Three Players to Target Right Now

By JAG – Like every fan, at one time or another, I find that some players on other team would look rather good in a Habs’ uniform. Just wishful thinking you might say, but here it is. My short list of targets and why I think a trade can and should happen.

LAWSON CROUSE, 25 years old, 6’4’’, 220 lbs, LW, ARIZONA

He is a bruising top-9 forward that scored 20 goals for the Coyotes. As a junior, he was named ‘’The Marshall’’ by his teammates for his discipline and leadership. Getting out of Arizona could be the trigger for him to blossom into the dominating player that he can be. Picture him on a ‘’deluxe’’ third line with any of the Habs centers and Anderson on the right side, Schtroumphs (or Smurfs) no-more I say!

Arizona is weak at center past the top two lines. Dvorak could be that center and give the Yotes a good veteran to support a young team. Also, Arizona is rich in good prospect that are very young and will not be NHL ready for a few years. Montreal has a number of good college prospects that are almost at the NHL ready stage. Tuch, Biondi, Struble or Farrell could help Arizona as early as the end of this year. If need be, they and other assets can be used as a sweetener to also move another veteran player’s salary to the Yotes and/or acquire picks. This is an avenue I would explore as it would benefit the team on the ice and Cap management for the upstairs people.

JORDAN SPENCE, 21 years old, 5’11’’, 175 lbs, RD, LA

He’s not a big man but his game has grown by leaps and bounds since he was drafted. A product of the QMJHL, it’s not surprising that pundits questioned his play without the puck in his draft year. They always do for players from the Q. Well…. questionable no more! His AHL play last year was good enough to get him a lengthy trial in the BIG. At the age of 20, he played with men all year. He put up 42 points in the AHL with a +18 rating and he put up 8 points in LA in the 24 games he played in the BIG. Even considering his size, this type of player is NOT normally available ….

Unless you’re LA and you have prospects named Helge Grans and Brent Clarke. Both jumbo sized, highly talented RDs that jumped over Jordan Spence in the Kings depth chart the minute they were drafted. Another reason why the trade could be done is that LA is very short on NHL-ready talent at left defense. Outside of Tobias Bjornfot and an aging Alex Edler, it’s pretty slim. Finally, Spence was drafted in the fourth round. It is always easier for management to justify a low draft pick trade to improve the team now.

The best deal would be a swap of defensemen that doesn’t impact the Cap for either teams. Montreal would have to include a left defenseman that has NHL experience. Norlinder or Scheunaman would fit the bill but LA would also require another prospect and/or a mid-draft pick to make it a fair trade. Notwithstanding this steeper price, in my opinion, Spence is definitely worth it and he would greatly improve the RD depth chart for the Habs for years to come.

MAXIME COMTOIS, 23 years old, 6’2’’, 215 lbs, LW/RW, ANAHEIM

Maxime Comtois

He is a bruising top 9 forward that can score 20 goals. He can play both wings, he’s got wheels and grit and he’s in dire need of a change after a very ‘’hohum’’ season. Plus, he was rumoured to be on the trade market last season. Montreal needs this type of player. This would be a riskier acquisition but the upside is very interesting. For Anaheim, the third line would greatly benefit from a veteran experience to support Mason MacTavish’s first year in the NHL. Anaheim has Cap space and could use any of Drouin, Dadonov, Armia or Hoffman. A sweetener maybe in order, prospect or mid-draft pick but size, grit and speed are hard to teach. The trade is worth the risk.

IN CONCLUSION

Montreal is still small and they have a plethora of smaller, talented players in the pipeline. Many past managers have tried to build a contender with teams smaller than the league average. They were entertaining to be sure and some of these teams got very close but, in the end, they all failed.

This management team has professed that they want to play quick and fast and they have also recruited for size that can play this way. Signing Condotta shows the same philosophy as drafting Slafkovski, big men that can play a fast pace game. Of course, their upside is vastly different but Condotta may become a great fourth liner, prized by fans and management alike, the same way that Slafs can become a top liner prized by fans and management alike, it’s all part of the PLAN. 

Drafting big men that can play this style is not always feasible, they are a prized commodity! And the better a team gets, the lower the draft picks become and choice becomes limited. So, if you’re a manager, trading for this kind of player remains the best option …. And grabbing them when you can remains the best strategy! The same can be said for young, extremely mobile and offensively gifted defensemen. So, if you’re smart, you draft for talent, you trade for position, that’s how you make it work.

All three players I targeted fit immediate and long term needs for the Habs. They fit the right age bracket for this group and improve the team at two positions. Now you know why I would target them.

Thanks for reading,

Keep your stick on the ice, the puck is coming.

