Rabid Habs

PART THREE: In Bergy We Trust

Marc Bergevin has made it clear since day one that he intends on building this team through the draft. Since taking over in 2012, Bergevin has done a marvelous job at inserting youth into the line-up and restocking a prospect pool that had been rather thin during the Pierre Gauthier regime. The current Habs’ GM shared at the press conference held last Tuesday that he’s willing to take a step back and give the kids some experience if it means the team can take a couple of steps forward. With that in mind, in this final edition of three articles (see Part One & Part Two here): I will reveal my ideal line-up for next year and asset management regarding certain players on the roster.

PROJECTED LINE-UP

MAX PACIORETTY – DAVID DESHARNAIS – BRENDAN GALLAGHER

MICHAEL BOURNIVAL OR ROOKIE – TOMAS PLEKANEC – ALEX GALCHENYUK

RENE BOURQUE – LARS ELLER – PIERRE-ALEXANDRE PARENTEAU

BRANDON PRUST – MANNY MALHOTRA – DALE WEISE

TRAVIS MOEN

 

ANDREI MARKOV – PK SUBBAN

ALEXEI EMELIN – TOM GILBERT

NATHAN BEAULIEU – MIKE WEAVER

JARRED TINORDI

 

CAREY PRICE

PETER BUDAJ

DUSTIN TOKARSKI

 

– I think Bergevin will keep Budaj until the training camp before deciding what he’s going to do with the Slovakian goalie. Budaj is what he is: a great back-up who will fumble when there’s pressure on him or the team. He’s a great teammate and understands his role perfectly, for that I have nothing but respect for him. It can’t be easy to have your coach tell you that despite the fact that you’ve been working your ass off all year for this organization, a rookie with a lot less experience is going to get the nod over you. The decision was perfectly justifiable even without insight. Budaj failed miserably in carrying the load when Price went down following the Olympics. He was bound to give one bad goal a game (always at the worst time imaginable too) every time he was in net and the Habs clearly lacked the same swagger they have when Price is out there (you can make a parallel to the Lightning/Canadiens series when Bishop went down).

Dustin Tokarski has to go through waivers and given his remarkable and unexpected performance in the playoffs, it’d be crazy to risk losing him for absolutely NOTHING. He doesn’t have the same experience as Budaj but I believe at this stage in Price’s career, he doesn’t really need a mentor anymore. The BC native has seen it all since making his NHL debut in 2007: many scandals, getting booed by his own fans, cracking mentally due to the immense pressure, riding the bench when Halak carried the team in 2010…

I think he’s more than ready to take Dustin Tokarski under his wing and be his mentor the same way Cristobal Huet was in his rookie season. Obviously, I don’t expect Tokarski to steal the job away from him (neither should Price) but I think we could maximize his value by quietly letting him buildup his resume the same way the Kings did with Ben Scrivens and Jonathan Bernier. Stephane Waite can act as Price’s confidant and help him keep things sharp both physically and mentally.

Given the current market for goaltenders (from certain team’s perspective) and the Free Agents available to fill that void, I don’t think it’d be the best time to trade Budaj. There aren’t a lot of teams looking to add a back-up and the teams who do have already addressed that need this off-season. I think the more logical approach to have in this scenario would be to wait it out. It’s not like it’d be the first time that a team carries three goalies to start a season. I would patiently wait until a team either deals with injury problems or realizes that one of their goaltenders isn’t cutting it in the NHL. Some might argue that instead of wasting an asset on Budaj, a team could just sign one of the Free Agents left (similarly to what the Oilers did last year when they signed Ilya Bryzgalov ) but I think the 31 year old is a better option than the names available (Martin Brodeur, Nikolai Khabibulin and Tim Thomas).

Obviously, if Dustin Tokarski has a bad camp and shows signs of being a flash in the pan à la Yann Danis, then you can make a case to keep Budaj. Let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that the Habs dressing room hasn’t taken a hit this summer. Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges had been around for what seems like ages and they brought a lot of experience to the table. Budaj is a great teammate and lightens up the mood when tension is rising. They just let go of Ryan White who seemed to have a similar personality and on a team filled with 23 individuals, you can’t have 23 guys who are all business and don’t joke around, you need some clowns like White or Budaj. It’s always good to have guys like him in the locker room and there’s no point (especially when we don’t currently need the cap space) in trading him away just for the sake of it. I don’t expect Budaj to have crazy value considering the role he fills, but I would not spit on a 4th round pick or 5th round pick if it means we can make room for Tokarski.

