Canadiens Mailbag: Anderson, Coaching Future, NHL Trade Market
In this week’s Canadiens mailbag we cover a potential Josh Anderson trade, the future of the coaching staff, poutine priorities, goaltending prospects, Lane Hutson’s excellence, and more.
If you have any questions that you’d like to see answered in the next edition of the Habs mailbag, feel free to drop them in the comments below the article.
There were simply too many good questions posed by Canadiens fans this week, and as per usual, brevity is not my strong point.
If your question did not get answered, don’t worry. We’ll run another edition of the mailbag on Friday, which should allow us to cover the rest of the unanswered queries.
The Devil Is In The Details
Could a trade between New Jersey and Montreal built around Josh Andersen and one of Simon Nemec or Alexander Holtz take place? What would that trade realistically look like? Thanks.
— Eric Brian Munro (@munro_eric) February 7, 2023
Right off the bat, I’d suggest Canadiens fans forget any potential trade with the New Jersey Devils that includes Simon Nemec unless fans are willing to part with a blue-chip prospect of their own.
Even though he’s playing in the AHL, the Devils have little to no motivation to trade the second-overall pick at the 2022 Draft.
Nor should they.
He’s a big part of their future and is playing quite well for the Utica Comets, not to mention, he was one of the best players at the 2023 World Junior Championship.
I don’t see a scenario where the Devils would even consider including him in trade talks unless a high-end asset or two is involved in the return.
#Devils Simon Nemec has had an excellent start to his AHL career as an 18-year-old. The Comets are scoring a lot with him on the ice and though the defensive side hasn't been incredible, his overall impact is still strong. High shot rate but you're probably okay with him shooting https://t.co/LcbSKn0GyV pic.twitter.com/yv9avaqD6o
— Kyle Cushman (@Kyle_Cush) January 30, 2023
As for Alexander Holtz, you may be on to something.
Holtz was chosen seventh overall at the 2020 Draft and has struggled to carve out a spot on the Devils’ roster.
He was expected to take on a bigger role this year but hasn’t managed to convince head coach Lindy Ruff he’s ready for an uptick in responsibilities.
In addition to making Holtz a healthy scratch on several occasions, Ruff has not put him in a situation that’s conducive to producing as a younger player in the NHL. Consequently, his underlying numbers relative to his teammates are quite poor.
It just depends on how much the Devils value Holtz at this point. If he’s a high-end sweetner in a trade, then there’s a healthy possibility for a trade including both players.
But given his handling by the Devils this season, which suggests he’s not a significant part of their future, at least compared to the bevy of highly talented players in their organization, I get the sense Holtz’s value is not as high as it could be.
He probably needs a fresh start with a new team, but again, that’s not a situation that improves his value with the Devils. It simply gives teams a little more leverage when discussing a potential Holtz trade.
At this point, I should also note I am terrible when it comes to gauging actual trade value.
However, teams are calling Kent Hughes about Josh Anderson ad nauseam, which would connote his value on the NHL trade market is rather high. Anderson has also been linked to the Devils a few times this year.
Yes, general managers tend to overvalue Anderson’s overall impact, but his perceived value sets the market price, not his actual impact.
MUST READ: Pros and cons of a potential Josh Anderson trade
If teams are willing to get into a bidding war for a player like Anderson, then it becomes a matter of supply and demand.
But it’s also worth considering the Devils’ point of view here.
Yes, they need players with a little more size and intensity in the top six, and Anderson fits the bill, but they’d be better off giving Holtz a fresh start next season and re-evaluating his long-term potential at a time when his trade value isn’t at a historical low.
He had a great season in the AHL last year, earning 51 points in 52 games, which points to some untapped potential despite his erratic usage by the Devils in 2022-23.
When it comes to a trade with the Devils and the Habs that potentially involves Holtz and Anderson, I feel like there would not be much common ground in negotiations.
By now, you may have noticed that we’re 600 words into this answer and I have clumsily dodged the question, which requested a trade proposal involving the aforementioned forwards.
But I just don’t see a trade involving those players that makes sense for both teams.
The Canadiens won’t want to overpay for a prospect whose development has been somewhat questionable. And the Devils won’t want to sell low on a player chosen in the top 10.
The Devils would probably argue Holtz holds more value than his recent numbers suggest, and the Canadiens would point to the high level of interest in Anderson, with neither team moving toward a compromise.
What do you think the future is for JF Houle? Wasn't a HuGo hire and there's some questionable comments about Mysak at the beginning of the year, not deploying Norlinder on the PP, etc. Is he the right man for what they want to do or will they be looking elsewhere?
— The Gargoyle (@Fake_CH_Facts) February 7, 2023
I’ll admit, I did raise a brow or two when it came to Houle’s handling of certain players earlier this season, as noted in the original question.