JAG

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Slafkovsky – Polarizing Two Groups

By JD Lagrange – Whether you like him or not, one has to admit that Juraj Slafkovsky is not having the kind of impact that even HE suspected coming in. He’s honest enough to have admitted to it in more than one occasion when asked. While he had a good – not great – rookie tournament, adding some NHL players to the mix has opened the eyes of the young Slovak.

What is the most unfortunate is listening and reading people jumping to the conclusion that he is a bust, or comparing him to the likes of Michael McCarron or Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Here is hoping that those doing that aren’t as premature in bed as they are with their hockey analysis! In both cases, it’s rather disappointing.

Just recently, we dedicated an article on expectations for Slafkovsky. While this website, closing in on its first anniversary, is getting a rapid growth (ranking in the top-12 Montreal Canadiens sites), it has yet to touch the majority of the team’s fan base. And even if it did, some individuals would continue on their trend of negative, as it seems like a way of life.

Underwhelming impact

So far, Slafkovsky has shown flashes of greatness, but also long stretches of ineffectiveness. He came in wanting to be the best player on the ice. He realizes now that it won’t be the case, in spite of his great self-confidence.

Here’s what he does well so far:

  • His skating abilities are beyond what one would expect from such a big man.
  • Not a bit hitter, but he uses his body extremely well to protect the puck.
  • He has a long reach and uses it effectively to check opponents.
  • His vision and playmaking abilities are what stands out the most at the moment.
  • He doesn’t hurt his team defensively when on the ice.

Now, what he doesn’t do as well:

  • He doesn’t shoot often, and takes too long to release his shot. Checking comes faster at this level, it’s an adaptation.
  • Likely because he’s not a selfish player and wants to fit in, he is thinking pass first, even when in scoring position. Cole Caufield did that when he first joined the team.
  • He hasn’t figured out yet how to fight through bigger, tougher checking. He needs to find passing lanes, what we call the soft spots in the offensive zone, to be a pass target.
  • A few blind passes, or easily anticipated by players at that level. This is absolutely normal for an 18 year-old coming into such a high level of play.

Two predominant groups

Right now on the internet, there appears to be two groups of people, fans and media members included. And those two groups are going at each other on social media…

Panic group

There is this one group of people who are already throwing Slafkovsky under the bus. Those are the premature ones I was referring to earlier. No name calling here folks, I’m simply pointing to the actions and behaviours out there!

You will recall that a vast majority of fans (and media) wanted the Canadiens to draft Shane Wright. Many of those people were/are hiding in the weeds waiting for their first occasion to pounce on the kid and the organization, in a lame attempt to be “proven right” (no pun intended). Those people are the same who were doing the same for Marc Bergevin, Michel Therrien, Claude Julien, Dominique Ducharme, Trevor Timmins… and a few players they dislike.

There is no satisfying this group. To them, it’s their way or the highway. When things don’t go their way, they’re silent. But watch out, they will come out of the shadow to say “I told you so”, even if it’s prematurely.

Defensive group

The other predominant group consists of people who get very defensive every time someone says something not-so-positive about a player, coach or GM. In many cases, their reaction is a direct result of the actions from the first group. The issue is that they blow it out of proportion, with what borders paranoia.

If someone points to something that goes against one they like, they jump to the conclusion that he/she has it against that player, coach or GM. For example, because I loved the Weber/Subban trade from day one (being a huge Weber fan), and because I wasn’t a fan of Subban’s high risk taking at inopportune times, I was accused of being racist and called a “hater”.

The defensive group takes something small and makes it big, with a “how dare you” attitude. Can you imagine right now, when it comes to Slafkovsky, the head butting that’s going on?

Give it time

Folks, while it is so obvious to most of us, take a chill pill, a few deep breath. Get some fresh air and leave your phone and social media behind for a bit. For one thing, it’s hockey and while a good source of entertainment, it’s not life. It’s not worth getting all worked up about and one day, you will understand that there are more important things in life.

But also, it’s way too early to jump to any conclusions, good or bad, when it comes to Juraj Slafkovsky. Remember that this was not a top-heavy Draft and while yes, it may have been said that he was one of the most NHL-ready prospects, it wasn’t said that he would have an immediate impact.

The organization, from Jeff Gorton to Kent Hughes, through Martin St-Louis and the Amateur Scouting staff, have all said that they aren’t looking at the best 18 year-old. They all stated for all to hear that they want the best player down the line. I keep referring to that but go look at Vincent Lecavalier’s first four seasons in the NHL… also a first overall pick.

Will he make the team? We don’t know. He may or may not need time in the AHL. And guess what? If he does, it’s not the end of the world. It won’t mean that he’s a flop, a bust. It also won’t mean that the Habs don’t like him as a prospect either!

Remember… Life is a Journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride as a Habs’ fan, as the future truly is bright. Just remember that future does not equal present.

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