Savard, Bergevin and Quebec Players: Numbers Don’t Lie

By JD Lagrange – Since retiring, Hall of Famer and former Canadiens’ general manager Serge Savard hasn’t been shy about telling everyone what he thinks of the situation when asked about his old team. For journalists, Savard is a candy because he says what he thinks and, let’s face it, he has some credibility. After all, he’s the last general manager to bring Lord Stanley to the NHL’s most successful franchise, and he did it twice, in 1986 and 1993. But sometimes it feels like “the Senator” likes to hear himself talk and what he says does not always hold water. This is particularly true when he talks about the French Canadian players of the Canadiens.

Savard is a close friend of the Molson family and Geoff Molson hired him as a personal consultant when the team was looking for a General Manager in the spring of 2012. It was he who helped Molson choose Marc Bergevin as the position back then. But when it comes to language, the former number 18 choses to criticize Bergevin’s work for the lack of Quebecers on the team. Indeed, he once said during an interview at RDS “5 à 7”, that he had warned Bergevin of the importance of scouting Quebec players.

“I told him, but I guess he didn’t listen. I told him that people will let him win in English, but they won’t let him lose in English…” – Serge Savard

Serge Savard

For many more pragmatic people, like yours truly, such statements did not sit well. It seems like the landscape has changed since the mid-80s, mid-90s and today. Until now, I had no solid numbers to base it on. We knew that there are more teams today. But upon doing extensive research, I realized how unrealistic, unfair, and frankly out of touch with reality Savard’s comments were. To be fair, I doubt he knows how unrealistic he is, but here are the facts. Believe it or not, I present only a small portion of the research that I have done, as I don’t want to bore you with numbers. But it all goes in the same direction.

The Canadian Hockey League

The CHL is made up of the three major junior hockey leagues in Canada: the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (LHJMQ). For a long time, these three leagues were only for players born in Canada. Then all three leagues changed their rules allowing “outsiders”, or “imports”.

Today, each CHL team is allowed to dress and play a maximum of two foreign players each season, who are selected each year through the CHL Import Draft process. There are 60 teams in the CHL: 22 in the WHL, 20 in the OHL and 18 in the QMJHL. Therefore, this means a total of 120 foreign players across Canada. And because of that, 120 Canadian children cannot play and develop in the best junior leagues in their own country! No wonder someone as patriotic as Don Cherry is upset about this situation.

Additionally, the NHL is scouting more overseas and at American colleges than ever before. More American teams in the NHL means more Canadian-born players playing in the United States and having children there, who then in turn are playing hockey in the United States. All of these factors contribute over time to the decline in the number of Canadian-born players in the National Hockey League, even without accounting for imports. If I had pushed the reflection further, there would be even fewer Canadian players drafted, because these imported players are often high level talents (Ex: Artemi Panarin).

Before looking at the numbers, I separated them into two epochs. Savard was General Manager of the Canadiens from 1983 to 1995, while Bergevin has been general manager at Montreal since 2012, so his last selection was in 2021. Here are two obvious facts:

  1. There are more teams in the NHL now than in Savard’s day
  2. There are fewer Draft rounds to allow a team to select

I took the number of rounds per year under each GM, added them up and averaged them. I did the same for the number of teams, hence the fractions. Without further ado, let’s look at some numbers, shall we?

# of Rounds# of Teams% Draft Ratio/Round *CHL % Picks
1983-199511.5422.464.4544.12
2012-2021730.53.2841.59
Difference-4.54+8.04-1.17-2.53
*1 / # of Teams

Between 1983 and 1995, each team had 4 and a half more draft rounds than between 2012 and 2021. There were approximately eight more teams in the NHL between 2012-2021 than between 1983-1995. That’s eight more teams talking ahead of you for the next round, eight more players selected between each of your picks, eight fewer players available… each round. In the seventh round of today’s Draft, that’s more than 50 fewer players who were available for your team when it’s their turn to speak.

League by league

Now, let’s take a look at the performance of each of the three leagues individually.

