Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Musings: Following The Kings Blueprint For Success

Greetings Habs Addicts,

The off-season is officially upon us as the Los Angeles Kings have collected their second Stanley Cup in three years, easily dispatching the New York Rangers in five games. The Kings were a very strong team and even with Carey Price in net, its hard to imagine the Habs would have put up much more fight than the Rangers did. Henrik Lundqvist was on fire the whole series but it just was not enough. The blueprint for how to build a championship team is resting in Los Angeles. Montreal has some work to do to get on that level, but the structure is there just a few key pieces are missing.

Two key areas of note: Only two Kings players were listed under 6'0" in height: Mike Richards and Slava Voynov. Both are 5'11". Only one player was listed under 190 pounds in weight: Linden Vey at 189 pounds. And at 22 years old, he has room to grow into his frame. Size matters. It allowed the Kings to control the puck, win the battles and ultimately dominate the possession time against the Rangers. At times it looked like the Kings were toying with the Rangers and simply playing keep-away. The New York Rangers were a very fast team, clearly faster than the Habs were in the Eastern Final. As big as the Kings players are, they can all skate, too. Big AND fast with skill. That's the recipe for the Cup.

Photo Credit: MontrealGazette.com

While some of the key contributors the Kings had this year have been acquired in trades (Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Marian Gaborik) the core of the squad have been drafted and developed by the team (Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown). The defensive core has a mix of skill and physicality. Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez were both mid-round picks. Good drafting throughout the draft and a GM willing to take trade risks. That's the recipe for the Cup.

The Canadiens have some of these pieces in place: Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Markov, P.K Subban and Carey Price have all been drafted and developed by the team. Marc Bergevin illustrated with the Thomas Vanek trade that he is willing to make the big deal needed to improve his team and Trevor Timmins has been one of the most successful drafting scouts in the NHL. While some of his first-round picks have not panned out (Louis Leblanc notably) he has struck gold with many mid-to-late round picks (Markov, Mark Streit, Brendan Gallagher). Many anti-Timmins pundits like to point out the players the Canadiens could have had instead of his failures and hindsight is always 20/20. No one seems to make these observations on draft day. Nor do they point out all the mid-to-late round players who never panned out they could have taken over the success stories. Right now, the Canadiens top young players are all on the blueline: Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn. Where the organization has struck out in recent years is at forward. The Habs need some serious talent to enter the system and develop into impact NHL players. Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher have already made the leap to the NHL level and should take another step forward next season. Louis Leblanc did not and has since been sent packing to Anaheim.

The Canadiens need to improve their size this off-season. Plain and simple. Smaller, skilled players no longer win in this league. Sure you can have a couple, but the core of your team needs to be strong as puck possession is the way this league is shifting and either you adjust or you spend another 20 years watching other teams win. With Andrei Markov, Brian Gionta, Thomas Vanek and P.K Subban (restricted free agent) all without contracts and a lot of cap space to work with this summer, Marc Bergevin needs to make better moves than he did last year (George Parros, Daniel Briere, Douglas Murray).

For some additional reading on what moves Marc Bergevin can make this summer, HabsAddict's Fred Poulin took a look at what veterans are available this off-season.

TOP UFA DEFENSEMEN TO TARGET

TOP UFA FORWARDS TO TARGET 

This is going to be a pivotal summer for Bergevin and the organization.

He has already shown faith in the coaching staff by extending Michel Therrien for another four seasons but the club has lost assistant coach Gerrard Gallant to the Florida Panthers who named him their head coach this past Friday. Gallant is a fantastic motivator and great with young players. He will certainly be missed in the locker room.

The Los Angeles Kings have created the blueprint and raised the bar for what a championship team should look like. The Kings and Chicago Blackhawks have created the blueprint for how a championship organization should be run. Marc Bergevin came to us from the Blackhawks so he knows how to get a team to this position of success. So far we have seen tremendous growth during his his two years at the helm of the Canadiens. Going out and adding some key pieces to the mix this summer should open up a championship window for the franchise.

Pressure is on, Marc.

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Nick Malofy is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at HabsAddict.com and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.

Past Monday Musings 

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