TORONTO, ON — The All Habs Mailbag is as popular as ever! This is the place to send in your questions about all things Montreal Canadiens.
Then check every Thursday 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!
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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 Montreal Canadiens organization and the NHL.
- As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.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.
If a lockout is a full season, how would the NHL order the team draft picks ?
A general lottery will likely be held, but as to how the lottery is determined, they may decide to mirror what happened in 2005 or adjust how that lottery occurred. If they were to copy the 2005 rules, a weighted lottery would be introduced, with teams gaining extra lottery balls from how often they missed the playoffs over the past three seasons. After the initial order was determined in 2005, the ‘snake draft’ concept was also brought in, in which the team that picked first would pick last in the following round, to introduce a measure of balance to the entire draft.
How does Alex Galchenyuk look so far? Any concerns with his seemingly slow start?
With only four games under his belt in a 68-game OHL season, it is a little early to be concerned. Alex Galchenyuk will be working himself back into regular form as he adjusts to missing a year of hockey and a simple bit of bad luck can affect early season scoring as well. One would hardly imagine the scoring leaders in the NHL after four games to determine the final Art Ross trophy rankings after all. Also to note is that the rest of his Sarnia Sting teammates are not off to a rousing start in point production. If he were being left in the dust, it might raise more alarm bells but with his team lacking scoring in general and it being so early, it’s far too early to be concerned. The hockey season is a marathon after all, not a sprint.
With the top-9 seemingly set for the Hamilton Bulldogs, any surprises expected to earn a top-9 spot? Any returnees likely to lose jobs?
I would keep an eye on Steve Quailer, the Northeastern University power forward who’s done well in camp so far and has been producing points in the intra-squad games. The team is lacking power bodies in the system and his being a left winger is a boon to an organization short on pro-level players who can play that position.
With the first round of cuts, we’ve seen both Ian Schultz and Olivier Fortier get bumped down to the ECHL, which is not that remarkable as with the growing depth of the Bulldogs it became harder for these marginal skaters to hold jobs against more talented and versatile incoming players coming out of the Major Juniors. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Phillippe Lefebvre is dropped next as he’s been at best a fringe prospect for the organization. Alain Berger may be on the bubble as well, despite his shot he’s struggled with skating and some puck skills at times.
With Ian Schultz being sent down yesterday, is it official that Pierre Gauthier got the raw end of the Jaroslav Halak deal?
Not at all. Lars Eller was the meat of the Jaroslav Halak trade and there is still a great deal to be written about him before we know the eventual winner and loser in the deal. Ian Schultz was the throw-in measure of the deal and his faltering isn’t much to be concerned with. Eller is just turning 23 and with some capable linemates, there is a very good chance he can ramp his production up when and if an NHL season actually resumes. Also of note, Eller is about the same age as Tomas Plekanec was when he emerged as a capable scoring two-way centre for Montreal as well. It’s also debatable in my view what the perceived value of Jaroslav Halak is, considering he’s yet to truly grab the No. 1 reins in St Louis or prove he’s a goaltender capable of handling 60+ starts in a season.
Do you think the lockout will affect NHL marketing?
Very likely, while the Canadian hockey fans can be very sheepish, the NHL is forever trying to court public favour in the United States where it has three far more well-established competitors in the NFL, NBA and MLB. The Los Angeles Kings, one of the oldest expansion franchises just winning a Cup and now being locked out is not going to do much for the NHL’s vision of hockey being held up as a national game in the US when a major TV market franchise winning the championship can’t promote itself. As any lockout drags on and the league loses ground against the more well-established and well-marketed pro leagues, it’s going to hurt them in trying to win back interest whenever NHL play does resume. I don’t think the league fully grasps how damaging it is for their marketing to constantly be trapped in work stoppages.
Who’s the lockout affecting more the players or owners?
The players are feeling the brunt of this, easily. Veterans like Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney and Martin Brodeur are right at the end of their careers and every cancelled game against them is one they likely won’t get back before they may enter essentially forced retirement. There are many young players out to make a name for themselves and earn that big contract as they come off their entry-level deals, but now are unable to showcase their skills and try to earn the security of a very rich, long-term deal. There are the players who are watching the final year of their contract being potentially burned, and no NHL season for them to play to try and make their case for a similar contract. Not to mention, we should also consider that the average NHL player career is five years, so for those who hang on the marginal end of the league, this is an especially harsh time for them. While owners are going to feel the pinch in their wallets, they have the advantage of playing the long game of being an owner, they can stay in it as long as they can manage while every NHL player has a far earlier expiration date that they can’t battle.
In your opinion, what is the likelihood of there actually being an NHL this year?
As the negotiations seem to be going nowhere, I’m hanging it at a 50-50 chance of having a reduced NHL season starting some time in December or January and that’s all I believe any of us can really hope for. With both sides intractable on their positions about the share of Hockey-Related Revenue (HRR,) the definition of HRR and revenue sharing, it doesn’t paint a rosy picture when they can’t agree on any of the core economics. That isn’t even considering both sides have very different ideas about rules regarding contract lengths and a player’s ability to enter free agency. If both sides don’t start finding some common ground, it’s hard to imagine resolution with so many big issues on the table.