Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Montreal Canadiens: Draft Stategy

With less than a week before the NHL Entry Draft to will be held at Prudential Center on June 30th, 2013, Montreal Canadiens fans have every reason to get excited about the next Habs' draft. While the team doesn't have a top-three selection like last year when they drafted talented forward Alex Galchenyuk from the Sarnia Sting, the teams holds eight draft picks this season, six of which are in the first three rounds.

Despite the first round upset to the hands of the Ottawa Senators, the organization made great strides this season under the helm of new general manager Marc Bergevin as well as new head coach Michel Therrien. As a result, everyone expects the Canadiens to be competitive next season as well.

With a very deep core of young defensemen such as Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, Morgan Ellis, Marcus Nygren, Dalton Thrower and Darren Dietz, everyone expects Trevor Timmins and his scouting staff to draft a forward with his first-round pick. Will the organization keep their 25th overall pick to draft that forward or will the team try to move up or down the draft to get the player they want?

The rumors coming from Montreal is that GM Marc Bergevin would very much like to move up in the top 10-12 of this particular draft in order to land a quality power forward to add to an already potent group of young and talented forwards, namely Sebastian Collberg, Tim Bozon, Danny Kristo, Charles Hudon, Michael Bournival, Brady Vail and Patrick Holland. While the above group of forwards is very talented, it lacks a true power forward and that's the kind of player the organization is looking to select in 2013.

In order to do so, Bergervin would need to package one or two 2nd or 3rd picks with the team's 25th overall draft pick to accomplish this feat. The team is also shopping center David Desharnais, who has become redundant with the emergence of youngster Lars Eller, who is now ready to become the team's #2 center behind Tomas Plekanec. Don't forget that while he was mainly used as a winger this season, Alex Galchenyuk is also a natural pivot.

Timmins and his staff will most likely draft on of the following forwards: Sean Monahan, Valeri Nichushkin, Hunter Shinkaruk, Max Domi, Bo Horvat, Anthony Mantha, Frederik Gauthier, or Curtis Lazar.

The Canadiens could also draft PK Subban's brother Jordan in the second round of this draft. The younger Subban is currently ranked at the end of the second round by most draft agencies and scouting services, which means the Habs could very well draft him with their 55th overall selection.

Finally, you can also expect the Canadiens to draft a goaltender in the second or third round as the cupboard is pretty bare after Carey Price and Peter Budaj. With career AHLer Dustin Tokarski and unproven Robert Mayer are the team's goaltenders of the future, Montreal really needs to address that weakness through the draft.

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's Time For Marc Bergevin To Take A Big Step Forward

The conclusion of the 2013 season is upon us as the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins are set to battle one another in a best of three series before a Stanley Cup Champion can be declared.

What I find especially exciting this year however, is that the end of the Cup finals, the 2013 Amateur NHL Draft and Free Agent Frenzy are all set to take place within a 10 day span.

I cannot speak for other fans but for me, this is the most exciting time of the year, with an honorable mention to the Trade Deadline.

This year however has a new twist on the excitement.

Sure we can all access the list of pending Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA’s) but this year; the list of available players is surrounded with mystique and uncertainty courtesy of a little something called the compliance buy-out opportunities.

For those not familiar, the gist of this feature is simple. Teams have the opportunity to buy-out any two contracts on their roster without the cap hit, minus -$500k or so.

Just imaging that a list that once featured top UFA players like David Clarkson, Pascal Dupuis, Ryane Clowe or Douglas Murray will now be bolstered with possible additions like Sheldon Souray, Daniel Briere, Vincent Lecavalier and many more.

How can you not be excited knowing that in just 10 days we still do not know who will be available to sign? I don’t know about you but I am giddy at the thought of adding a guy like Vinny Lecavalier to this mix at a bargain basement price.

So I’ve decided to let the giddiness get the better of me and will play armchair GM for my game plan/wish list from now until July 1st.

Non-compliance buy-out

I am sure we all agree right?

Tomas Kaberle, thank you but not thank you. I hate to see you go but bye-bye. Bought out, we’ll take the $500k cap hit.