CHL Drafted% OHL% WHL% QMJHL
1983-199543.7837.3518.88
2012-202141.4435.0523.54
Difference-2.34-2.30+4.66

Oh look, the QMJHL percentage has gone up! Good news, right? Wait…

The QMJHL and Quebecers

These QMJHL numbers don’t tell the whole story. You see, since the discussions are not about the number of players selected in the QMJHL, but rather the number of Quebecers selected by the Habs, I went further in my study. Let’s look at all players selected in this league and remove foreign players. I also removed players from the Maritimes who are not French-speaking. Yes, it was a lot of work (and research), but I didn’t want to do things halfway. So here is what I found…

Quebecois% Drafted of CHL% Drafted Overall# per TeamOdds of Drafting one *
1983-199515.977.0410.510.31%
2021-202113.405.573.900.18%
Difference-2.57-1.47-6.61-0.13%
Quebecois specific table
* % of Quebecois (of all drafted players) / # of teams

The percentage of Quebecers has dropped by more than 2.5%. What does that mean ? This means that the arrival of more European and American players in the QMJHL distorts the statistics of the league. More Europeans play and are selected in the QMJHL by NHL teams, but fewer Quebecers. This means that the QMJHL produces far less local talent in Quebec. In addition, there were almost seven fewer Quebecers per team between the two eras. That’s per team folks, not just on the Habs.

Conclusion

So, Mr. Savard… here is a summary of my research, which I compiled for you, yes, but also for the small group of politically motivated individuals in Quebec, who are going after the Canadiens and their current CEO for, according to them, failing to exercise due diligence in choosing local products.

  • Bergevin had four fewer rounds than Savard to choose players.
  • There were eight more teams under Bergevin than under Savard, so eight more teams choose between each selection.
  • The number of CHL players has dropped considerably since Savard.
  • There are fewer Quebecers drafted in the entire NHL than ever before (not just the Canadiens).
  • There are fewer Quebecers in the NHL than in Savard’s time, in the entire league.
  • The chances of drafting a Quebecer under Bergevin had almost decreased by 40% since the days of Savard (0.31% to 0.18%).

Want to point a finger at a culprit? Perhaps we should take a more informed approach and point the finger at the QMJHL instead. I would go even further and say that Hockey Quebec is doing a terrible job of not providing the talent needed to power the Q as well. The problem, Mr. Savard and company, is NOT Bergevin and the Canadians. It is up to the QMJHL and Hockey Quebec to work hand in hand to help promote young players to return to the game. And it is up to these leagues to ensure the proper development of these young men with a good ratio practice/game and better coach education, focusing on skills rather than systems for winning games. The odds will always be worse than they were under Savard, but at least there will be more choice, which is not the case today.

There is a glimmer of hope for the QMJHL and the Canadiens though, as Hockey Quebec has a very good man at the helm now in Jocelyn Thibault, and it looks like the 2022 Draft is rather promising… although not at the very top, but depth-wise at least. We shall find out.

More reading…

NHL Draft 2022 – A Good Year For Local Talent

By Bob Trask and JD Lagrange – As Canadiens’ GM Kent Hughes and Special Advisor to Hockey Ops Vincent Lecavalier met the media earlier today, they informed us that all scouts and hockey ops are meeting tonight to narrow down their choices. Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley are the three front runners to be selected by the Canadiens first overall this coming Thursday. But there are more decisions to make as the Canadiens currently hold 14 picks for the 2022 draft.

It hasn’t always been the case. In fact, the QMJHL has been the poor boy of the CHL for many years now, as the OHL and WHL have remained relatively steady over the years when it comes to draft picks. But this year appears to have some potential for French Canadian prospects as the draft approaches.

For the first few, we have included some comments from Central Scouting’s Jean-Francois Damphousse, as well as Bob Trask’s comments, who follows the draft quite closely.

16 Nathan Gaucher

Born:Longueuil, QueC.S. Rank:16
Age:Nov.6, 2003 (18)Team:Quebec Remparts
Position:CenterGP:66
Shoots:RightG:31
Height:6’3″A:26
Weight:207PTS:57

Damphousse: “He’s the full package. He’s got the size and is a right-handed centerman who can do a lot of things on the ice. He’s good on both sides of the puck, can play really well in his own zone. He can win draws and I’ve seen him play on the wing as well at Canada’s Under-20 camp last summer. He can play physical and can do some damage on the offensive side yet is really reliable defensively.”

Bob Trask: Gaucher is a big, rugged center who came it a #27 in our initial rankings and is a Richelieu native.

20 Maveric Lamoureux

Born:Hawkesbury, OntC.S. Rank:20
Age:Jan.13, 2004 (18)Team:Drummondville Voltigeurs
Position:DefensemanGP:54
Shoots:RightG:4
Height:6’7″A:20
Weight:198PTS:24

Damphousse: “He’s 6-foot-7 and the way he skates … it’s a rare thing. What I like is he sees the ice, sees his options, sees the center support and sees the stretch pass. Is it perfect execution-wise? Not all the time. But I see a defenseman that can adjust and play the next level.”

