A Case For Brock Boeser

By JD Lagrange – Living in British Columbia has its disadvantages when it comes to following the Montreal Canadiens. It’s impossible to get a job covering the team through any traditional media outlets as you don’t have access to the dressing room for interviews, for example. But with the internet and technology, we still have access to the same information just as easily as any fan out there living in La Belle Province, particularly when you also speak “la langue de Molière”.

But living in BC, aside from the unmeasurable amount of Crown Land for outdoor activities and its amazing mountains and views, has other advantage when it comes to hockey. For one, we get to watch the games at 4:00 PM our time instead of having to wait to 7:00 PM. We then have the freedom to watch games from the Western Conference at a “normal” time. This alone often gives us a better insight to the teams and players in the West.

Boeser seeking a trade

Last night, during the second intermission of the Oilers and Canadiens’ game, NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman informed hockey fans that the Vancouver Canucks have given permission to Brock Boeser and his agent to speak to other teams about the possibility of facilitating a trade. The Canucks’ right winger is not having a good season and he was going to be a healthy scratch last night against the Coyotes until Bruce Boudreau (possibly told by GM Patrik Allvin) changed his mind and inserted him into the line-up.

In 19 games so far this season, Boeser has four goals and 11 assists for 15 points. The points total is fine, but it seems like a pace for 17 goals is not enough for the Canucks… particularly not when you’re carrying a cap hit of $6.65 million for two more seasons after this one. Admittedly, that’s not enough to justify his salary and when you’re tight against the cap the way the Canucks are, people search for scapegoats and GMs, for solutions.

A tough time

Hockey fans, particularly those who aren’t following a team some 5,000 kilometers away from their home, are not always aware of the small details in a player’s life. I say small only because it’s often outside of hockey, but it can be major. Fans look at the stats’ sheet and immediately make a judgement on the said player(s).

For 12 years, Boeser’s father Duke had been battling Parkinson’s Disease. Brock was 13 when Duke was diagnosed. That was just the initial attack by a relentless wave of challenges that would include a brain injury suffered in a car accident, cancer, a heart attack and dementia. Duke Boeser’s battle for life ended at home in Burnsville, Minnesota, on May 27, 2022. He was 61 years old. Brock is 25, still far too young to be losing his father.

When he was 17, Boeser lost a close friend, Ty Alyea, in a car accident in Minnesota. Brock was away playing for the U.S. Under-18 team in Europe. Another close friend, Cole Borchardt, suffered permanent injuries in the accident.

“Brock has had some life scenarios where he had to be older than I wanted him to be. He had a maturity about him, anyway, but then had to endure some of those things at a pretty young age. When you have experiences like that, you can’t help but grow as you deal with them.” ~ Brock’s mother, Laurie Boeser

This, inevitably, has affected him and ultimately, his play on the ice. You see, we tend to forget that these players are also human beings. Fans, particularly on social media, like to come across as cold, ruthless people with little to no sympathy, even even less empathy, hiding under the pretext that the players are getting paid a lot of money to perform… no matter what. But those who have some living experience under their belts know that it’s not the right attitude, that there is more to hockey in life.

Canadiens’ possibility?

I have been given the opportunity, due to my location, to watch quite a bit of Boeser since he’s joined the Canucks. Of course, my colleagues Bob Trask and JAG could also tell you a lot about him as well, both living here in Beautiful BC.

But for those of you who don’t know him as well as a hockey player, Boeser is a sniper from the wing who has a great shot with a quick release and good puck skills. He knows how to find the dead spots in a defense and he can score from in close and from distance. He will get his nose dirty, especially on the power play where he gets a lot of his points.

Josh Anderson

The 6-foot 1-inch, 208 lbs right-hand shot winger was selected 23rd overall by the Canucks in 2015. He will only be turning 26 in February and has plenty of great hockey in him. I have been hoping for the Canadiens to trade for him for several years now and now, he seems to be available. But what to give?

As we know, the Canadiens are very deep on the wing and with left-handed defensemen. And let’s get one thing out of the way: Kent Hughes will not be trading a first round pick. If the Canucks insist on that, Montreal will be out of the picture in a hurry.

Some people on social media last night were bringing forward the name of Brendan Gallagher. Gally, although born in Edmonton, moved to Vancouver and played his junior hockey for the Giants in the WHL, where he was the team captain. Of course, cap-wise, it works. But if the Canucks aren’t happy with Boeser’s production for his salary, how do you think they will feel about an older Gallagher with more mileage and a similar cap hit? It’s a non-starter, in my humble opinion.

So look more towards Josh Anderson to tip the balance in the Canadiens’ favour. As opposed as I might be to trade Andy, getting Boeser, a more natural scorer, would help with the pain of losing a player that I really like. The prospect of seeing Boeser on the right of Sean Monahan, and the option of moving Dach back to the middle and the prospect of trying the Minnesota native with Caufield and Suzuki is also appealing.

Of course, you might have to add here or there on either sides, but I feel like the Canucks and Canadiens could be suitable trade partners, with Boeser and Anderson as centrepieces.

