Top Cheese: June 2017 Edition

TopCheese

Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ as they are getting set for the the Free Agents’ Frenzy on July first. Feel free to share on Social Media and post your comments as they are always welcomed.

While some Habs’ fans like calling team GM Marc Bergevin “Bargain Bin” due to his history of getting good deals for bottom-6 forwards and bottom pairing defensemen, they will have to be more creative in their attacks since Bergevin made the two of the biggest trades of the summer two years in a row with the Weber trade last year and the Drouin trade this summer. Perhaps those who have an axe to grind against the organization should look at new and more creative ways and material to find fault if they wish for people to listen to them.

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The French side of the media found yet another way, the political one, to blame the Canadiens, Trevor Timmins in particular, for not drafting French Canadian players for a second year in a row. While I will agree about the importance of having local talent on the team, those media members are going to war days only after Bergevin gave top prospect Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin. They also “forgot” to mention that only nine Quebec-born players were drafted in this year’s draft in seven (yes 7) rounds of 31 teams picking! If you want to bark, at least bark at the right tree: Hockey Quebec, the poor boys of the CHL for decades now, fail drastically in comparison to their counterparts in the WHL and the OHL.

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Andrei Markov

Reports out of Montreal came out that Andrei Markov is insistent on a two-year deal. While he did perform well last season, one has to wonder why the 38 year-old is so adamant on those terms at this stage in his career. With his final two contracts, Nicklas Lidstrom signed one-year deals with the Detroit Red Wings. Rob Blake did the same with the LA Kings for his last two contracts. Other Hall of Famers like Scott Niedermayer, Chris Chelios and Joe Sakic, just to name a few, all did the same. What makes Markov so special that he can’t help the team that helped him through his entire career, including through three injury-plagued seasons? It pains me to say this as I would love him to retire as a Habs, but I would personally offer Markov a one-year, $5.5 million contract, take it or leave it.

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Much is being said about Alexander Radulov‘s contract demands but the fact remains that those are just rumours and even if they were not, they are simply a starting point for contract negotiations. Having said that, if Radulov’s camp was remotely close to what the Canadiens are willing to offer, he would be signed by now. We must now face the fact that he may not be back with the Canadiens next year unless he brings his demands closer to what the team can live with. Personally, while I would prefer three years, I would go up to four years, $26 million maximum for Radulov. I can’t talk about Radulov’s contract without touching on those so-called experts on Montreal radio who have been claiming that Radulov and Markov had contracts signed prior to the expansion draft. Hoping Habs’ fans learn their lesson by ignoring those so-called insiders and trust the true ones: Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Elliott Friedman.

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One of the reasons why Bergevin has to be careful with the money he is handing out to Markov and Radulov is the fact that Carey Price is scheduled for a big raise starting in time for the 2018-19 season. Price is on record saying that he wants to stay, and Bergevin is also on record saying that re-signing him is a priority. But as Bergevin said in a recent interview, it’s difficult to negotiate contracts with other players not knowing how much it will take to re-sign his top player

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A young man by the name of Josh Wegman wrote a spot on The Score which drew the ire of many Habs’ fans, myself included, when he ranked the Draft for all Atlantic Division teams. He gave the Toronto Maple Leafs, his favourite team, the highest mark of the division and ironically, the Canadiens the worst marks for this year’s draft. The problem is that in the article itself, he recognizes that he has watched video highlights and stats from HockeyDB.com to justify his findings. How can a company like The Score allow this is beyond me as there are many people following those prospects in person who could provide a much better, more accurate and more professional opinion on the topic? One of my followers pointed this out to me:

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It is important to note for Habs’ fans that just about every Prospects Expert, those who have gone to games to watch those prospects play, have ranked Timmins’ work as amongst the top not only this year, but in the last three summers. Time will tell.

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Twice in the last few days since the Jonathan Drouin trade, Marc Bergevin told the media to “expect the unexpected” when asked about trades. Yet, nothing has happened at the time of  writing these lines. Should we read anything into it and if we should, what exactly? We know that rumours have been swirling around Alex Galchenyuk and it was reported on Draft day that as many as 14-15 teams had shown interest in the Canadiens’ young forward. Could it be that Bergevin, not receiving any offers that would help his team get better, decided to keep his trade chip and re-sign him to a shiny new contract, hoping that the departure of Nathan Beaulieu and his negative influence reflects on his performances? It’s very much a possibility folks. As I’ve stated all along, Bergevin isn’t looking at unloading Galchenyuk but if a hockey trade is to be made, one that would improve the Habs, he would pull the trigger. That obviously hasn’t happened… yet.

