A ranking based on today’s standings for all 32 NHL teams, including of course the Canadiens and Panthers.
By Bob Trask – With the NHL trade deadline only 36 days away a quick look at my initial draft order projections indicates that Montreal is in the #7 overall spot with their own pick and the #13 overall spot with Florida’s pick. The final order of draft, even if the clubs remained where they currently are, is still determined by the draft lottery. Two other major factors will influence how the Canadiens finish the season.
Cole Caufield’s season ending injury will have a big impact on an already anemic offense. The Habs are already the 4th worst team in xGF and subtracting a player who was on pace to score in excess of 40 goals could see them sink even further in the offensive rankings.
The trade deadline could also have a big impact. There is a chance that one veteran defenseman and two forwards could be plying their trade elsewhere in March and beyond. Teams will be looking to add productive players or highly desirable role players and if Montreal trades two or three of them it feels like the team would be weakened for the remainder of this year’s schedule.
The Habs also have the second toughest remaining schedule with only Buffalo facing stiffer competition for the remainder of the year.
One may be tempted to come to the conclusion that the Canadiens won’t put up points at the same pace as they did in the first half of the season. But other teams could similarly weaken their rosters in an effort to grab a high draft pick. When all is said and done, Montreal will have to stumble very badly to finish in the bottom 5. Anaheim, Arizona, Chicago and Columbus all look very weak. San Jose could climb in the standings if they could get some goaltending but the Vancouver situation is a mess and it remains to be seen if new coach Rick Tocchet can turn it around.
When it comes to Florida’s pick, it look less and less like it will be a top 10 choice. However, the Panthers are in a dog fight to make the playoffs and currently sit out of a wildcard spot. If they do miss the playoffs, the worst the Canadiens could do would be a #16 pick with a chance it could be better than that.
While there is always a chance in a lottery, Montreal is projected be choosing around #7 and #13.
By JD Lagrange – One is a young quality veteran, a leader on the Canadiens, rightfully nicknamed the Powerhorse. One is a newcomer on the Habs in this, his fourth season in the NHL and he’s having his breakthrough season. And the last one is a young, but imposing rookie who is learning the ropes of the NHL and North American hockey. Josh Anderson, Kirby Dach, Juraj Slafkovsky… Together, they stand at about 19 feet tall and weight close to 700 lbs and they form the Canadiens’ three-headed beast!
Have you noticed how Josh Anderson and Kirby Dach are learning from each other? Meanwhile, prior to his injury, young Juraj Slafkovsky was looking at them both, trying to mimic them in his style.
Josh Anderson: He has always been known as the ultimate, fast and tough power forward. He has fully earned his nickname Powerhorse for those reasons. His downfall was that while not bad defensively, he wasn’t known as a defensively responsible player. For him, puck management was skating in straight line, drive the net and wish for the best.
This season, he has added consistency to his game but mostly, he has become a true 200-foot player. He blocks shots, and he is now trusted on the penalty kill. Further, he is more imaginative with the puck, stick-handling to put himself in a better shooting position, a bit more East-West game, particularly in the neutral and offensive zones. To the point where on the second power play unit, he is the swingman carrying the puck into the offensive zone. That is more like Dach’s game.
Kirby Dach: Has always been sound defensively. When placed on the wing with Caufield and Suzuki, he was the defensively responsible forward, and the one digging along the boards and in the corners. But he also has skills and a good set of hands, and possesses some great offensive creativity as well.
As the season progresses, Dach has also added a mean streak, a physical aspect to his game that I have never seen before in his days in Chicago. He is also driving to the net a lot more than he did before. Those are all traits associated to Anderson.
Juraj Slafkovsky: In the meantime, while questions can be raised about some of the decisions management has made about his development, you have the young student, the sponge, Juraj Slafkovsky, who looks at both those “veterans” go, progress with their game, and learns from them both.
We have read many times that Anderson had taken Slafkovsky under his wing since training camp and we were seeing some of Anderson’s more physical aspect in the young Slovak’s game as the season progressed. But Slafkovsky can also draw a lot from watching Dach, whose good set of hands is better than Anderson, more along the lines of his own.
Here is how the three-headed monster is shaping out to be this season, statistically speaking.
Dach seems to be trailing in hits, but he has been a lot more physical this past couple of months, adding this physicality aspect to his game.
It’s unfortunate that Slafkovsky got injured but it is fun to watch and notice the progression not only in 22 year-old Dach, adding some of the aspect of the game from a young veteran leader like Anderson, but also from the veteran to apply the teaching of Martin St-Louis, and the example of young Dach to better round his own game. What they are both accomplishing by doing so, is becoming better all around NHL players, even more valuable to the Canadiens.
And by keeping Anderson around, they are also helping better develop Slafkovsky into a better power forward in the process. You need such quality veteran presence and example for the young players and that’s something some fans simply don’t understand.