Of course, I fully expect Boeser’s agent to reach out to the Minnesota Wild, as he would likely welcome a trade to go back home. But that doesn’t mean that the Canucks will be able to accommodate him, particularly if the Wild lowballs them. Boeser has no trade protection on his current contract.

The Canadiens are playing in Vancouver on Monday…

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Habs’ Players Off To a Great Start

By JD Lagrange – Championships aren’t won in October, but they are often lost at that time. Of course, the Montreal Canadiens will not be contending this season but after the season that they’ve had last year, it was important for them as a team to get off to a decent start. After going 0-6-2 in pre-season play, fans were already disgruntled and pessimistic before the puck even dropped on the regular season.

After playing their first four games in six days, the team have a couple of days off. After the game against the Penguins, Martin St-Louis’ team will be playing five games in 12 days, with three of those games being played at home. It’s a much friendlier schedule. Still, after four games, they surprised the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Pittsburgh Penguins, while dropping games against the Detroit Red Wings and the Washington Capitals, both on the road. The Canadiens are a surprising 2-2-0 so far this season.

The team’s success – or failure – all starts with individual players on the team. We’ve already touched on three veteran wingers who are off to a rough start, so why not revert back to our old habits and focus on some positive? As yes, there is a lot of positive to be seen so far this season. For the purpose of this article, I have divided the group into two: those who perform as most of us expected them to, and the ones performing beyond expectations, the surprises so to speak.

As expected

For some players, we expected great things, or a continuation of what they had started to build in the previous season or two. There are two names that jump to mind and both are having a great start to the season.

Nick Suzuki

Nick Suzuki

We knew what we had in Suzuki. What some feared, was the added pressure and the weight of responsibilities which comes with adding the “C” on his jersey. With five points in four games (including two goals), and playing just under 21 minutes a game, I think it’s fair to say that we can put those doubts to rest. The captain will be leading the charge.

Cole Caufield

I think that the four power play goals that he scored and the way that he played in pre-season gave us a pretty good idea that Goal Caufield was ready to continue what he has started under Martin St-Louis. As if his three goals in the first four games of this season wasn’t enough, it’s the way he drives the offense that is most impressive. He is a threat just about every time that he’s on the ice. He seems set for a great season and the talks around him are about his next contract.

Surprises

In the surprises, we’re talking about players either for whom we had low expectations, or who are simply performing beyond what we expected even if we knew how good they were. I limited it to the top four, in my humble opinion.

Kaiden Guhle

We knew that he was going to be good but let’s be honest here. Most of us thought that he would be part of that rotation of young Canadiens’ defensemen taking the Metro from Montreal to Laval for most of the season. But he has, by far, been the team’s best defenseman and it now seems unlikely that he would see any time in Laval this season… or for the rest of his career! We had previously shown the comparisons with Shea Weber in junior, and he is pursuing a similar path as the Habs’ former captain and perennial All-Star defenseman in the NHL as well.

Sean Monahan

Most people around hockey thought that the key to the Monahan trade with Calgary was the Flames’ first round pick acquired. There were huge question marks on his health and if his hips would recover from surgeries, he who hadn’t been himself the past two seasons. But he is skating extremely well, and having seen him play a lot here out west, he truly seems to be back to his old self. If he keeps it up, “Future Considerations” sent the other way better perform well, otherwise it will be a steal by Kent Hughes! Who knows, but the Canadiens might even consider extending him

Kirby Dach

One word: Wow! Whether the coaching staff uses him at center or on the wing, he is driving his line. After some serious injuries, including wrist surgery, the 21-year old Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta native is on a mission. Fast, shifty, good hands, great vision, responsible defensively, he is one of the Canadiens’ best players since the start of the season!

Brendan Gallagher

It seems like in the surprises, aside perhaps for Guhle, those making the list had huge question marks on them, mostly due to past injuries. And Gallagher is no exception. Most Habs’ fans had given up on him even though he kept repeating to anyone who would listen that having a full, regular off-season to rebuild his body was what he needed. And boy has he made the most of it! While still his old fiesty self, he seems faster than ever. He seems shiftier too with the puck and he has been a very positive force out there this early on.

Jake Allen

Yes, he’s a veteran goaltender. Yes, he has been a starter in the past, although never the undisputed starter, more like in a 1A-1B type of role. With his wife having just given birth to a beautiful baby daughter, Jake is having a spectacular start to this season. As if a 2.03 goals against average wasn’t enough, he has stopped 66 of the 70 shots that he’s faced, for an amazing .943 saves percentage. It is unlikely that he’ll be able to sustain that kind of performances but he fully deserves the accolades right now.

The others

Those who didn’t make the list in the previous article or in this one, either haven’t had enough of an opportunity to show what they could do, or are playing okay… no more, no less. That includes rookies Juraj Slafkovsky and Jordan Harris. I hesitated putting newcomer Johnathan Kovacevic on the list above as he has been getting better every game that he’s played, but decided to see where he goes from here.

With the two Joel’s skating (Edmundson and Armia), it will be interesting to see who will be out of the line-up and who will be sent to Laval when they return. And in another seven weeks or so, more decisions will have to be made (pending injuries) when Mike Matheson makes his season debut.

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