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The Las Vegas Golden Knights picked Alexei Emelin from the Canadiens at the expansion draft, leaving the team a little thin at the blue line, they who are already looking to add someone to play alongside All-Star defenseman Shea Weber. While Bergevin has added some quality depth in acquiring 30 year-old rearguard David Schlemko, I have a feeling like the team has pretty high expectations on another player we tend to forget about. Signed in late April, the Canadiens added Czech Republic native Jakub Jerabek, a 26 year-old offensive defenseman who finished last season with 34 points in 59 games playing for Vityaz Podolsk in the KHL and who likely made Beaulieu expandable. Bergevin shouldn’t have any problem finding a partner for Weber as there are many available. Finding top-6 offensive players is a whole different story though, one that could very haunt the GM.

 

 

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Habs Top Picks Trouble for Timmins?

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With the NHL Draft coming up, Trevor Timmins and his team are working alongside Marc Bergevin to determine the Montreal Canadiens’ next moves when it comes to replenishing the prospects’ cupboards. The Canadiens’ General Manager has always been reluctant to trade his draft picks, particularly his top rounds picks, and when he does (see the Andrew Shaw trade), he usually tries to get them back somehow (see the Lars Eller trade).

There is little doubt that the loss of Mikhail Sergachev, the team’s top prospect, sacrificed in the trade to acquire Jonathan Drouin, has contributed to depleting the quality and depth of the prospect pool. Sergachev, who many including myself saw as Andrei Markov‘s eventual replacement, had some immense potential and time will tell if he reaches it. But looking at the Canadiens’ top picks over the last few years, one has to wonder if he will.

Those of follow this blog will remember the complete analysis of Timmins’ track record with the Canadiens since 2003 proving that he did quite well, but when taking a closer look at the top two rounds of the draft, it seems like his record isn’t as shiny as his overall performance. But as you know, I’m not one going on speculations rather than facts so let’s get right to it and look at Timmins’ picks in the top two rounds over the years, and where those players are today. Notice how 2007 was a homerun year for Timmins in the top two rounds…

2003

  • Andrei Kostitsyn – 1st round, 10th overall – 398 NHL games played
  • Cory Urquhart – 2nd round, 40th overall – 0 NHL games played
  • Maxim Lapierre – 2nd round, 61st overall – 614 NHL games played

2004

  • Kyle Chipchura – 1st round, 18th overall – 482 NHL games played

2005

  • Carey Price – 1st round, 5th overall – 509 NHL games played
  • Guillaume Latendresse – 2nd round, 45th overall – 341 NHL games played

2006

  • David Fisher – 1st round, 20th overall – 0 NHL games played
  • Ben Maxwell – 2nd round, 49th overall – 47 NHL games played
  • Mathieu Carle – 2nd round, 53th overall – 3 NHL games played

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    Class of 2007

2007

  • Ryan McDonagh – 1st round, 12th overall – 467 NHL games played
  • Max Pacioretty – 1st round, 22nd overall – 562 NHL games played
  • P.K. Subban – 2nd round, 43rd overall – 500 NHL games played

2008

  • Dany Kristo – 2nd round, 56th overall – 0 NHL games played

2009

  • Louis Leblanc – 1st round, 18th overall – 50 NHL games played

2010

  • Jarred Tinordi – 1st round, 22nd overall – 53 NHL games played

2011

  • Nathan Beaulieu – 1st round, 17th overall – 225 NHL games played

2012

  • Alex Galchenyuk – 1st round, 3rd overall – 336 NHL games played
  • Sebastian Collberg – 2nd round, 33rd overall – 0 NHL games played
  • Dalton Thrower – 2nd round, 51st overall – 0 NHL games played

2013

  • Michael McCarron – 1st round, 25th overall – 51 NHL games played
  • Jacob De la Rose – 2nd round, 34th overall – 64 NHL games played
  • Zachary Fucale – 2nd round, 36th overall – 0 NHL games played
  • Arturri Lehkonen – 2nd round, 55th overall – 73 NHL games played

2014

  • Nikita Scherbak – 1st round, 26th overall – 3 NHL games played

2015

  • Noah Juulsen – 1st round, 26th overall – 0 NHL games played

2016

  • Mikhail Sergachev – 1st round, 9th overall – 4 NHL games played

 

I don’t know about you, but I was shocked at the number of misses in Timmins’ top two rounds, guys who didn’t even make the NHL in some cases. Granted that drafting is not a perfect science as you are not only evaluating a players’ skills at 17-18 years olds amongst peers of his own age, but you are asking recruiters to trying to predict not only the ceiling of those teenagers, but their development as well. This is why I am a strong supporter of moving the draft age up from 18 to 19 years of age. Not a huge difference, but an improvement none the less.

At the time of writing these lines, Timmins will have six players to select on Friday and Saturday in Chicago. The Canadiens will select 25th overall in the first round, then will be speaking twice in the second round: their own pick at 56th and the Washington Capitals’ pick at 58th, obtained in the Lars Eller trade. The Habs also have two third round picks as they will speak at 68th, the pick they received from the Buffalo Sabres for Nathan Beaulieu, and again at 87th with their own pick. They will then pick again at number 149, in the fifth round before calling it the day, unless trades occur.