Six Years And Counting

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…

Habs Goalies: What Stats Don’t Say

By JD Lagrange – Very few fans and even members of the media know and understand goaltenders. Yet, everyone can make an opinion by watching a game or… relying on statistics. Too often, they look at stats and make a judgment and comparisons between goaltenders. Yes, statistics can give a bit of a general idea, but they certainly don’t tell the whole story.

Where it becomes wrong is when they use stats to decide whom should be traded, in a ménage-à-trois like we’re seeing in Montreal since the start of the season. But it’s hard to blame those fans as they don’t necessarily know better. In fact, General Managers in the NHL often hire goalie experts to help them scout and understand goaltenders because it’s such a unique position. I have played the position for about 25 years or so and I don’t know everything about it. So to think that the average fan could know would be unfair.


So in a nutshell, here’s why so many people want the Canadiens to trade Jake Allen and keep Samuel Montembeault: stats.


So if if fans and media build their case on this, one can understand where they’re coming from, right? And that’s not counting the fact that Montembeault speaks the language of the place, which earns him more love from some media members and fans alike.

Beyond stats

Now I’m going to attempt to show you why goalies cannot be THE deciding factor when wanting to judge the efficiency of a goaltender. I will do this by breaking this down a bit.

As mentioned in an earlier tweet posted at the beginning of this article, the “goals saved above expected” doesn’t take into consideration a goaltender’s rebound control and positioning. A goalie who is in good position and who smothers and controls his rebounds will often have worse numbers in that category. Those who aren’t as good will give up second scoring chances, and will make saves look more spectacular because of their poor positioning and rebounds allowed.

Then, you have to look at quality of opposition. Here are the teams the Canadiens three goaltenders have faced so far, as well as their record:

(4 home)101-54-23.632 Pts%
(6 home)81-75-22.517 Pts%
(2 home)37-35-7.513 Pts%

Allen face one single team with a record below .500 in his nine games. Montembeault has played five. Three of the four teams Primeau has faced play for .500 or better. In fact, if you take San Jose out, the other three teams’ points percentage sits at .610 so one could easily make a point that he’s faced tougher opposition, although in a more limited role, granted.

Looking at this, anyone can see that Jake Allen has been given the tougher opposition. Samuel Montembeault’s starts have been hand picked, with most of them at home where his coach has the last change for lines matchups. And we see that they have really tested young Primeau with his starts, with the exception of the game in San Jose.

So folks, please understand that I’m not putting Montembeault down here. I’m simply attempting to show you that what I’m saying is not based on hater, but real life experience and situation. Stop putting him on a pedestal. He’s 27 years old and has yet to prove anything at the NHL level. I was hoping that he would step up this year (I genuinely was) but the fact of the matter is that he hasn’t.

Looking at the matchups, perhaps the Habs are hoping to see him get good numbers. Could it be to up his value in a possible trade, in order to keep Allen as Primeau’s mentor? That is my hope but I know that many don’t see it this way. I’m just hoping that management doesn’t fall in the “stats trap”…