Potential Trades

I think that it is more than obvious that given our lack of NHL depth on D, and given the fact that Emelin will be injured for 2-3 months of the season, it is imperative for Marc Bergevin to improve our D-core.

I am also of the belief that here are fairly limited options that are available via UFA status so in my humble opinion we need to make a trade.

I therefore propose the following:

Montreal should trade Raphael Diaz, Travis Moen and our 1st round pick in the 2013 Entry Draft to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Kevin Bieksa

This trade would free up $1.5 million in cap space for the Vancouver Canucks and would provide them with help on the blue line for their PP which finished 22nd in the NHL last season as well as some depth for the 3rd line which was seriously lacking in this playoffs.

For Montreal it solidifies a blue line with a right handed top 4 D-man with 3 years remaining on a contract.

Players to sign:

My number one target would be Eric Nystrom. He guy is big, can play mean, is great defensively and finished the year with a 57.7% rate in the faceoff circle. In other words he’s exactly what we need to compliment Prust and White on a 4th line.

Signing: Three years at $1.5 million per year.

My second singing would be the target of either Bryan Bickell or Ryane Clowe. I know many people are clamoring for Bryan Bickell but he is just not a player that I am convinced with. I see his limited success in the regular season and his typical lack of physicality and I have visions of Fernando Pisani all over again.

So because of that fear I have decided that Ryan Clowe will be my target.

Before everyone gets upset and asks me to take a look at his stats from 2013, I ask you to have faith.

2013 was a bad year for Clowe primarily because of his injuries. He played the year with a bad shoulder which limited his mobility, limited his ability to battle to the front of the net and to ultimately score. Clowe will rebound in a big way in the next few seasons.

The second reason why I have Clowe as my player of choice is because of the physicality. Although they are both 6’4 and 230 lbs., Clowe brings a whole new level of physicality with both his ability to fore-check and hit as well as his ability to drop the gloves.

Bickell for instance has been in the league for four years and has a total of six NHL fights compared to Clowe’s 58 over seven years. So if players have equal production, equal size, are really not that much different in age but one provides an element that we are seriously lacking, then for me the option is simple, Ryane Clowe has to be that guy.

Signing: Four years at $4.25 million per season

My team for the 2013-14 season would look something like:



My Conclusion:

We already know that this team has a lot of potential based on where they finished the season in 2013, what is missing is size, grit, determination and toughness.

It is important that Bergevin maintains the chemistry of this group by keeping the core players intact while complimenting them with size, toughness and character.

I am a firm believer that we do not need to sign a goon but rather acquire a player who can play a regular shift and still provide that element of toughness.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Subban Wins Norris, Bruins-Hawks OT...Again.

Good Morning Addicts!!!!

So P.K. Subban won the Norris Trophy as the National Hockey League's best defenceman. Does this really surprise anyone? Certainly not yours truly.

Sure, Subban is still trying to escape the shadow of his previous misgivings, but by and large, P.K. was the best rearguard in the league at both ends of the ice. His offensive prowess cannot be reproached, and his aptitude for timely, bone-crushing hits, along with his ability to effectively manage the defensive zone was surely evident to all the love the game of hockey.

Has Subban learned his lesson, or is it feasible that we may see the cocky P.K. of old next season? In my opinion, the simple fact that he selflessly attributed much of his success to his team in his acceptance speech, while saying nothing about himself or his effort on the ice, speaks volumes towards his maturation over the past few months.

The credit for that titbit of work not only lies with Subban, but with Canadiens' General Manager Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien. You may think I'm off my rocker in mentioning Therrien, who is widely thought of as a bit of a hot-head, but having witnessed his coaching abilities in the QMJHL, as well as the work he did in pacifying an exuberant Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, his influence is undeniable.

Suffice it to say that P.K. has definitely earned himself a substantial pay raise in his next contract negotiations. And while most pundits may believe that Bergevin made a mistake in signing Subban to his most recent "bridge" contract, the Habs' GM did what was right. He put the ball in P.K.'s court and let him decide his own future.

