By JD Lagrange – How long does it take to turn a franchise around in the NHL? Depending on who you ask, you will get different answers. Many will blow smoke trying to convince you that they know what it takes. But there is no set blueprint to turn a team around through the draft.
When it all started
For the Canadiens, the reset, rebuild or re-whateveryouwannacallit started in the Summer of 2018. That’s when then GM Marc Bergevin started piling up his draft pick and revamped his scouting and player-development. Whether he did enough on that aspect is a topic of discussion but what is not, is the fact that he did revamp it.
Then, of course, there was this change in management, and eventually leading to the hiring of Martin St-Louis as head coach. All of this brought a much needed wind of fresh air after nine years under previous management. Even those who liked Bergevin, like yours truly, were behind this new management.
Now, we are now days away from turning the calendar to the year 2024. So this upcoming Summer, it will be six years since the re-thing started. A first and fifth overall draft pick later, a few trades completed in the process, and we must admit that what the Canadiens have to show for is rather disappointing to fans.
Lack of progress
Where is the progress, many fans ask? I would venture to say that there are only a couple of solid progress stories so far. Kaiden Guhle has been phenomenal and we’re potentially looking at a solid top-pairing defenseman for years to come. The second is another defenseman, Justin Barron. Since being called up from Laval, Barron has played some pretty solid hockey.
Let me ask you this. Where is the progression from Nick Suzuki this season? What about Cole Caufield? Prior to getting injured, where was the progression from Rafaël Harvey-Pinard? Or Jesse Ylönen and Jake Evans? Jordan Harris and Mattias Norlinder?
And as much as we want to defend Juraj Slafkovsky, he is not performing to the expectations rightfully placed on the first player selected in his year of the draft. To make matters worse, he is playing at the easiest position on the ice, on the wing. As we all know, defensemen and goaltenders will take longer to develop, and young centers often need to adapt, particularly in the faceoffs’ circle.
With that being said, it’s way too early to give up on Slafkovsky and he may still end up being the best player selected in his draft year. Understand that I’m not pounding on the kid as I had him going first at the Draft that Summer.
The reasons why I’m bringing him up is because of his very slow progression. I feel like by now, we should start seeing him put up some numbers at the very least. Did the Canadiens do the right thing by keeping him in Montreal last season, and preventing him to play at the World Junior Championships? I believe so but who am I to criticize, right? It’s working out so well.
Then of course, there are prospects doing well in their respective leagues but every season, you will find that. The reasons why I don’t follow prospects from too close is because… they are just that: prospects. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a prospect, as good as he may be at his level, is only a prospect as long as he’s not having an impact in the NHL. As much as some want us to believe that they know what they’re talking about, truth is that no one truly knows when he will reach his ceiling in development… no even the team.
All in all, fans should be starting to get disgruntled with the lack of success, or at the very least, the lack of progress on the ice. Yes, injuries have played a role in the team’s struggles. But by now, the young guys should be able to step it up more than they have thus far. At least, that is one man’s opinion…