– Travis Moen is another name that Habs fans don’t see returning next season. For three reasons in particular: A) He has an expensive contract (his cap hit is $1.850.000 for the next two seasons) considering his role B) Despite the fact that he played following the incident, there are concerns about his health due to his concussion suffered in his fight with Kevan Miller. This is his second concussion in the last three years and he isn’t getting any younger. Each concussion takes longer to comeback from in his case. C) The fact that both Dale Weise and Michael Bournival outplayed him down the stretch makes him unneeded on the roster. Both of them provide similar elements as the 32 year old (but at a much cheaper salary) and it’s fair to say that they have a lot less mileage in their body than him. Players who play a rugged style like Moen lose their effectiveness pretty fast. The injuries pile up and other teams have a better idea of what to expect from them. They also don’t have the same fire that they had when they first came into the league. They don’t need to make their proofs anymore; they’ve already built their reputation. With these things in mind, I think it’s fair to say that it seems like Moen’s days in Montreal are numbered.

For what it’s worth, I thought that Moen had a much better season than Brandon Prust. But for some reason (it might be due to Prust’s likeable style/personality influencing’s people opinion on the two) fans always favoured the latter rather the former in terms of evaluating their performances this year. Moen might not be as ‘balls to the wall’ than Prust (or as good of a fighter) but he’s a lot smarter in terms of defensive awareness and protecting himself from getting injured (how many times did we see Prust fall awkwardly into the boards and injure his shoulder/ribs?). I hope Prust comes back healthy next season because when he’s not 100% physically, he’s a shell of himself.

I think Moen can still be a serviceable bottom 6 player for a team, sure he’s a bit pricey for what he brings but to a team in need of a gritty veteran, he’s a good fit. We’ve seen worse players in the league get dealt for something valuable. If I were Bergevin, I would keep him around until a team goes through injury troubles. It’s a common fact that you can get more out of a team in terms of value when they’re in dire need of an immediate replacement. We’ve seen the likes of Mike Brown (4th round pick from the Sharks), Tim Jackman (6th round pick from the Ducks), Lane MacDermid (6th round pick from the Flames), Derek Dorsett (3rd round pick from the Canucks) get dealt in the last year and I think all of these guys are comparable to Moen to a certain extent in terms of value.

– I think that unless one of the rookies (Jacob de la Rose, Sven Andrighetto, Jiri Sekac or Christian Thomas) leave absolutely no choice for the management to keep them on the roster, we’ll see Bournival in the top 9. I think it’ll stay that way until Bergevin either gets a call from Sylvain Lefebvre (Hamilton’s coach) telling him that one of the kids is ready or one of the team’s top forward gets hurt. Bournival has shown last season that he can temporarily do the job. He’s good defensively and is a great forechecker. I think he could be a decent short term replacement for Gionta in a shutdown role. I don’t envision Bournival ever being a top 6 role but I don’t think top 9 is out of the question in his case. He doesn’t have the best hands but he makes up for it with his heart, his off the charts speed and his tremendous hockey sense. I think with a guy like Jacob de la Rose, who might be ready for any role on the team, it’d be best to let him develop one season in the AHL so he can work on his offensive game. There are no questions about his defensive game (it wasn’t a problem for him in a men’s league), but the reason why he dropped to the second round in his draft year was that scouts had concerns about what his ceiling can be offensively. Being given minutes offensively with the Bulldogs would benefit him in the long run and it’s not like there’s a need for Montreal to rush him with Rene Bourque, Lars Eller and Dale Weise in the line-up.

I don’t think we’ll see Galchenyuk at center again this season. With Eller, Plekanec and Desharnais in the top 9, there’s no need to trade any of those players to allow 2012 draftee to play his natural position. Considering what Sam Gagner, who’s pretty similar to Desharnais , was dealt for practically nothing, I don’t think Desharnais is on his way out. Eller just came off a so-so season and made up for it in his performance in the playoffs. Beside de la Rose, there’s no one in the Habs organization who brings the same package as him down the middle. Eller is great at faceoffs, can handle his own defensively and his offensive potential is still hard to predict. Some fans would like to trade Plekanec to make room for Galchenyuk but they have to keep in mind that dealing Mr. Turtleneck would leave a huge hole in our line-up. Plekanec is a top 10 center defensively and you can’t say the same about Desharnais and Galchenyuk. Desharnais is sheltered by Therrien and is the center with the most offensive starts. Relying strictly on Eller to play defensive minutes would be a disaster. You won’t find many centers who can contribute 50 points a year while shutting down other team’s top lines. Also, given the package that Ryan Kesler (who’s a superior player to Plekanec) fetched for the Vancouver Canucks, I don’t think the return would justify the thought of moving Plekanec.

Galchenyuk has played RW in the OHL with the Sarnia Stings and I think it could benefit his game. Playing on his strong side on the RW would allow him more options offensively either by using his stickhandling or by getting his shot off more often. I think playing on the same line as Plekanec could do wonders for him in the future and will let him learn the little things he has to do defensively to become a good two way player.