Either way, Bergevin wins. He either resigns Subban to a long-term deal himself, or he can wait until the season is up to see what other GMs deem P.K.'s value to be. I don't see it even getting close to the latter before number 76 is resigned, but stranger things have happened in this town in recent years.

Needless to say, not too shabby for the #43 pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft.

Bruins-Hawks Stanley Cup Final Already A Classic

In just two games in the Stanley Cup finals, we've seen fantastic goaltending, great pace, highlight reel goals and four overtime periods. While it doesn't do much for my efficiency in my day job, this series is certainly providing an exemplary level of entertainment.

While much of #PlanetHabs hates...no, loathes the Boston Bruins, there is no denying their right to represent the Eastern Conference in the finals. Having struggled mightily against the Toronto Maple Leafs, they managed nothing short of a miracle in beating them, then cruised through the lowly New York Rangers, while sweeping the high octane Pittsburgh Penguins. Lead by goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has eclipsed the shadow left behind by Tim Thomas, as well as the KHL line (Krecji, Horton and Lucic), they have been a force to be reckoned with.

The Blackhawks, having beaten their own Achilles' heel in the Detroit Red Wings, were the class of the Western Conference and were the consensus pick to get to the finals. With limited contributions from sniper Marion Hossa and "Captain Serious" Jonathan Toews, they managed to get to this point of the backs of goaltender Corey Crawford, who has silenced his detractors, and the scoring of Patrick Kane.

The Bruins have done a masterful job of neutralizing Toews and Patrick Sharp in two games of the Final so far, and the longer games have gone, the more ineffective Hossa and Kane have become. That's not to say they don't get any scoring chances, but the Beantown Bruisers are built for the long and punishing grind that the Finals demand.

I picked Boston to win the series in seven games, and by all indications so far, that's the direction we are heading in. However, if I can ask one thing from both sides...


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pens/Bruins Sub-Plots, Acquisition Of Lafleur, Who Will The Habs Draft?... And More

Good Morning Addicts!

Jarome Iginla of the Pittsburgh Penguins will face off against
the Boston Bruins tonight in the Eastern Conference
Quarter Finals.
Normally I like to concentrate on the Habs in this short piece before sharing headlines from various hockey sites, but considering the previous four Stanley Cup winners all kick off the conference finals today I figured I would focus my attention on one match up in particular.

While the series between the Kings and Blackhawks is guaranteed to be a great one, you can't help but look forward to the sub plots in the Bruins/Penguins match up. The two that stick out are obviously the return of Jaromir Jagr to Pittsburgh and Jarome Iginla facing off against a team that not only almost acquired him at the trade deadline, but for a while thought they had.

The Jagr story is getting a little old. When Jagr returned from playing in the KHL for three years in 2011-12, he chose to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers, the rival team of his former Pittsburgh Penguins. Since then he's signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars before being traded to his current team, the Boston Bruins. So although he's facing off against his former team, it doesn't quite have the same impact it would have if he were still on the Flyers.

Jarome Iginla however, is the story I'm more interested in. At this year's trade deadline the Bruins were all but sure that Iginla was headed to Beantown. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli had made the necessary moves in the organization and moved all the pieces that needed to be moved in order for Iginla to don the black and gold. I can't be too sure what happened but Penguins GM Ray Shero managed to come out on top and Iginla now has 12 points in 11 playoff games as a Penguin. It should be noted that the Bruins were also high on Brendan Morrow at the deadline but lost out.... to the Penguins.

Habs And Hockey News

- Matt Drake over at Habs Eyes On The Prize writes about the genius of Sam Pollock  and how he managed to acquire the draft pick that was used to make Guy Lafleur a Canadien.

- Speaking of Lafleur, the Habs legend has been quite hard on the organization over the last few years but it seems that "the flower" is finally optimistic about the team's future.

- With the future now mentioned, here's a look at who may be available for the Habs when it's Trevor Timmins and co's turn to make their selection at the 2013 NHL entry draft.

(Photo By AP / Gene J. Puskar)