Montreal Canadiens: I'm confused…

I know everyone’s mind is set on free agency at this time of year, but I’ve been thiking about writting this for awhile now and finally had the time. I spent a lot of time trying to understand and the more I think about it, the more I’m pissed…Why ?!?

Because, just like a lot of fans in Montreal, I just don’t get it. I don’t understand what happened in Columbus. There’s not a soul in Montreal who seems to understand what the plan is, and the management isn’t helping by not giving the fans any answer other than the usual “we tried, but couldn’t make it happen” crap.

The Montreal Canadiens entered this year’s draft with two 1st round selections, five selections in the first 3 rounds. Now that’s a pretty good position eventhough it was regarded as a weak draft class.

Now what were the team’s needs prior to the draft ? Well, we’ve been looking for a big right-handed center with an offensive upside for years, so I guess that was one. A talented physical winger would’ve been nice too, though most teams are looking to add that kind of player. I guess you could say that defense is an area that the team needed to address through the draft, especially with Souray leaving through free agency…thanks to Gainey who decided to hold on to him at the deadline.

So pretty much, anything but a goaltender…

Now I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; Trevor Timmins is the true god in Montreal. That’s right, not Bob Gainey, not Guy Carbonneau, not our captain Saku Koivu. Trevor Timmins seems to have a natural talent to find good quality player, especially late in the draft. So I have no reason to doubt him…and god knows, if I’m wrong I’ll be the first one to admit. But I just don’t get this year’s draft.

With the 12th selection in this year’s draft, the Montreal Canadiens are proud to select…from St-Paul, Minnesota, defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

Alright, so this was a shocker for most people. For weeks we’ve been hearing about Angelo Esposito. In every newspaper, the question prior to the draft was: “Should the Canadiens trade up to draft Angelo Esposito” and there he was, still available at number 12. Also available was the “most talented player available in this year’s draft” Alexei Cherepanov.

To be honest, it kinda rang a bell in my mind that maybe something is wrong with these kids, maybe they’re not as good as the press made us believe. Still, when the former projected 1st pick overall is a local product, and he’s still available when it’s your time to speak, I think it’s pretty hard to pass on him. Same with Cherepanov, although given the succes the Habs had with russian in the past couple of years, I can understand why they passed…and after reading about McDonagh a little more, I guess I’m happy with the pick.

With the 20th selection in this year’s draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins select…from the Quebec Remparts, Angelo Esposito.

Now that hurts…not only because he’s going to Pittsburgh, a team already filled with young talents, but also because of Andre Savard. He made that pick, he made it happen. Back when he was with the Senators, Savard is the one who claimed Hossa and Havlat. He picked Mike Komisarek and Chistopher Higgins while he was with the Habs. This guy is just as good as Trevor Timmins…and he saw something in this kid. And now, Esposito is a Penguin, and will probably be succesful playing alongside Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Whitney, etc…

The Pittsburgh Penguins are already the most popular team outside of Canada in Montreal, and now they have the player most of the fans we’re hoping to get.

With the 22nd pick in this year’s draft, the Montreal Canadiens select Max Pacioretty.

Now, I’ve heard a lot of analysts on TV talking about Ryan McDonagh, saying that he’ll have tons of pressure on his shoulder because the Canadiens picked him over Esposito. I don’t quite see it that way; I think Pacioretty was. Shortly after the first round, Trevor Timmins mentioned that Bob Gainey tried to acquire another 1st round pick to get his hands on Esposito…but how serious was the offer ? I mean we’ve seen plenty of team trading up their 1st round pick and a 2nd or 3rd rounder to move up, it doesn’t seem that expensive if you really want the guy…especially considering the Canadiens had two 3rd round pick this year. Add that to the fact that this was considered a pretty weak class…why would you want to hold on to those picks anyway ?

Alright, so they decided not to trade up, and let Esposito go to Pittsburgh. Now the player we selected was listed in the top-30, so he’s a legitimate first round pick…but so was another local product by the name of David Perron. Now to be honest, I wasn’t too high on Perron, but after passing on Esposito, I thought there was no way the Canadiens could pass on him. On top of that, he seemed like a typical-Carbonneau kinda guy. Boy was I wrong. Pacioretty is described by Timmins as a gladiator, a tough competitor, like Erik Cole of the Carolina Hurricanes. Well, he better be…because this pick could haunt Timmins for awhile.

With their second round pick, the Montreal Canadiens pick P.K. Subban, defenseman, Belleville.

Alright, so let me get this straight. We’re losing Souray to free agency and it seems like the management don’t think we have the depth in our system to compensate that loss. Isn’t that what free-agency is for ? A quick fix until one of your young player is ready ?

You’re right…we do need someone in our system to eventually join the club, and so we need to draft them. Yeah…and we did. We spent 42% of our picks on defensemen since 2003. Seven of those we claimed in the first 3 rounds. Ryan O’Byrne (2003), Alexei Yemelin (2004), David Fischer (2006), Mathieu Carle (2006) and, just one day before, Ryan McDonagh. Isn’t that enough already ?

