Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pierre Gauthier Slowly, But Surely Addressing Size Issue

With the Panesar household increasing by one with the arrival of baby Devin, Kamal has quite understandably taken a summer hiatus from writing. In an effort to fill the void this creates on HA, I will occasionally be contributing news and observations to the site during these warm, hockeyless months.

"The Canadiens are too small"

The above statement, and its many variations, has been uttered innumerable times over at least the past decade. With a team featuring the likes of Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri and David Desharnais, many are still inclined to believe that the team’s size, or lack thereof, is a major issue. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that Pierre Gauthier has taken significant steps in addressing this fundamental organizational weakness. Patiently, as is usually the case with Mr. Gauthier, he has added size, grit and depth to the organization. Be it through transactions, the farm or the draft, the General Manager is slowly crafting a roster that will be able to handle the physical challenge presented by other top Eastern Conference squads.

In arguably the defining moment of his tenure, Gauthier was forced to choose between beloved playoff hero Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price. Not only did he opt for the much more imposing Price, but by obtaining the sizeable Lars Eller and Ian Schultz in return, he set the tone for many of his future moves.

Since his promotion, Pierre Gauthier has slowly stocked the farm with size at every position. Aaron Palushaj, Michael Blunden and Mark Mitera were all brought in by trading away much smaller players while Alexander Avtsin, Andreas Engqvist, Alain Berger, Joonas Naattinen and Brian Wilsie have also joined the organization over the past 18 months. At recent entry drafts, the team made noise by selecting the towering Jarred Tinordi and Memorial Cup winner Nathan Beaulieu. Even beyond those two noteworthy first round selections, size continued to be an important consideration. In fact, over the last two drafts, only two of the team`s 12 picks are listed as shorter than six feet tall.

And, for those of you less inclined to wait for the above players to develop, the Habs were equally proactive this summer. The team’s most notable signing, Erik Cole, provides the team with the rare combination of scoring ability, size and physicality that has been a rarity on recent editions of the Habs. In addition, management was swift in retaining beloved giant Hal Gill and fan-favourite Mathieu Darche as well as acting to bring in the much hyped Alexei Emelin.

Naturally, not all of these draft picks or transactions will pan out as hoped. That is simply the nature of the business. But there is no denying that Pierre Gauthier and his staff are making a concerted effort to make the Canadiens a bigger, more difficult team to play against.

Louis is an editor at and has been writing about Canadiens and NHL hockey since 2009. Louis was born in Chicago but grew up in Quebec City where he earned Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Université Laval. He currently lives in Ottawa and works for the Coaching Association of Canada. He can be reached at


Nice post. But I still think the Canadiens need some muscle to compete. Every team in the east has at least one or two "policemen" on their team. the Canadiens have no bonafide fighter to match up to those goons. We really missed the boat on Konopka, so now Ottawa will be tougher than us also. So once again we will be pushed around and punished by the bigger boys.Oh when oh when will we get a Nilan or Corson in our line up again.

Thank you for the kind words and the feedback.

For one, I don't not feel a policeman, per se, is necessary on the team. Mind you, a gritty, physical forward with some skills, in the Neil or Marchand mold, would be wonderful. But I am convinced 29 other teams also think that would be wonderful. Beyond that, a player who is merely untilized in an enforcer role does not fit into the team's identity of skill, speed and structure.

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