GM that if traded to a team with such asset, the sniper would likely heat up wherever he’s traded. And that’s why Bergevin must be very careful. The “step back” from this season weights a lot and if he doesn’t get full value for his best asset, he might as well submit his resignation.

Pacioretty’s worth

But how much can the Canadiens realistically expect for their captain if they were to trade him? Everybody and anybody can take a stab in the dark in hope to find Pacioretty’s trade value but let’s take a more… logical approach. Let’s find parallels, similar situations that will at least give us a gauge of what such player can fetch.

Some have brought up the Phil Kessel trade when acquired by the Leafs from the Bruins… but that was over eight years ago. A better barometer might just be the most recent trade of a saga which finally came to an end: Matt Duchene. The Avalanche’s centre was rumoured to be on the trade market for a long time and team GM Joe Sakic stuck to his guns… and got full value for him. Here’s how the trade broke down:

To Ottawa
(C) Matt Duchene

To Nashville
(C) Kyle Turris

To Colorado
OTT’s 1st round pick
OTT’s 3rd round pick
NSH’s 2nd round pick
(C) Shane Bowers
(G) Andrew Hammond
(D) Samuel Girard
(LW) Vladislav Kamenev

In other words, the Avalanche received a first, second and third round pick, a prospect recently selected in the first round (Bowers), two prospect recently selected in the second round (Girard and Kamenev) and, watch your food, the Hamburglar. They received all of that for a guy who came out of 41 points season with a not-so-flattering minus – 34 rating. It sure makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

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In fact, just looking at the last three years, we can compare Pacioretty to Duchene very favourably. The Habs’ captain had more goals (obviously), but also more assists and more points than his counterpart. While playing similar minutes on the powerplay, Pacioretty has been more productive and to top it up, the winger can be used in shorthanded situations.

Duchene playing centre is a plus, definitely, but Pacioretty is one of the NHL’s top goals’ scorers over the past few years, a legitimate, fast left winger who has never had a true number one centre feeding him the puck. Duchene has one year left to a contract with a $6 million cap hit, while Pacioretty also has one year left, but with a $4.5 million cap hit.

So put yourself in Bergevin’s shoes for a minute. What is your asking price for Pacioretty? We know that the Canadiens have two glaring needs: a top line offensive centre and a mobile left-handed defenseman to eat up minutes alongside Shea Weber.

Taking into consideration that Pacioretty does not have a no-trade or no-movement clause in his contract, meaning that he can be traded to the most offering team, adding the fact that American teams would love to have one of their own, a member of Team USA, rest assured that Pacioretty’s value is quite high and that, in spite of his sub-par season thus far.

Trade deadline

Some people are arguing that Pacioretty could be moved prior to the February 26th trade deadline but allow me to doubt that. Not that it couldn’t happen, but the likeliness is minimal, unless a team offers Bergevin the moon, which teams tend to avoid doing in a trade.

“If [a trade] happens, it happens. I’m very proud of the past success I’ve had in Montreal.” ~ Max Pacioretty

If you’re Bergevin, why not wait until the NHL Draft before pulling the trigger? For one thing, the picks’ position (if any) would already be assigned, avoiding the conditional clauses in a trade. But also, there are those teams who would love to add Pacioretty but find themselves in a playoffs’ spot battle, so they can’t afford to give up enough, as much as they might be able to during the off-season… particularly for those teams under the gun after an early exit or those who will go through a GM change.

If I were a betting man, I would say that when comes March, the Canadiens will have the same captain in place but as the Draft approach, I would definitely keep my ear to the ground to listen for that freight train coming. Go Habs Go!