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.
By JD Lagrange – Ah the topic of Josh Anderson amongst Habs’ fans. God knows why, it’s been everywhere on social media for the past two years. In fact, there’s a French expression that my Grandpa used to say: “Seul Dieu le sait et le diable s’en doute“. Translated, it means “Only God knows it and the devils is suspecting it”.
As we all know, Marc Bergevin was a master as big trades. He’s won rather handedly most of them, with the exception of Jonathan Drouin. In one of those trades, he turned Alex Galchenyuk into Max Domi, who ended up having a 72 points season. Then, seeing Domi’s production drop, he traded him for one of the rarest breeds, a power-forward in Josh Anderson. Galchenyuk and Domi have since been bouncing around the NHL while Anderson averages close to 25 goals per 82 games since joining the Habs.
However, for a reason that I just can’t wrap my head around, there is a decent size group of fans who want to see him traded. Some feel he’s not worth the $5.5 million he’s getting or that the Canadiens need the cap space. Others feel he doesn’t fit the “window” of winning for the Canadiens, as if they can’t use him now. And you have some whom, by reading their crystal ball, feel like his production is about to drop to nothing, although he’s shown no signs of that. Most, because they share the same vision, believe in all three reasons we’ve just mentioned. I don’t blame them, it’s actually typical of this fan base, amongst others I’m sure.
Listening to some, it’s like they’re trying to unload him, as if he’s a burden for this team. In fact, a fan I was interacting with on Twitter yesterday called him “useless”… It’s far from being the case. I don’t know what these people are watching. Is it because they’ve never played the game at a high level, creating a void of knowledge for the value of guys like him and what he brings because it cannot be measured in stats? I don’t know. Nevertheless, let’s address some of those “concerns” once and for all.
Outside the window
Josh Anderson turned 28 years old in May. The narrative that he is outside the Habs’ window to win is, in my opinion, a flawed excuse. Why? Allow me… How many vets did recent Stanley Cup winners had? I’ll help you with that one…
The 2022 Colorado Avalanche who won the Stanley Cup had Jack Johnson, Darren Helm, Andrew Cogliano, Erik Johnson, Nazem Kadri and Josh Manson contributing to their championship. The Stanley Cup winners the previous two years, in 2020 and in 2021, were the Tampa Bay Lightning. In their ranks, they had Braydon Coburn, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Corey Perry, Pat Maroon, Kevin Shattenkirk, Riley Nash, Ryan McDonagh, Alex Killorn, Luke Schenn, Zach Bogosian, David Savard… The St. Louis Blues won the Cup in 2019 with Jay Bouwmeester, Alexander Steen, Tyler Bozak, Carl Gunnarsson, Pat Maroon, David Perron and Robert Bortuzzo. The year before, the 2018 Stanley Cup champions Washington Capitals had Brooks Orpik, Jay Beagle, Matt Niskanen and TJ Oshie, amongst others.
Here’s an important fact: winning teams need quality veterans in different roles. It’s not just a suggestion, it’s a necessity! I could have kept going back further in time, but I think you get the jist.
One of my personal pet peeves when exchanging on social media is when people use affirmations to predict the future. Prospect A will never become a good prospect. Or, Player B will never score 20 goals. Statements affirming that this team will never win the Cup with Player C on it.
One example I want to highlight is from people claim that the Canadiens are 3-4 years away from being competitive and contending… How can anyone be so sure of that without knowing what’s coming at trade deadline and in the off-season? It’s IMPOSSIBLE to know that . Heck if you asked them, even the Habs’ management couldn’t tell you that!
Another example of fans predicting the future is when we see people claiming that Anderson, due to his physical style of play, will not be effective much longer. I’m not talking about unreasonable people here, as many of them I follow on Twitter myself. They cite names of power-forwards from 10-20 years ago to claim that Anderson will follow suite. Well folks, the game has changed and most of those guys couldn’t keep up with the game today.
What most of those players didn’t have, that Anderson does have, is skating abilities. Unless a players gets a serious hip or leg injury, fast skaters will always be fast, even when the start losing a step. And that can happen no matter your size, ask Paul Byron. Here’s a list of big guys who play a style somewhat similar to Anderson today, and provided their age.
