On Team Canada, “A” is for Anderson

Love him or hate him, or anything in between, one would have to be of bad faith to deny that former Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin wasn’t an expert at big trades. The rest is debatable but there is no doubt that during his nine plus years at the helm of the Habs, he has not lost many trades, let alone ones involving big name players.

Remember when Bergevin acquired Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers for a second and fourth round pick? Or perhaps you recall when he got Phillip Danault and a second round pick (Alexander Romanov) from the Chicago Blackhawks for pending UFAs Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann? He also traded Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes for Max Domi, who then had a 72-points season with the Habs. Max Pacioretty was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a second round pick, a pick which was later traded to draft Mattias Norlinder. The one that spilled a lot of ink, the trade he was most criticized about, was when he traded for Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators for fan favourite P.K. Subban. Even the most vocal at the time now recognize that Bergevin won that trade by a landslide.

The one trade that I want to talk about today, though, is then one when the former Canadiens’ GM traded a struggling Domi in his second season in Montreal, to the Columbus Blue Jackets for power forward Josh Anderson.

The power horse

Back on October 6, 2020, the Canadiens announced that they had traded Max Domi and a third round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Anderson.

The trade, as most big trades are, was a bit controversial in Montreal as the then 26-year-old Anderson had only one goal and four points in 26 games with the Blue Jackets the previous season. He hadn’t played since March after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. Both Domi and Anderson were pending RFAs and two days after the trade, Bergevin signed the 6-foot 3-inches, 222 lbs winger to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract extension.

Anderson displays a rare combination of size, speed, physicality and goals’ scoring abilities while being defensively responsible. He can and will drop the gloves if or when needed as well. In two seasons since the trade (one shortened by COVID), he has scored 36 goals in 121 regular season’s games, which is the equivalent of 24 goals over an 82-games season. The power forward has also lit the lamp five times during the Canadiens’ playoffs’ run last year.

Leadership

Anderson loves playing in Montreal, in a hockey market. At the end of the season, he told every reporter that he did not want to be traded after the team’s horrible season. He wants to be part of the solution and, as he stated, he did not sign in Montreal for seven years to be traded after a couple of years.

Multiple times in the two seasons, he has shown leadership qualities. When he spoke to the media after the team’s poor effort, he has always backed his words by his actions, having a good game the following night. Many of us qualify him as a Brendan Gallagher on steroids. A hard working player making his opponents aware when he’s on the ice, a player who can hurt the opponents in many different ways.

Team Canada invited him to the World Championships this year, an invitation that Anderson accepted. The brass of Hockey Canada recognized the Canadiens’ forward’s leadership qualities when they gave him the title of assistant-captain of the team. And while they may not give him the captaincy in Montreal, it’s just a matter of time before the Canadiens imitate Team Canada and put an “A” on his jersey… as “A” is for Anderson.

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Analytics Department: Covering All Angles

By JD Lagrange – The Montreal Canadiens have announced the appointment of Christopher Boucher as Director of Hockey Analytics. Boucher previously worked at Sportlogiq and spent the last two years as a scout for the San Jose Sharks.

“We are very happy to add Christopher Boucher to our team,” said Hughes. “Christopher is an industry-proven hockey analytics specialist. We recognize the importance of analytics in today’s NHL and believe that Christopher is the right person to lead this department.”

Incomplete data

Personally, I’m old school and admittedly, not a huge fan of analytics, or any one particular stat for that matter. Not to be confused with someone against it as it’s not the case. I believe that every stat has its value but it will NEVER beat a good analytical mind with an experienced eye. If you have played the game competitively, you know that there are simply too many non-measurable components factoring in the game of hockey that simply cannot be put into numbers. In addition, NHL stats officials across the league are not all equal and don’t record stats the same way. How many times have we seen a team turning the puck over multiple times and at the end of the period, you look at the stats and they have counted only a couple of giveaways?

One example of what cannot be measured statistically is the effect of intimidation. That’s not just the obvious hits and/or fights. It consists of things that do not happen during a game because one team is intimidated. Why do you think that the New York Rangers went out and got Ryan Reaves? It’s because guys like Tom Wilson were acting like clowns at a circus when the Rangers faced the Washington Capitals. Look how obvious it was that Brady Tkachuk was avoiding Shea Weber. That’s not measured. Or the effect physicality and intimidation had on the Toronto Maple Leafs in their series against the Habs last year…

Stats also don’t account for momentum swing, although they’re trying to tell you it’s measured efficiently but it’s not. How players play with an injury, how they are affected by it. That’s not measured but the eye (or knowledge) test will tell you all about it. Chemistry between players cannot be measured. Oh offensive production with certain players is, but how players find themselves on the ice, how well their style complement each other cannot.

Just like using just stats to judge a goalie on a goal is wrong. Yes, he allowed it but was he screened? Did the puck deflect off a stick, a leg? The stats will show a goal allowed, affecting the GAA and Sv% stats. Same with plus/minus stats. If a goalie allows a weak goal or a defenseman gives the puck away in front of his net, everyone on the ice gets a minus. Yet, it’s only one player’s fault. And there are plenty more situations where stats don’t give the true picture.

Conclusion

There is room for analytics in hockey but unlike non-contact sports, it is far from crucial in the game of hockey. If I had to guess, I would say that it should not account for more than 20-25% of the decision-making. The rest should be on the eye test. Like tablets on the bench cannot replace the coaches. With that said, it’s a tool and one that won’t hurt if looked at. For that reason, we welcome Mr. Boucher and here’s to a positive contribution to the team we love.

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