The Value of Quality Mentorship

There are many factors that mold a young player into becoming a great performer at the NHL level. Of course, it takes skills. Laurent Dauphin will never score 40 goals in this league. It also takes dedication and determination. It takes hard work and maturity, to be able at a young age to put workout and career ahead of parties, booze and drugs. It even takes luck, being able to avoid key injuries and being in an organisation where it’s possible to be given a chance, one that will support the young player, the young man. But one aspect is too often underrated: the quality of the veteran leadership to mentor those young players, to show them the ropes and lead by example.

Lost leadership

Stating that the Canadiens are having an awful season would be an understatement and there are many reasons factoring into the equation. As newly appointed Executive V-P of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton said himself in a couple of occasions, it’s been the perfect storm against the team. I would like to focus on one aspect, the one that’s perhaps the most under appreciated by the fan base, and hopefully not by the new management group in place.

Cole Caufield and Corey Perry

Marc Bergevin was highly criticized this past summer for playing hardball with two of his pending free agent veterans Corey Perry and Phillip Danault. Both were loved in the dressing room and young players looked up to them, listened to their advices, even copied them. There is no doubt that letting them both go has been one of the contributing factors into the season we’re seeing today.

But there is more. The unexpected long term loss of team captain Shea Weber and veteran leader Carey Price have been monumental in explaining what we’re seeing today. Then you add assistant-captain Paul Byron, who has just recently returned from injury, and Joel Edmundson who hasn’t skated in a game all season. Those are not only great impact hockey players on the ice, but they are all key leaders and examples for the young players on the team.

New management

Fans understand that changes need to be made. It was clear when Bergevin got fired and the Gorton and Hughes duo arrived that they would change the culture. Not that it was bad, as we’re talking about a team that just months ago, went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. But new management had the perfect storm to start making changes, substantial changes, and bring in their own vision and philosophy.

There are players on this team who are not happy. It’s evident with the way they perform and the seemingly carelessness they are displaying both on and off the ice. But there are also some who have been performing well and who have stated publicly wanting to remain with the Canadiens, showing their true love for the City, the fans and the logo in front of the jersey. Some of them are young veterans who signed here long term, quality players on whom the young players on the team look up to, after losing the veterans mentioned earlier.

Toffoli trade

Tyler Toffoli was one of them. Suzuki, Caufield and Jake Evans all took to social media to show their pain and sadness to see him go. Toffoli signed in Montreal because he wanted to play with Suzuki. He was doing just that and was producing. The two had chemistry on and off the ice, and Caufield looked up to him as a dedicated, successful hockey player.

It would be easy to understand why management would want to trade veterans who are not producing to expectations, with high contracts. Toffoli was not only productive and a good mentor, but at $4.25 million a year, he was an absolute steal of a signing by Bergevin. Was the Lehkonen 2.0, a late first round pick and a late pick worth losing what Toffoli brings to the team and what he represents to the Canadiens’ young players? There are solid reasons to doubt it.

Who’s next?

Which now leaves the question wide open as to which players will stay and which ones will be leaving through trades. Like Toffoli, Josh Anderson has publicly stated wanting to stay in Montreal and he’s playing like a guy who does. Seeing that Toffoli is the first one gone, it is not a stretch nor is it unreasonable to wonder if the young veteran is next to go.

Just as Bergevin took the heat for letting Danault and Perry walk, Gorton and Hughes should, at the very least, be questioned about the departure of Toffoli, all things considered. There are a lot more moves coming up, many more players who won’t be wearing the Habs’ uniform much longer. Here’s hoping that management starts thinking of the quality mentorship for the young players and not turn into the Edmonton Oilers…

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Expectations, Season of Misery And Slice of Life by Marc-André Breault

Toffoli Trade Analysis

NHL Insiders Trade Baits: Gauging Habs’ Interest

First Order of Business: Who Stays And Who Goes

New management will be meeting with each and every veteran on the team, if it hasn’t already been done. There will be a few questions asked and one will be to find out if they want to be part of the Canadiens’ future… at least to most of them. Here’s a list of 11 key veterans on the team, for which the future right now is uncertain, at least to us.