Nino Niederreiter (NAS) 30
Chris Kreider (NYR) 31
Brock Nelson (NYI) 31
Kevin Hayes (PHI) 30
Jaimie Benn (DAL) 33
Anders Lee (NYI) 32
Very few hockey people around the NHL would claim that those players wouldn’t be beneficial for a Stanley Cup run, even if they’re all in their 30’s. So what’s so different about Anderson?
Allow me to point to a few irrefutable facts about Josh Anderson:
He joined the Canadiens on time for the 2020-21 season
He measures 6’3″ and tips the scale at 218 lbs
He averages 25 goals per 82 games since debarking in Montreal
Only Nick Suzuki has scored more goals than Anderson since the Canadiens acquired him, 20 more goals than Brendan Gallagher in that time span
Only Nick Suzuki has played more games in a Habs’ uniform than Anderson since joining the team
Only Alexander Romanov has more hits than Anderson since he joined the team
Since he’s been in Montreal, his 1.25 giveaways per 60 minutes is the third best on the entire team after Artturi Lehkonen and Tomas Tatar
His five fighting majors are second to only Michael Pezzetta since the 2020-21 season
Not only does he skates fast “for a big guy”, he is one of the fastest skaters on a speedy Canadiens’ team
He is not afraid to play along the boards and he does drive to the net
He is one of the Canadiens’ leaders
He is signed for for four more years (after this one) with a cap hit of $5.5 million bringing cost certainty
His cap hit will only become more affordable as seasons progress, meaning that $5.5 million in three years with a higher salary cap will take a smaller percentage of the team’s cap
Not for trade
Reading social media, it seems like for some people, a late first round pick is a sure thing. No matter how often they are presented with the real probabilities, they refuse to see the reality . In fact, I strongly encourage you to look at my most recent research about the value of a first round pick on this very site. It’s like for them, two birds in the bush are better than one in the hand. That mindset is mind boggling, to say the least. I guess it brings them hope and hope makes them feel good… like buying a lottery ticket.
According to Kent Hughes himself, the Canadiens are NOT shopping Anderson and unlike some of the fans, they are very happy to keep him and understand his true value on the team, on and off the ice. Also, Hughes has been clear that he will not be keeping salary on contracts that don’t expire at the end of the season.
So you think the Canadiens need the cap space? Jonathan Drouin ($5.5M), Evgenii Dadonov ($5M), Paul Byron ($3.4M LTIR) and Sean Monahan ($6.375M) are all scheduled to become UFAs. That’s a grand total of more than $20 million is cap space. Plus, you have Mike Hoffman (4.5M) and Joel Edmundson ($3.5M) in rumours. They only have Cole Caufield, Michael Pezzetta and Jordan Harris to re-sign and Caufield won’t be making more than Suzuki, mark my words.
That’s not saying that Anderson is “untouchable”, as everyone has a price. But in order to get the Canadiens’ GM’s attention and make him think of changing his mind, a team would have to present a severe overpayment. Unless it’s in the top-5 (which no one will know until after the season), a first round pick simply will not do it. In other words, teams must ask themselves what it would take for Hughes to even consider trading someone he has no intention of trading. They don’t need, nor do they want to trade him.
Now, some examples. Remember what we’ve just talked about before overreacting when looking at the examples below, saying that this or that would never happen as it’s too much for Anderson. Since a first round pick won’t be enough, a first and a blue-chip prospect would be my personal asking price, unless the prospect is outstanding.
Then, there is always the possibility of including Anderson in a package deal to acquire an established, young NHL player. I have two players in mind, but there are certainly more out there. Just note that a package deal doesn’t mean one for one. Other players, prospects and/or picks would be involved going one way or the other. My goal is not to finalize a deal here, but to provide a direction.
In all likeliness, the odds are probably better with a package deal than getting a first and a top prospect.
So… after looking at the names mentioned in this article, don’t hold your breath if you’re expecting a deal to be done which would include Josh Anderson. Teams will not want to overpay, and will look for other option. And if you’re the Canadiens, they won’t shed a tear because they know how difficult it is to get your hands on a player with everything that Anderson brings.