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.
- As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.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.
All Habs Mailbag (week ending February 21st, 2013)
Looking at the bottom four of the Habs eight defensemen, the lack of a big shutdown guy stands out. How does the team address that weakness? To be clear, I’m taking about Bouillon, Diaz, Kaberle, and Weber.
Well with Tomas Kaberle and Yannick Weber not likely fitting into the long-term plans of the Canadiens, that’s two spots cleared out in the future. As per Raphael Diaz, I can’t see him leaving as there will always be concern about the health of Andrei Markov. With any injury to Markov, the duty of carrying offence from the back end would fall to P.K. Subban and Diaz and with neither Kaberle nor Weber being able replacements to fill in those duties, the team finds itself needing to retain Diaz until perhaps Nathan Beaulieu moves up in the ranks.
I think in the future, potentially as close as next season Montreal may be able to call on the services of the towering Jarred Tinordi, whose shutdown profile would be a welcome sight in Montreal as he brings a strong physical edge to any game he plays. Alternatively, Greg Pateryn of the Hamilton Bulldogs may surprise as he was having a good initial start with Hamilton before he was sidelined by injury and does have the advantage of maturity and experience over the younger Tinordi.
With our so called “top line” doing nothing, what do you think the lines going forward SHOULD look like?
Provided the Habs can get Brendan Gallagher back from injury soon, I would experiment with these forward lines.
Pacioretty – Plekanec – Gionta, this would move the team’s best possession winger to the true top line of the team and increase their scoring potential, while Rene Bourque has been good here, Tomas Plekanec is the team’s best centre so he should have an opportunity to play with the team’s best winger.
Desharnais-Eller-Cole, I’ve been of the opinion for some time that given David Desharnais’s defensive limitations and limited ability to maintain puck possession, his offensive skills would be better served on the wing. This would allow Lars Eller, the better centre for puck possession and defensive responsibilities to control play down the middle and let Desharnais have less pressure on him.
Bourque-Galchenyuk-Gallagher, I know many are in love with the “Bodyguard” role of Brandon Prust for the young rookies but he is starting to become a detriment to their play. Too many pucks are lost in the corner as Prust can’t ably participate in the cycle of these two skilled rookies. With a less effective cycle, the rookies are actually put in tougher spots as they have to battle in the corners more often to retrieve the puck and try to dodge trouble compensating for a non-scoring linemate. With Bourque as the puck retrieval man on the line and providing a skilled presence it would allow the unit to be more effective.
Moen-White-Prust, This unites the team’s three best checking forwards that have defensive value and have the option of having both Ryan White and Brandon Prust available to take faceoffs. Colby Armstrong has been the weakest of Montreal’s 13 forwards this season, as injuries seem to have permanently sapped his playing ability from his previous career standards.
I think these lines strike the right balance of offensive strength and defensive ability to give Montreal better options to push play on each night against their opponents.
I know it’s early to think draft. But what positions do you think the Habs should look at and any players that stick out?
I’m a very strict “Best Player Available” man when it comes to who a team should draft. Teams that focus on drafting at a position can overlook talent that would help them out even more than the players they would pick up at the preferred position the team is looking to fill out.
Looking at the 2013 Draft rankings and barring a notable collapse, I would say a notable mid-round selection would be Frederick Gauthier of Rimouski Oceanic in the Quebec Major Junior league, the big centre is a noted two-way player with a strong offensive toolkit. Gauthier could be out of range, but the team does have the advantage of three second round draft picks to barter with to move up in the draft order if needed. If the Canadiens finish higher in the standings and are looking at the final third of the draft order, I would take a look at Adam Erne, a potential power forward winger with the Quebec Remparts or notable sniper Anthony Mantha of the Val d’Or Foreurs. Also of interest in the middle to late range is Curtis Lazar of the Edmonton Oil Kings, a promising two-way centreman.
Where do you see the Habs finishing this year?
With respect to their opponents and recognition that their start probably can’t maintain at the current pace, I believe Montreal can finish 2nd in the Northeast Division and between 5th and 7th overall in the Eastern Conference. This is taking into account that the Boston Bruins will once more, come out on top of the Northeast Division as they are still looking to be Montreal’s superior. With the rest of the Conference rankings giving the top three spots to Division champions it will be a notable battle to stay high in the Conference. One has to consider that only one of the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins can take the Atlantic Division Title. After that, the two remaining teams will be very strong and very capable of claiming the 4th and 5th positions in the Conference due to their overall talent level.
It is of course possible Montreal contends with these teams and unseats one of them, but Montreal’s soft schedule of opponents so far means they’ll have to face better teams on a more regular basis soon and wins will become more difficult. With only 1/3rd of the season done, we have an idea of what Montreal is capable of but we’re also becoming more aware of soft points that other teams may exploit more often going forward. The devastating injuries to the Ottawa Senators and the flat start of the Washington Capitals have certainly given Montreal a better than normal edge for a decent playoff seed but the team shouldn’t aim just too high yet.
How about an overly general question about Jarred Tinordi’s development status and corrected expectations?
Jarred Tinordi has shown a good adaptation to pro hockey this year in Hamilton and is starting to look like the most NHL-ready of the Canadiens young defensive prospects. Concerns about Tinordi have generally settled around his overall puck skills and his physical development.
Tinordi will never be mistaken for Larry Robinson, but he should be able to at least provide good first pass support out of his own zone and avoid being hemmed in like less capable defencemen. Tinordi is also still working on adding strength to his frame and could use at least one more summer of strong conditioning to help him out there to help match against older, more mature opposition that he will face in the NHL. Tinordi could arguably try out for a spot with the Canadiens in the 2013-14 NHL season at the start of training camp, but he may also need additional time in the AHL before he moves up as well. It is reasonable to believe Tinordi could work his way in to a full-time spot in the 13-14 season provided there are no serious setbacks in his development.
Do you think that Marc Bergevin will get a deal done with Danny Kristo or do you believe that Danny will go the Justin Schultz route?
The ongoing question of Danny Kristo’s status with the Montreal Canadiens remains in my view, an overblown concern. To start with, the concern about the loophole that allowed Justin Schultz to declare as a free agent in the summer has been closed under the new CBA agreement. Second of all, Kristo doesn’t enjoy the profile of Justin Schultz in terms of being considered an elite prospect, which lowers his leverage in seeking to spurn Montreal and sign elsewhere and seeking considerable performance bonuses on his first contract. At present, Montreal has until August 15th, 2013 to sign Danny Kristo to an entry-level contract and I believe he will be signed. A consideration on the delay to Kristo signing is his stated desire to win a National Championship at North Dakota is something he feels he must take one more attempt at first. It should be also kept in mind that the tumultuous state of the 2011-12 Canadiens may have left Kristo hesitant about signing over with the team, given the circus-like atmosphere last year. My prediction is Danny Kristo is wearing the Hamilton Bulldogs jersey next season.
Should Michel Therrien sit Colby Armstrong when Brendan Gallagher is ready to come back and play?
Without a doubt. Colby Armstrong isn’t dragging his feet out there, but unfortunately he is the team’s least effective forward at present. Injuries seem to have sapped his skill and effectiveness, leaving him as the least effective penalty killing forward and adding the least offensively of any of the forwards. Armstrong is due to sit and the depth of the lineup suggests he should be held in reserve until another injury occurs.