All Habs Mailbag: Penalty Kill, Bulldogs, Goaltending, Kaberle, Eller, Draft, Kings

By Robert Rice, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

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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  • 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.
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  • 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.
So, let’s open the All Habs mailbag!

All Habs Mailbag (week ending February 7th, 2013)

Mike E

I’m more worried about the penalty-kill than the power-play. What can Michel Therrien and coaches do to strengthen the PK?

I would elect to take Colby Armstrong off of it and start making him the healthy scratch, this would allow them to sub in the superior penalty killer Ryan White who has been waiting for his chance to work back into the lineup. Lars Eller also needs to become a permanent fixture of the unit, he’s much better on gaining and holding possession than Travis Moen or Armstrong as well. At the back end, I would reunite P.K. Subban and Josh Gorges into a pairing to boost the penalty kill’s effectiveness, as Subban has a superior physical element to Raphael Diaz or Francis Bouillon as well as better vision and puck skills. There are some good players on the penalty kill unit, but on the whole the system could be better by making White, Eller and Subban integral members.


What should Marc Bergevin do in the summer to help out the Hamilton Bulldogs besides the obvious of a veteran scorer?

In my view, Marc Bergevin has to take a serious look at whether or not Sylvain Lefebvre is the man to coach the team. The Bulldogs have been mired in trouble all season and while they are not a strong team, spending over two months near or in last place doesn’t speak well to a coach who is able to get the best out of his players. With a single occurrence of back-to-back wins over 44 games for Hamilton this season and not many signs the team is going to move ahead, a spotlight must be placed over the team’s strategy and personnel use. The firing of assistant coach Ron Wilson does not seem to have sparked much and it seems difficult to believe Wilson was the real drag on the team when strategy and assignments do all disseminate from Lefebvre.

So far, Lefebvre hasn’t shown himself to be someone who is using modern coaching methods and that isn’t a good sign if Montreal is trying to find a development coach and a potential heir apparent for the Canadiens bench down the line. Bergevin may be better served with finding a new man to take over the Hamilton bench. Granted it is still Lefebvre’s first season as a head coach but he hasn’t done much to sell himself as an up-and-comer thus far.


Robert M

What’s the contingency plan for the Habs in net if, god forbid Price goes down with a long-term injury. Trade? Sign? Recall?

The Canadiens are essentially trapped like most teams that have built themselves around their franchise goaltender. A trade for a quality goaltender would put Montreal at a bad position at the bargaining table as their need would be apparent and teams would be eager to squeeze them dry. As per a signing, I doubt one could find an able goaltender that could reasonably shoulder the load for the Canadiens while Price was injured. In terms of call-ups, I wouldn’t put much hope that Cedrick Desjardins or Robert Mayer in Hamilton could do much to salvage the season for the Canadiens as one of them would be platooning with Peter Budaj. An injured Carey Price is essentially a lost season for Montreal, barring somewhat miraculous and outstanding play from Budaj or one of Desjardins or Mayer. It is not pleasant, but that is essentially what franchise goaltending is, their health determines a team’s fortunes in goal.


Lori B

Do you see the Habs being able to move Tomas Kaberle between now and the deadline? Would Lars Eller be used to sweeten the pot?

Given Tomas Kaberle’s poor showing when he was playing this season and that his contract extends in to next season, I find it difficult to believe he is moved. One would think a team would have to be devastated by long-term injuries to their own blue line and desperate for an answer to entertain acquiring Kaberle and his contract, given his decline.  As per using LarsEller as a part of a potential deal, I would say that goes to the subject of throwing good money after bad. Eller is a young NHL player with a lot of potential and using him as a sweetener to lose a player that can be bought out this summer would not be a wise move for the organization. Kaberle isn’t helping Montreal, but he isn’t such a problem that Montreal needs to pay a team off with Lars Eller to be rid of him. The Canadiens still have a penalty-free buyout available to them this summer to use and Kaberle can be removed from the team via this method.



Habs have three 2nd round picks in a very deep draft. Do you see them keeping them, trading up or trading for a current player?

I think with Marc Bergevin’s endorsement of Montreal’s Head of Scouting Trevor Timmins, and his own expressed interest in building the future up, this upcoming draft will be defined by Timmin’s scouting notebook. One would expect the team will reserve itself from dealing away 2nds in the fashion the previous administration did, for short-term rentals to boost flagging playoff attempts and find better uses for them. Three 2nd round picks do offer Montreal a lot of leverage to move up in the draft if needed and acquire a player they covet but is perhaps out of their draft position. However at the same time, if Montreal finds itself falling upon overlooked talent as they arguably did several times in the 2012 Draft, trading up may not be necessary.


What the hell is wrong with the Kings?

It’s hard to find a single source for the Los Angeles Kings current woes, it seems to have been a general group failure. To look at last season, Jonathan Quick would often keep the Kings in games with spectacular play that would culminate in him winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. This year his goaltending has been notably weak with a .897 save percentage so far over 8 starts. While the Kings defence has not been the well-coordinated unit it was last season, no starting goalie can reasonably say a sub-.900 save percentage is the fault of his defencemen. If Quick does not find his last-season form soon and the team defence improves itself, the Kings may find themselves in a hole they can not dig themselves out of to make the playoffs. It should be kept in mind as well, the Kings only scoring 20 goals over 8 games, which ties them for last in the NHL is not helping their win-loss record either. For a team that boasts Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown as their four most talented forwards, one would expect a bit more offence to be generated, not to mention Drew Doughty to provide offence from the back end.

One would have expected the team’s time off from the lockout to leave them better rested and better conditioned than most teams looking to repeat a Stanley Cup Championship, but so far it isn’t on display. The Kings may rally of course, but at present they are not displaying what they need to for that to become a reality. Forwards, defencemen and goaltending must get better and quickly.


Leon B

With the lockout over and waivers settling a bit, what do you think is needed down in Hamilton and how could Marc Bergevin get it?

The Bulldogs could use a veteran scoring centre, but unfortunately in the middle of the season, it is difficult to acquire such a player. Any AHL players like this on a current call-up with an NHL team that is placed on waivers and acquired by Montreal would have to be placed on waivers once more to be sent back down. This would likely create an unfortunate cycle of the player again being taken off of waivers by another team. There is of course the possibility of trading assets, acquiring the top prospect of another team that could play for Hamilton but that does not seem to be a likely scenario. I think Marc Bergevin is still evaluating the strengths of the organization under his tenure and unless a highly favourable deal were to suddenly cross his desk, I think the Bulldogs will stay as they for the rest of the season.

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2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. jon says:

    We still need more size and skill up front..we need a barkov or a nikushkin….size, speed, and skill….we are not going to win now as is …we need to build the future….

    with over 30 yr old guys like pleks and gio who both make 5 million plus, its not the way to go……both of whom are good players and good leaders, BUT, they are deminishing returns over the next few yrs and we need to build the future around a young core. I would trade a combo of any of pleks, gio, eller, kabs, webber, moen, white, trade them near the deadline and build through the draft, build young, keep a salary structure low so when the need arises, we go out and get that right FA that fits in with the core coming up…promote from within(kristo, dumont, collberg, holland, bozon, tinordi, beaulieu, ellis, pateryn)…and in 3 yrs, were a contender…not just hoping to make the playoofs and strike lightning, but a real contender..for years…

    its a simple formula…but it requires some guts to trade pleks and gio….it wont be popular, but it is the right move for the future of this team. Will we be worse in the short term? yes, and that is the point! think barkov, nikushkin, drouin, mackinon….thats the future…those are the guys we need…add them to our core, to our prospects, add in a FA or 2, and we are there.