NAMEPOSITIONCONTRACT STATUS
Carey PriceGoaltender$10.5M cap hit until 2025-26
Jake AllenGoaltender$2.875M cap hit until 2022-23
Ben ChiarotDefenseman$3.5M cap hit until 2021-22
Joel EdmundsonDefenseman$3.5M cap hit until 2023-24
Jeff PetryDefenseman$6.25M cap hit until 2024-25
David SavardDefenseman$3.5M cap hit until 2024-25
Brendan GallagherRight Wing$6.5M cap hit until 2026-27
Tyler ToffoliRight Wing$4.25M cap hit until 2023-24
Jonathan DrouinLeft Wing$5.5M cap hit until 2022-23
Mike HoffmanLeft Wing$4.5M cap hit until 2023-24
Christian DvorakCenter$4.45M cap hit until 2024-25

Further to that list, I would add Paul Byron but my feeling is that his contract will be bought out next summer. He has one year left (after this one) with a cap hit of $3.4 million. Here’s the cap implication of a buyout in his case:

SEASONBASE SALARYINITIAL CAP HITSAVINGSCAP HIT
2022-23$2.8M$3.4M$1.87M$1.53M
2023-24$0$0-$933,334$933,334
TOTAL$2.8M$3.4M$933,333$2.47M

Personal preference

First and foremost, you have to understand that I don’t think that the Canadiens need to go through a full “rebuild”, as many suggest. We’ve mentioned it before, but the Habs have drafted 45 young prospects since the 2018 reset and they’re just starting to trickle in. Many more will be ready to help in the next year or two. So I’m going with a continued reset, by keeping some key veteran in hope to be competitive again, while drafting and developing well.

We all have our thoughts on who should stay or who should go. My choices are no better than anyone else’s and can very well change based on a single decision or move made by the organisation. If player “A” is traded, it could affect my take on the future of player “B”, in my books. So this is based on no moves or decisions having been made public yet, as of today.

Goaltending

Carey Price

I would not trade both Carey Price and Jake Allen. In fact, I would prefer keeping both. For years, the Canadiens have been searching for a suitable backup for Price and Marc Bergevin finally found one. Even better, he convinced him to sign a contract extension at rebate. Primeau might or might not be ready. If one of the top-2 are traded, I’d be somewhat comfortable with a tandem of Price (or Allen) with Montembeault (or Primeau) for next season. But not Montembeault and Primeau as the primary goalies. If I was going to trade one of Price or Allen though, I wouldn’t give them away. I would want a good return… or you keep them both!

Defense

Ben Chiarot is gone. Expiring contract and high demand, therefore excellent value, make him an automatic trade by trade deadline in my opinion. I would keep Joel Edmundson as he’s a similar player.

Ideally, I’d keep Jeff Petry and play him with Edmundson. I believe this rough season is a one off and quality right-handed defensemen are few and far between. This is the worst depth position on the Habs currently. If you need to clear salary, Chiarot’s $3.5 million could be added to Savard’s $3.5 million. Savard has lost a few too many steps and he’s expandable.

Forwards

I personally would trade one of Gallagher or Toffoli, but not both. And when I say trade, I mean trade, not give them away. You only trade one of you get maximum value for him. Gallagher is a Bergevin-type of guy and we’ve discussed before that the LA Kings could be a good destination… as would Toffoli. They have some very good prospects out there that the Habs could target.

Jonathan Drouin

I would like Hughes to do the same with the two left-wingers mentioned above. Both Drouin and Hoffman are similar in a way: they don’t bring much if they don’t put points on the board. Drouin is more of a playmaker while Hoffman, a goals’ scorer. So depending on who you get in trades, and based on trade value, I would trade one of them. Drouin’s name has recently surfaced in trade rumours.

As for Dvorak, he leaves many of us perplexed. He’s by far the Canadiens’ best faceoffs center and for that reason alone, I’m not keen on trading him. But with the up and down season – mostly down – he’s having, one could find a cheaper faceoffs’ specialist. While not necessarily slow, he’s certainly not going to win many races to the puck. But centers are at a premium and the Canadiens paid a hefty price to acquire him. I would not give him away, that’s for sure.

Other

One guy that didn’t make my list but I would consider trading is Joel Armia. Just as we thought that he had finally turned the corner with his play in the playoffs, he’s having a horrible year. Worse, he just signed a long term deal with a $3.4 million cap hit! This contract is not without reminding us of the one given to Byron a few years ago, although Byron was producing more. If they can unload him, I’d definitely consider it.

So there you have it folks. Ideally, those are the players I would consider trading. If I had to choose today, it would go this way:

  • Chiarot (pending UFA, high return)
  • Savard (too slow, expansive 3rd pair)
  • Gallagher (sacrificed to keep Toffoli)
  • Drouin (the experiment should be over, he is what he is)
  • Dvorak (depending if the Habs get another good center)

Yes, I know, the language police will be all over me, daring to trade two Quebecois. But that would be possibly over $23 million in cap space leaving, leaving room for Nick Suzuki’s contract to kick in next season and add a few good pieces. Hang on to your hat folks, it’s about to get busy in Montreal as both Gorton and Hughes prepare for trade deadline.

More reading…

Carey Price: The Man Behind The Mask

Artturi Lehkonen In High Demand

Hughes Already In Discussions With Other Teams