Bob Trask: At #33, the Canadiens could be tempted by this massive defenseman, who towers above his opponents at 6’7″. His hometown is Hawkesbury, Ontario, just across the river from La Belle Province. We have him ranked at #52 overall.

24 Tristan Luneau

Born:Victoriaville, QueC.S. Rank:24
DOB:Jan.12, 2004 (18)Team:Gatineau Olympiques
Position:DefenseGP:63
Shoots:RightG:12
Height:6’2″A:31
Weight:190PTS:63

Damphousse: “I think it’s his brain, his hockey sense. The way he reads the game, the way he manages the puck. He’s excellent at retrieving pucks, making plays and finding his options. He’s great at escaping the plays in traffic under the hard forecheck from the opposition. Overall it’s the way he recognizes the options in front of him, and he’s an excellent defender as well. He adapted well this year playing a great two-way game. I think when we saw him as a 16-year-old we saw a lot of his offense, but he became a great two-way defender in the QMJHL this past season and there’s lots of upside to his game.”

Bob Trask: Tristan Luneau is a RD who came it at #22 overall in our initial rankings. He hails from Victoriaville, plays a position of need and could be a candidate for the 26th overall pick.

33 Noah Warren

Born:St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QueC.S. Rank:33
Age:Jul.15, 2004 (17)Team:Gatineau Olympiques
Position:DefenseGP:62
Shoots:RightG:5
Height:6’5″A:19
Weight:225PTS:24

Damphousse: “I think he does have that offensive upside. He didn’t have much power play time the past couple of years with Gatineau but I think he has some more offense in his game when you look at him play. I think he’s got really good puck skill, can manage the puck well. I think if he has a little bit more power-play opportunity, we’ll see even more offense in his game. His 24 points in 62 games this year isn’t bad considering he didn’t have any power-play time. I think he was probably trending in the right direction over the second half, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is picked at the end of the first round, top of the second round. There’s not many on the market that can play his type of game.”

Bob Trask: Next on our list, he comes in at #75 but is ranked higher on other lists. He is another big defenseman who plays the right side and he was born in Montreal.

60 Jeremy Langlois

Born:Ste-Brigitte-de-Laval, QueC.S. Rank:60
Age:Sept.19, 2003 (18)Team:Cape Breton Eagles
Position:DefenseGP:60
Shoots:LeftG:13
Height:6’1″A:34
Weight:185PTS:47

Damphousse: “Langlois of Cape Breton is an offensive-type defenseman and really smooth skater. He’s an intriguing prospect who deserves a look.”

Dobbers Prospects: Langlois is a strong positional player who takes few risks to earn his offense. That’s not to say that he’s shy on the puck because he is always involved in puck battles and is typically victorious. He provides excellent support to his goalie and defense partner, and is more capable of commanding an effective breakout than many of his teammates. With moderate offensive upside, Langlois won’t be a high-profile name come draft day, 2021, but he does have the skillset to become an effective player at the next level sooner than many in this class.

73 Jordan Dumais

Born:L’Île-Bizard, QueC.S. Rank:73
Age:Apr.15, 2004Team:Halifax Mooseheads
Position:Right wingGP:68
Shoots:RightG:39
Height:5’9″A:70
Weight:165PTS:109

Grant McCagg: He led all first-time CHL draft-eligible prospects in both assists and total points, yet he failed to receive an invitation to the CHL Top Prospects Game. He will have to overcome size issues and continue working on his speed and endurance but there aren’t many better playmakers in this draft class. Excellent vision and puck skills.

Bob Trask: Dumais put up 109 points in the QMJHL last year. We have the undersized sniper ranked at number 80, making him a definite candidate for a 3rd round pick.

100 Marc-Andre Gaudet

Born:St-Ignace, NBC.S. Rank:100
Age:Oct.24, 2003Team:Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Position:DefenseGP:68
Shoots:LeftG:13
Height:6’3″A:25
Weight:181PTS:38

Damphousse: “Gaudet, of Acadie-Bathurst, has a big frame and he is probably a late bloomer. He provided some offense for Bathurst and ended up running the power play for them.”

Other notables

Players chosen in the first round and beyond are always considered long shots but Joshua Roy was picked in the 5th round last year and looks to be a legitimate prospect. William Trudeau (4th round) and Xavier Simoneau (6th round) are two more local prospects who would be considered long shots for the Habs but have a shot at playing pro hockey.

There is a good chance the Canadiens could equal or exceed the number of local players chosen in last year’s draft. Don’t be surprised if it’s a name you weren’t expecting.

More reading…