Putting it bluntly, the Montreal Canadiens are not on the upswing any time soon. General Manager, Marc Bergevin, has made few moves within the last few years that have benefited the historic franchise. Short or long term. The 21-time Stanley Cup organization has a monster opportunity at hand: the 3rd Draft selection.
For most NHL teams, a top 3 selection could do wonders. But there is a problem: Bergevin rarely makes good decisions. The Habs are lucky to hold such power in the Draft but I cannot imagine fans are confident that it matters. Yesterday, I posted a poll on Twitter for hockey fans to assist Bergie.
— Ron Rolston Burner Account (@SprotsTakes_Ben) June 20, 2018
The hockey world knows that the Canadiens organization needs a little help these days so here is how fans voted:
Select Quinn Hughes-6%
Pick a position other than goaltender in Montreal and count on it needing improvement. Defense is certainly one of the glaring issues. It is one of the slowest defense cores in the NHL, especially since the Canadiens traded Sergachev prior to last season. Quinn Hughes is the top-rated defenseman in the draft not named Rasmus Dahlin. He has elite puck-moving ability, skating, and vision. The tools are hard to deny.
Pros: Bergevin acquires a defender unlike any on their blueline. For the long-term, he can transcend Montreal’s game offensively. As an undrafted freshman, Hughes put up 29 points (5+24) in 37 games at Michigan while standing out at World Juniors. The raw talent fills a major hole for the Canadiens.
Cons: Despite rare ability, Hughes may not play immediately. He may require one more season in NCAA as he could continue to grow physically and fine tune his game. Although this is not a red flag, the Canadiens likely have more immediate options at 3.
Trade the Pick for a Center-19%
For a few years now, the Habs have not figured out who is a definitive center or wing on their team because, Montreal. Their indecisiveness led to the trading of a player who has done well at center: Alex Galchenyuk. And now they have…nothing. So what might Bergevin be thinking: can I improve at center by trading the pick?
Pros: There is value to the 3rd pick and most franchises are aware. It will be a desirable asset for fellow GM’s. There are rumored interests in Ryan O’Reilly from the Sabres, who are deep at the position and could use a high pick on a wing. Offering such value would help persuade Buffalo GM, Jason Botterill to pull the trigger. And it would significantly improve Montreal at the position. There are faster wingers in Montreal for the 27 year old to excel with. This has been a rumor from the likes of Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie.
Cons: O’Reilly, among other possibilities, will not be the top-line center they really need. The Canadiens would improve but it might only take them so far. Few teams would be willing to part with an elite center even for a pick of this magnitude as it is hard to come by such talent. Unless Bergevin can urge Peter Chiarelli (Edmonton) to be stupid, which could happen, quality, second-line centers are what can be had. Hell, if Chiarelli and Bergevin trade, Earth might consume itself.
Select Brady Tkachuk-24%
The wing position is solid in Montreal but that does not mean Bergie should not draft one. “Best player available” is the way to go yet we all know that teams rank prospects differently. Brady Tkachuk has the make up of a forward the Habs’ coaching staff covets: powerful, dogged, and large physically. His production at the college level (Boston University) is solid (8+23) but not eye opening. Scouts note more how visible and tenacious he is on the ice. With many “old-time hockey” pundits in Montreal, it is not out of the realm of possibility.
Pros: Another undrafted freshman who has played against men. He is a fearless player who will win battles and be a terror around then net. Having a father (Keith) who scored 538 goals in the NHL does not hurt for reputation. Brady also has a knack for production in tournaments, which may come in handy come the post season. Having been a captain in international play, his leadership and work ethic are intangibles the Habs gravitate to.
Cons: Brady Tkachuk is a player that is good at a lot but great at nothing, skill-wise. There are many talents yet none are elite. There may be a little Lawson Crouse syndrome here as he has physical tools that are coveted but will not create much offense on his own. He will not be overly productive during the regular season nor has he had the scoring history of his brother, Matthew. World Juniors was strong for him but is he getting higher regards due to who his father is?
Select Filip Zadina-51%
The overwhelming majority of fans voting decided that Marc Bergevin’s best option is Filip Zadina at 3. If drafting the young Czech, the Canadiens acquire the best pure goal scorer available. With soft hands in traffic and near the neat, Zadina’s release with any shot style finds it way past goaltenders. High level hockey sense is on exhibit as he plays well in all zones and finds open space on the ice with his strong skating ability. But how does this works for the Habs?
Pros: They cannot go wrong by selecting the LW out of Halifax in the QMJHL. His sniping ability, evidenced by 44 goals, can make Max Pacioretty expendable but will complement newly acquired forward, Max Domi. With strong hockey IQ and talents, Zadina would likely find himself on the Canadien’s opening roster. And he can have an impact on a team that needs offense.
Cons: There are not many. He is not a center but it may be a reach to select Jesperi Kotkaniemi at 3. Good player but Zadina has what every NHL team covets: elite goal scoring ability. Unfortunately, he will be going through a rebuild. After trading Galchenyuk, Montreal has 0 centers with top 2 line potential. They could still get one but it may not matter as the Canadien’s will likely be near the bottom next season. And as the team is seldom right, Zadina could find himself down the middle where he is not listed as. If the coaches believe he fits as a center, they better pray their top pick’s hockey sense perseveres as an 18 year old.
Sorry Hab’s Fans
I have witnessed the Buffalo Sabres make dandy trades and signings under Tim Murray but I cannot imagine being a fan of Montreal’s pro-hockey team. It appears to be getting worse before better and not for the right reasons. Moves that are made to improve the team have had an adverse effect. The franchise continues to over rely on Carey Price when they need to be better in front and down the ice. Yet, members of the front office are intact, Marc Bergevin being the biggest name.
It is seldom true but I think some media and fans would make a better decision in this position. They probably cannot run a sports team but with this one choice, outsiders might actually get it right. I hope for the fans of this prolific franchise that Montreal’s management does their due diligence. The top dogs tend to value the wrong traits (French-speaking, size) of their employees (front office to players) and it has sent the team backwards. The owners must have Marc Bergevin on a short leash or the ones paying for tickets are being insulted. Get it right Habs! Get it right!