In-depth Look at the Habs
How did Montreal get to where they are? How does the future look? This article is an in-depth look at how Montreal became the team they are today.
In recent history at least, Montreal has been a team that has built mainly through drafts and trades. They have left the unrestricted free agent market to the bigger spenders such as Detroit, New York, and Toronto. Montreal has drafted well in recent years, and so has a good crop of young talent waiting to get a crack at the big team. First though, I will have a look at the few players Montreal has acquired through free agency.
Mathieu Dandenault – Signed a 4 year $7M deal over the summer with the Habs. Dandenault gives Montreal more speed on the back end, and versatility as he will sometimes play at the forward position. In terms of point production, he currently has 8 points, which is likely what was expected of him. He is on pace to smash his career high for penalty minutes.
Alex Kovalev – Signed a 4 year $18M deal over the summer with the Habs. Originally acquired in a trade with the Rangers in exchange for prospect Josef Balej and a second round pick, Kovalev lit it up in the playoffs. Currently on a point per game pace, Kovalev isn’t putting up as many points as Montreal fans would like, but he isn’t grossly underachieving either.
Yann Danis – Attended Brown, signed out of college. Has played well in his limited time in Montreal, posting a 2.69 GAA, .909 sv%, and one shutout in six appearances.
Radek Bonk – Acquired from LA along with Cristobal Huet in exchange for Mathieu Garon and a 3rd round pick (Paul Baier). Bonk has been considered a disappointment by nearly everyone. Although he wasn’t brought in for his offensive capabilities, his 1 goal is far less than what we thought we would get. At -6 his defense is somewhat lacking as well.
Jan Bulis – Acquired from Washington along with Richard Zednik and a 1st round pick (Alexander Perezhogin) in exchange for Trevor Linden, Dainus Zubrus, and a 2nd round pick (Andreas Holmqvist). This turned out to be an excellent trade for Montreal. Bulis has given Montreal almost exactly what they expected from him this year. Decent secondary scoring and is solid in his own end.
Garth Murray – Acquired from New York Rangers in exchange for Marcel Hossa. Murray gives Montreal some much needed size and grit at forward. Works very hard in his limited ice time.
Sheldon Souray – Acquired from New Jersey along with Josh Dewolf and a 2nd round pick (traded to Washington) for Vladimir Malakhov. After an extremely slow start to the season, Souray is starting to pick his game up. He is still not at the level that recently gave him a spot on Team Canada.
Niklas Sundstrom – Acquired from San Jose along with a 3rd round pick for Jeff Hackett. This trade gave Theo the number one job outright, and brought in the player Wayne Gretzky called the smartest player he has ever played with. Sundstrom is a defensive specialist; however, his -5 rating might imply that he is losing his touch. To be fair, Theo has let in a number of weak goals.
Richard Zednik – Acquired in same deal as Jan Bulis. Zednik has been one of Montreal’s
top offensive threats since he arrived, however, this year he has been struggling. He missed some significant time due to an injury, but is still not on his normal point per game pace.
Cristobal Huet – Acquired in same deal as Radek Bonk. Missed some time due to injury, but has been excellent in the limited action he has seen. Looks like a solid back up for the Habs.
Steve Begin – Acquired through the waiver draft from Buffalo. He has been a fan favorite due to his style of play. He is small but throws some big hits. He has already tied his career high in points, and is 10 games shy of his career high in games played.
Francis Bouillon – Acquired off waivers from Nashville. Bouillon was originally signed as an undrafted player by the Habs, but was lost to Nashville from waivers, only to be reacquired later. Very small defenseman, but he plays big. He is hard to knock off the puck. He is -7 this year though.
Saku Koivu – Drafted in the 1st round, 21st overall. Has battled injuries throughout his career and is perhaps best known for winning his fight against cancer. He is the current captain of the Canadiens, and is having one of his best seasons on record, playing currently near a point per game pace, and is +5.
Jose Theodore – Drafted in the 2nd round, 44th overall. Has had an up and down season, with more downs than ups. He seems to be on a roll now *knock on wood* as he has been excellent in his last two starts against San Jose and Dallas. It’s funny how the trade rumors fade away when he is playing well.
Andrei Markov – Drafted in the 6th round, 162nd overall. An excellent find by the Montreal scouting staff in the 6th round. He is only 7 points off of his career high, and was on pace to push for 60 points before his recent injury. He is slowly becoming an elite defender in this league.
Michael Ryder – Drafted in the 8th round, 216th overall. Another late round find by Montreal’s scouting staff. His assists are down this year; however he should easily break 30 goals, and possibly push for 40.
