By JD Lagrange – You have all kinds of people following their favourite hockey team. You have the ones who will cheer every move their team makes, and find excuses when things go wrong. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll have the ones who will criticize everything, almost all the time, even turning wine into vinegar. We know a few of them and they’re draining to read. But the sign of an unbiased, level headed hockey fan is having the ability to cheer and recognize the good, but also to find the guts and integrity to acknowledge mistakes.
When your team is in the bottom of the NHL standings, your job as a NHL General Manager is to acquire assets for the upcoming NHL Draft and years to come. GMs can accomplish that by unloading pending UFAs that they don’t plan on re-signing in the summer, and other veteran players they’re not planning on building around. They also must use this opportunity to make roster moves, allowing them to gauge their current prospects.
You have to remember that this is the time of year when NHL GMs of contending teams are the most desperate and make the biggest mistakes of the season. A few, like Kyle Dubas in Toronto, know that it’s their last chance to make some noise in the playoffs and they’re playing their jobs. Most contenders will enter into bidding wars to get the player(s) they feel their team needs most. It’s an incredible opportunity for sellers to cash in.
Well, Kent Hughes did not do that. At least not this year. He did very well last season but to give him free pass today would not be fair. If we gave him credit last season after inheriting a bottom dweller halfway through the season, this year is all on him… or almost. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t pick and choose when we can judge the work of the GM or not.
As it turns out, Hughes’ biggest trade happened five days before trade deadline, when he managed to convince the Dallas Stars to take pending UFA Evgenii Dadonov off his hands, and acquire 25 year-old Denis Gurianov in return.
On trade deadline day, Hughes managed to be part of two very minor deals. One as a third-party broker, taking on salary in a three-way deal. The other trade he made was a minor deal for AHL players.
When the dust settled, the Canadiens still have pending UFAs Jonathan Drouin and Sean Monahan on their roster. And the team still has a clutter of left-handed defensemen since veteran Joel Edmundson is still here. The Canadiens’ GM was also incapable to convince anyone to take on Mike Hoffman.
Here’s what Hughes did manage to acquire:
On trade deadline day, for a team well out of the playoffs picture, it’s very, very minimal.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it’s all on Hughes. That would be rather unfair. There were factors that made his job extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Pending UFAs Dadonov and Drouin, both playing for a contract next year, had a very sub-par season and both with a cap hit of over $5 million, it just wasn’t enough to convince contenders that they were worth a high price or, in Drouin’s case, even worth the gamble.
Sean Monahan was having a good bounce-back season up until he was shut down. He hasn’t played a game since December 5th and has suffered setbacks each time he tried to skate. With a cap hit of over $6 million, who is going to take that chance?
Edmundson has been missing time regularly due to a bad back ever since the Canadiens got eliminated in the Stanley Cup finals in the summer of 2021. Although he did come back the night before trade deadline, teams were reluctant taking him and his one year remaining on his contract.
While it was a few fans’ wet dream to see Josh Anderson, Jake Allen, David Savard and/or even Mike Matheson being traded, it was just not going to happen as we’ve explained in an earlier article. Those guys are key veterans to build around, at positions of needs.
So admittedly, we can’t put all of the blame on Hughes. But because some of the factors were out of his hands doesn’t mean that we have to give him a passing grade either. If, as a student, I have a mid-term exam and I’m under the weather, struggling to study for one reason or another, and I flop my exam, the failing grade will stand. The professor or teacher won’t be saying “oh but he was sick“. It sucks and might come as a surprise for this entitled generation, but that’s life.
So Hughes failed to capitalize on a poor season, at this year’s trade deadline. This once proud franchise can’t afford to finish in the NHL basement year in, year out. It’s the Montreal Canadiens we’re talking about. So when they find themselves in that awful position, it is crucial to capitalize on every opportunity to improve. They didn’t do it. Period.
For that, Kent Hughes gets a “D” from yours truly. And because of this failure, he now has his work cut out this upcoming off-season. It is now up to him, as he must find a way to redeem himself this upcoming summer… not to fail the year! Woulda, coulda, shoulda just doesn’t cut it in professional hockey, particularly not in a hot bed like Montreal.