By Bob Trask – It is that time of year that Canadiens fans begin to speculate on trades, draft choices and free agent signings that may improve the team. The topics range from good luck at the draft lottery to the potential acquisition of Pierre-Luc Dubois and everything in between.
What too few are talking about is how much of the improvement we hope to see could come from players already on the roster. My own observations, though not necessarily accurate, see forwards peaking at somewhere around 28 or 29 years of age while for defensemen it seems to be around 30 or 31 years of age. At that point they are likely to level off for 2 or 3 years before beginning to decline.
If this is accurate, we could see improvement from the Canadiens simply from the process of maturation and development. Simply put, the Montreal Canadiens are a young team with room to grow. The elder statesman among forwards is Mike Hoffman at 33 years old. Everyone else is 30 or younger with the exception of pending UFA Alex Belzile. On defense, only David Savard is currently over 30 years old. Joel Edmundson for his part will soon hit that mark.
When you look at the club through this lens, there are no key players, no one that is irreplaceable, who is more than 30 years old.
With Hughes stating publicly that his strategy is to build a club that will be competitive over the long term rather than a one-and-done approach, the overall age composition of the roster looks ideal. There is also a better than average chance that some of the older players will be replaced by younger, equally effective players before the start of next season. And these players, who may already be better than those they are replacing, will have the potential to grow their game and improve in the coming years.
The recent Cup-finalist edition of the Habs was more of a one-and-done approach and when the team fell short, it took the elevator to the basement of the standings. It feels like Kent Hughes now has them on the escalator back up – a slower, more methodical approach where he can take the time to add assets along the way. He will be looking at potential trades, free agent acquisitions and the draft to improve the quality of the talent in the organization while ensuring that the age composition of the entire organization is conducive to achieving long term success.