I mean, it’s not like we’re building from scratch. Markov and Komisarek are our leaders on defense, and we still have Bouillon, Dandenault, Streit and recently acquired Georges on the team. We have Jean-Philippe Côté in Hamilton who many believes is ready to play in the NHL. We have Mathieu Biron who can still fill the line-up in case of injury. Souray’s leaving and, lets face it, nobody’s gonna be able to fill his shoes on the Powerplay. Not Markov, not Dandenault…and clearly, not Subban.

Timmins said that he’s a very tough player to play against, one of the best skatter in this year’s draft, and that he has a point-shot comparable to Souray. Awesome…keep that name in mind, that guy’s gonna be awesome in five or six years. The thing is, Subban was nowhere near that spot in the projections. And with Markov and Komisarek in our line-up, plus our 1st round picks in the last two years being defenseman, you would think that we have no room for a player like Subban anyway.

That pick was a mistake, and here’s why…

With the 51st selection in this year’s draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins select…from Victoriaville, center Keven Veilleux.

That was it…that just made my day. Not only did we passed on a 6’4 right-handed center (the kind of player we listed earlier), not only did we passed on another local product…but the freakin’ Penguins got him. Now that one hurt even more than passing on Esposito, passing on Cherepanov, passing on Perron. I can, to a certain extent, understand why they passed on them; Cherepanov is russian and the Canadiens had troubles with them recently (Kovalev, Samsonov, Yemelin). Esposito and Perron were local products, but not really the specific type of player we were looking for. But you’ll never make me believe that Veilleux wasn’t.

Sure, he’s raw…but has all the tools to be a succesful forwards in the NHL. And since we’re apparently good at developing talent…well, let’s develop ! Plus, it would have felt kinda nice to see the organisation give a little something to their fans, who were stil
l trying to understand the first day picks.

With the remaining six picks, the Canadiens are proud to select four more defensemen.

Alright, you’ve got to be kidding me now !!! How many freakin’ defensemen do we need ?!? And the funiest thing is, after each selection, Trevor Timmins had something to say, something different every single time. But it always ended with the same comment: you’re looking at a guy who can log about twenty minutes per game.

Now let’s add all of those players together. We have Markov and Komisarek on the team right now, we have Fischer and McDonagh who are suppose to become generals at the blueline, we have O’Byrne, Yemelin and Subban…and now four more defensemen who can all log 20 minutes per game. Now that’s a lot of minutes !!!

One quick question…when did the NHL announce that they were going from 20 to 40 minutes periods ?!? Did I miss that or… ?!?

And now, the free agency begins…make your pick, which of these players do you think the Montreal Canadiens will try to shove down our throats this year.

I don’t know a single soul in Montreal who isn’t praying at night for Daniel Brière to sign with our team. I seem to be the only one hoping he won’t. As good as he is, Brière is not the type of player we need in Montreal, just like Samsonov last year.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Brière would probably be an upgrade to Koivu…but we’re talking about a soon-to-be 30 years old, 5’10 center who, according to the reports I’ve seen, is looking for a franchise-player type of contract; 38-40m over six years. As much as I like Brière, that’s just way too much money to put in one basket. And you just know he’s gonna get it from somewhere, I just hope it won’t be here.

So of course, Gainey will try and try and try…spending probably way too much time trying to attract one of them who will eventually sign somewhere else (let’s repeat the Shanahan fiasco again) while everybody else will sign elsewhere. And then, out of panic, he’ll make a move ala Samsonov, trying to convince the fans that he’s exactly what the team needed when he clearly wasn’t. Out of nowhere, he’ll bring an Alexei Yashin or a Jason Allison…or a Jonas Hoglund maybe ?

The 2007 draft class was weak, well so is the 2007 Free Agency class. There’s five players on that list that I would like to see in Montreal;

The first one is Ryan Smyth. But let’s face it, Smyth will get tons of different offers, and the odds of us getting him are pretty small. Michal Handzus, I believe, would be a nice fit in Montreal. His injury record might be a problem though, but it could also mean less money in his pocket. Viktor Kozlov is another name I had in mind last year, and I think he’s set to be a free agent again this summer. Sure, he never became the player he was expected to be when the Sharks claimed him at number 6, but I think he could be pretty succesful alongside Koivu and Kovalev.

Brad Stuart is the only defenseman I would try to get. With Rivet now in San Jose, and Souray leaving through free agency, we need a quick fix, someone who can log on a good 20-22 minutes per game (until Subban finally graduate) and I always liked Stuart. Don’t expect him to post the same kind of numbers Souray posted last year, he won’t. But neither will Souray, so we might as well invest our money on someone who can actually do what he’s being paid for; play defense.

Finally, and this is purely a personal choice, I’d like to see Mathieu Garon back with the Habs. I know it won’t happen, and I know it would be kind of a dumb move since we’re already paying Huet big money to be our number one goalie. Plus, we already have Halak, Danis and Price lined-up for the number two spot, but I just love the kid and will always regret the day Gainey traded him to Los Angeles instead of trading Theodore (who actually had a pretty good value at that time).

Alright…sorry for the long read, but I just had to get this off my chest.