Mike Ribeiro – Drafted in the 2nd round, 45th overall. He is only slightly off his pace from two years ago when he put up 65 points, however his team worst -10 is 25 points lower than it was the last time we had NHL hockey.
Craig Rivet – Drafted in the 3rd round, 68th overall. He is already pushing his career high in points, and has been about average in terms of plus/minus in relation to the rest of the team.
Chris Higgins – Drafted in the 1st round, 14th overall. Playing excellent two-way hockey considering he is a rookie. He has shown flashes of top level scoring skill.
Tomas Plekanec – Drafted in the 3rd round, 71st overall. Playing smart as a rookie, has a good future ahead of him.
Mike Komisarek – Drafted in the 1st round, 7th overall. His numbers are rather disappointing this year, only 1 assist and -8. He may be running out of time to make his mark. With his size, he can be an excellent addition to Montreal’s blue line, but he needs to put everything together.
Mark Streit – Drafted in the 9th round, 262nd overall. He was 26 when he was drafted, and is now 28 so it is difficult to consider him a rookie, even though it is his first NHL season. His numbers aren’t overly impressive, but considering not many of us knew what to expect from him, we can’t be too disappointed.
Alexander Perezhogin – Drafted in the 1st round, 25th overall. He has shown flashes of brilliance. He has a ton of skill, but is not good enough defensively to play on the third or fourth line, which is where Montreal would have him right now. In a year or two, when he is developed enough into a first or second line scorer, or when he learns to play better defense, he will stick in the NHL.
Andrei Kostitsyn – Drafted in the 1st round, 10th overall. He has played fairly well in his time with Montreal. I have renewed confidence in him to become the elite scorer us Habs fans thought he could be. He isn’t playing a major role, or getting a lot of ice time, but has managed to get two goals. He’s still only 20, so he still has a ton of time to develop. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in the AHL getting more ice time before the season ends.
Carey Price (G) – Drafted in the 1st round, 5th overall. This draft choice has been questioned thoroughly. Price’s poor numbers this season have caused many people to give up on him. The thing you have to remember is, he’s only 18. Sure he didn’t make the World Juniors, but he was beat out by two 19 year olds. In fact, he was the only 18 year old goalie to get an invite, and an argument can be made that he should have made the team instead of Dubnyk. His poor numbers have to do with the fact that he has been playing on an absolutely pitiful team. He’ll be the starter at next year’s World Juniors, don’t worry.
Guillaume Latendresse (RW) – Drafted in the 2nd round, 45th overall. Many felt he should have stayed in the NHL this year, however his unimpressive performance in the Q and him not showing up at the Juniors lead me to believe that maybe he wasn’t such a steal after all. He doesn’t seem to have a very good work ethic, and seems to get down on himself easily. Hopefully I’m wrong and he ends up being a major power forward for the Habs for years to come.
Kyle Chipchura (C) – Drafted in the 1st round, 18th overall. Not much needs to be said about Chipchura. Everyone got a good look at him during the World Juniors. Excellent two-way centre, and an excellent leader. I can’t wait to see him with the Habs.
Alexei Emelin (D) – Drafted 3rd round, 84th overall. Canada got a good look at him in the gold medal game where he was the top defenseman for the rival Russians. He has been compared to a Darius Kasparaitus, and if the comparison holds up, he could be a solid addition to Montreal’s defense core in the future.
Sergei Kostitsyn (LW) – Drafted in the 7th round, 200th overall. I’m not sure what to make of this young player. Drafted so late, but has shown incredible talent playing for the London Knights in the OHL. He has 52 points in 36 games to lead all rookie scorers, and is tied for 23rd in the league in overall scoring despite missing time to play for Belarus at the World Juniors. He is the younger brother of Andrei Kostitsyn.
The Habs are looking good for the future, but could use some help for the present. They need help on defense especially now with Markov out for three weeks. Look for Montreal to draft a defenseman in the first round of the next draft, as they are low on top level defensive prospects, possibly Bobby Sanguinetti of Owen Sound or Ben Shutron of Kingston of the OHL.
I don’t expect Montreal to seriously contend this year, although they have shown that when they play at the top of their game they can be among the elite in this league. If they get on a roll heading into the playoffs, they could go deep. Conversely, if they play at the level they were playing at for Julien’s final 25 games or so, they could miss the playoffs altogether. They could easily finish anywhere from 4th or 5th to 10th. It’s going to be an interesting second half of the season.
Statistics and information from www.tsn.ca, www.canadiens.com, and www.hockeysfuture.com