– As mentioned in my previous article, I don’t think Parenteau should play with Desharnais and Pacioretty. Desharnais is already a player with a pass-first mentality and adding another playmaker on that line would be overkill. That line either needs an elite talent like Thomas Vanek or a spark plug like Brendan Gallagher. As proven by their contribution in the last two seasons, that line has been productive for the Canadiens and can be relied upon when the team needs a goal. Gallagher brings the energy that line needs and his style of play compliments these two pretty well. I think Parenteau is better suited on the third line alongside Eller and Bourque. Both of them have big frames which should give PAP more space on the ice to use his vision.

– I think Emelin-Gilbert can be the new Emelin-Diaz for the Tricolore but better. Emelin was at his best physically when paired with Diaz and I think him and Gilbert will gel well as a pairing. Emelin will compensate for Gilbert’s lack of physicality and Gilbert will compensate for Emelin’s average puck skills. Also the addition of Gilbert, who’s a right handed shot, allows Emelin to play on his natural side which could have definitely helped his play last year. Although Emelin did play well in the shortened season on the right side and has experience on RD from his time in the KHL, it’s obvious that he still struggles when he’s put in that position. He’s not the fastest skater and turning on your weaker side makes you lose a ton of speed which allows wingers to fly right by you, just ask Chris Kreider from the Rangers. It’s been observed many times that most of Emelin’s bone crunching hits come from the left side, he’s just much more comfortable on that side. I’m curious to see what kind of season Emelin will have next season, I don’t think he can be much worse than he was at certain points of last season. He looked like a fringe NHLer more often than a defenseman who’s going to be paid 4.1M starting this season. Former NHL player and now TSN analyst Ray Ferraro shared that the type of injury that Emelin suffered usually takes a year for the player to be back to 100%. With that in mind, I’ll keep a close eye on Emelin’s performance next season.

– Since Beaulieu played with Montreal during the playoffs, I think management is higher on him than Tinordi at the moment. That’s why it wouldn’t surprise me if Beaulieu plays more often than Tinordi at the start of the season but I think Tinordi will force the coaching staff’s hand at one point. Tough 6’6 defenders with mobility and great skating don’t grow on trees. I think the management will ease him into the line-up the same way they did with Mike Komisarek over a decade ago. If you take in consideration that Mike Weaver will be a main stay on the bottom pair, it’d be more logical to play Beaulieu (who’s a puck mover) than Tinordi who plays a similar brand of hockey. I think we’ll see a rotation between the three, Weaver isn’t getting any younger at 36 years old and I think Therrien will rest him on back-to-back games. Also, it’s more ideal to play Beaulieu against teams with fast players or that are prone to take penalties. On the other hand, it’s smarter to play Tinordi against physical teams like the Flyers, Blue Jackets or Bruins.

– I believe the 4th line consisting of Brandon Prust, Manny Malhotra and Dale Weise will be a great line for Montreal. Malhotra brings the smarts, Weise brings the goal scoring plus speed and Prust brings the toughness and physicality. They can all take a regular shift, play on the Penalty Kill and be put in key situations like for example when the team has a lead with a minute left in a game. Having Malhotra on the team should give the opportunity for the coaching staff to minimize the minutes spent by Plekanec and allow him to be fresher down the stretch.

Have a different line-up in mind?

You can share your thoughts in the comment section below or at @HabsoluteTruth !

5 Comments

  1. DWayne

    July 10, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    Only I can change your screen name and delte your posts..Still butt hurt.

  2. Go Leafs Go

    July 10, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Projected Lineup?? Ive seen better lineups at a police station And why is there an article on Marc Bergevin but a pic of Michel Therrien..Hack.

  3. Antoine Mathieu

    July 11, 2014 at 1:45 am

    Wow you’re quite clever for a Leafs fan. The reason why I put a Therrien picture instead of Bergevin was because the article is based on my ideal line-up and line combinations are decided by… you know the Coach. Anyway cheers, I used to live in Ontario when I was younger so I know how insecure you guys are when it comes to your team 😉

  4. Go Leafs Go

    July 11, 2014 at 3:14 am

    Isnt that the same lineup, LESS VANEK, that got shutout in New York by the Rangers in your elimination game?? Sad.

  5. Antoine Mathieu

    July 11, 2014 at 3:28 am

    I could take the easy way out and trash on Vanek’s performance and say he was irrelevant in the playoffs and bla bla bla but that’d be hypocritical of me. Yeah I agree with you that Montreal haven’t replaced the offensive punch that Vanek brought to the table but I believe that they’ve done some minor changes that can help the team on the ice. I’d rather give the ice time to the kids like Tinordi and Beaulieu than Douglas Murray and Francis Bouillon who are washed-up and fringe NHLers at this point. I also believe that Parenteau is a pretty big upgrade on Briere (who I felt was redundant with MTL). They also added a decent PMD in Gilbert and a Right shot which allows Emelin to play on his natural…

    I’m curious to know your opinion on the moves done this summer by Nonis. From an outside perspective, I wouldn’t be ecstatic but some Leafs fans seem happy with the moves done by the management…