TORONTO, ON — The All Habs Mailbag is back and as popular as ever! This is the place to send in your questions about all things Montreal Canadiens.
Then check every Wednesday to read the answers to the most popular or poignant questions about the Habs. Keep in mind that we will discuss the entire Canadiens organization so questions about prospects and roster players are equally welcome!
Submissions can be mailed directly to firstname.lastname@example.org
Three Guidelines for Submissions:
- This is not for hate mail or complaints. If you have an issue with what you read on these pages, this is not the place to bring it up. The mailbag is for questions about the Canadiens.
- As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours. Therefore I will not engage in discussion of the validity of rumours — frankly I consider them a waste of time anyway. For every rumour that was close to accurate, there have been about a thousand duds.
- Nothing of essay-length please. There will be other people who will have questions and it is a bit unfair if I have to dedicate the Mailbag to answering one very large question or someone who’s asking five questions at once.
Lots of talk that Habs stand pat after Subban and Galchenyuk signings. Who do you feel fits the 2nd line winger role in organization?
At present, the only potential candidate to fill as a natural left-winger on a top-six line is a player most people aren’t very much fans of, Rene Bourque, and he isn’t a very strong candidate to fill in effectively. Other options would be continuing the rather irritating experiment of playing Lars Eller at the wing position, but this neutralizes him as an effective centre for the team. We’ve seen enough of Travis Moen and his fellow stone-handed bottom-six types to know they’re not viable options either. Remaining choices would sit with Brendan Gallagher or Louis Leblanc, the most NHL-ready scoring prospects in the organization. The problem with Gallagher is he’s a natural right-winger and Leblanc currently projects as a RW as well. It’s not impossible for wingers to switch, but it may not be the best transition for two young prospects to play an off-wing as they break into the NHL.
Bourque will have to be where the team starts with, who they finish with is a very tough issue due to lack of solid options and the likely need to experiment to find the right mix.
Ignoring validity of rumour of Gionta to New Jersey Devils, would Doan be a viable replacement? Any key differences in style of play?
I wouldn’t place Doan on a priority list for the Canadiens. Due to the current salary burdens of Gomez, Kaberle and arguably Bourque, the team faces a lot of salary they can’t readily shed. Doan is an over-35 contract that can’t be removed from the salary cap and he is aging whether anyone wants to believe character can overcome age or not. Given also the tax situation in Montreal, Doan would likely be asking for a very rich contract as this would likely be the last one he ever signs. While the value of veteran players can be had in itself, I don’t believe Doan would give Montreal what they need at present, even if Gionta were to leave.
As for differences, they’re pretty stark. Gionta is a scoring winger that generates his goals by volume shooting and an elite speed, while he does get dirty around the net, he’s much closer to a finesse skater. Doan is more of the in-your-face player and skates through, rather than around his opposition, but possesses scoring talent as well. Doan is a better player, but his age and demands of any contract he’d ask for make him a less attractive player for Montreal.
What would Montreal’s “All-Rookie All-Star” first and second lines be?
If I were to project based on top-end upside, proximity to the NHL and considering current achievements to date, I’d rank the All-Rookies as this, based on natural positions.
Sebastian Collberg – Alex Galchenyuk – Louis Leblanc
Jarred Tinordi- Morgan Ellis
Tim Bozon - Michaël Bournival- Brendan Gallagher
Nathan Beaulieu- Dalton Thrower
What’s your take on Quailer? Can he potentially be a top-six NHL forward?
It’s very difficult to put that optimistic a projection on a player who only achieved point-per-game scoring in his final year of NCAA play. Quailer had some early power forward projections but after his struggles following a severe ACL injury that basically wrote off two years of his college hockey career, it’s become harder to project him. Until he plays at the professional level and achieves significant scoring in the AHL it’s very difficult to say he could ever hope to rise above possible 3rd-line duties. ACL injuries are still very much a razor’s edge for players, some recover and maintain old form, and some never quite recover.
Do you predict Louis Leblanc to be a top-six center in the next three years? What of Eller?
At present, I’d see Leblanc playing more of a 3rd-line winger role in the Habs organization, he has several good tools in his hockey sense, a decent shot and noted sideways agility in his skating but he also has limitations. Leblanc’s yet to show ability to physically match well against professional competition and his overall skating speed, puck skills aren’t quite what you want to see in a top-6 NHL forward. He could develop his skills further along to become that, but he doesn’t project that well presently. Scouts I have spoken to and referenced are concerned his offensive creativity isn’t high enough to warrant holding down the centre position and his faceoff skills are unremarkable as well.
Regarding Eller, his status is a bit more up in the air. He has displayed some incredible skill at times, such as his four-goal game against the Winnipeg Jets. Eller’s issues have been argued around what his true skill level is and his consistency. It should be noted Eller has rarely been given the opportunity to play a scorer’s role, often playing on the 3rd line with lesser skilled players or being used as a plug on the team’s often-troubled top-6 winger positions. Given his development in the NHL over the past two seasons, he could be poised for a breakout this coming year, but it’s too early to tell. I’ve read projections of Eller being a No. 2 centre, but until he gains opportunity to work with better wingers or has an opportunity for power play time it’s going to be hard to accurately read his top potential.
He’s a mystery to a lot of Habs fans. From what I saw of Bourque he played like someone who didn’t want to be in Montreal. He got lots of ice time and his stats speak for themselves. He coasted when backchecking and didn’t get into the flow of the game. He didn’t work hard enough—–He knew Cunneyworth was a lame duck coach—-did this influence his insipid play?
Bourque is not a very popular player from the discussions I’ve had, nor do many think that he can right himself to being a valuable contributor to the Canadiens. Bourque has in the past displayed enough skill to hold down a Top-6 position with a team, but has had descriptions of either inconsistency or laziness in his game for most of his career. It’s not encouraging either when a player decides to ‘throw’ his season knowing his coach isn’t long with the team and decides he doesn’t need to give the effort. It also couldn’t be described as encouraging that he may have decided that in Montreal’s dead-end season, he didn’t need to give it his all either.
The mitigating factors that may see a rise in Bourque’s play is his desire for a truly fresh start in Montreal and coaching. Some players take a bit of time to adjust to a new location and he may choose to take his game more seriously from now on with a whole season ahead of him. The other thought is coaching, while many are cool to the idea of Therrien returning as the head coach, sometimes a particular coach has a talent for motivating a player to perform to their potential. Whether Therrien is that coach remains to be seen but it is something to consider.