It did not make much sense to start a player like Mysak in the bottom six, and his underwhelming results were rather predictable.
But I’ll also defend his season with the Laval Rocket, despite their 18-19-6-2 record.
He was put in a very difficult situation which involved an endless stream of roster turnover due to the organization’s laundry list of injuries in the NHL, AHL, and ECHL.
He’s done as well as expected considering he constantly lost his best players to the Canadiens while receiving reinforcements from the ECHL, which mitigated the overall talent level he had to work with.
And when players like Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Alex Belzile joined the Canadiens, they quickly acclimatized to NHL, which does point to a relatively strong level of preparation in the AHL.
On the flip side, despite his ability to properly prepare grinders, I’m not convinced he’s the right coach when it comes to developing high-end talent.
I’d suggest the best way forward, in his case, is to give him another year at the helm of the Rocket, and closely evaluate how he treats important prospects when his hands are not handcuffed by a constantly changing roster.
It would also help if he’d receive any semblance of consistent goaltending because as it stands, both Cayden Primeau and Kevin Poulin’s save percentages are well below .900.
Simply put, there are red flags in Houle’s approach to coaching, but it’s also fair to say he hasn’t exactly been blessed with an abundance of talent.
That should change next season.
If Houle struggles to adapt to the influx of talent, you have to quickly reconsider your options, especially since prospect development plays such an important role in a rebuild.
Should the habs trade to go get a top prospect goalie? (Levi, Daws, wallsted etc)
And what asset should they use to make such a trade?
— Alex (@Laflamme911) February 7, 2023
The Canadiens don’t have a particularly strong group of goaltenders among their prospects, but I wouldn’t sleep on Jakub Dobes, who is enjoying another great year in the NCAA.
Frederik Dichow’s numbers in the SHL aren’t great, but he has shown signs of improvement lately. He’s not playing much, and as a backup in a professional hockey league, he’s facing difficult usage, which is worth keeping in mind as we evaluate his progress.
As for trading for a goaltending prospect, I love the idea, but I wouldn’t want to spend precious assets to add another netminder to the prospect pool.
There are too many decent goaltending prospects out there and too few opportunities, which leads to a constant surplus of goaltenders available on the NHL trade market.
They tend to hit their statistical prime much later than regular skaters, as evidenced by Samuel Montembeault’s emergence this season, leading to a market inefficiency for goaltenders.
Teams earmark one of their goaltending prospects as the player that should receive the bulk of the opportunities and developmental focus, which leads to other talented goalies falling through the cracks.
Therefore, I’d argue you should rarely spend relatively valuable assets acquiring a goaltending prospect.
You should, however, keep an eye on the goaltending prospects throughout the various organizations, and target some of the goalies that were cast aside that still have potential and come with a low price tag.
I’d also argue you shouldn’t pick goaltenders in the first few rounds of the Draft, especially goaltenders that are set to evolve in the CHL, but that’s a completely different discussion.
As an aside, I had the chance to watch Devon Levi on Monday night, and his performance in Northeastern’s 2-1 win over Boston University at the Beanpot was a good reminder that using a late draft pick to take a flyer on a goaltender is also a low-risk, high-reward way to restock the prospect cupboard.
Creamy or Traditional?
Crémeuse ou vinaigrette?
— Eric (@genericericeric) February 7, 2023
Eric is asking a very important question that has been hotly debated between Francophones for the last few decades, a debate that tears families apart at their core when visiting St-Hubert for some delicious chicken.
When it comes to coleslaw, do you prefer creamy, or traditional?
Okay, I may have exaggerated a little in the opening sentence, but the creamy vs. traditional debate is real.
In fact, St-Hubert even commissioned a study to evaluate the results.
It turns out over 64 percent of their customers prefer creamy coleslaw, and I have to say, for the past few decades, I was part of the majority.
But recently, my taste buds have led me to change my approach to food in general.
I no longer constantly crave sugar, which means I avoid sweet dishes such as creamy coleslaw.
And therefore, I have to say, I am a fan of the traditional coleslaw, which is much more vinegary than its counterpart.
But more importantly, I am a fan of local chicken joints, like Chalet BBQ or Côte St Luc BBQ.
Their chicken is better, and consequently, so is their sauce.
St-Hubert is okay, but it’s the chicken equivalent of fast food.
Chalet BBQ, on the other hand, is the chicken equivalent of going to sleep after you washed all your bed sheets. It feels right and leads to serenity.
Just don’t combine the two.
Because you may end up having to throw out some of your sheets due to gravy stains that are impossible to remove, and it doesn’t help when your local dry cleaners end up banning you from dropping off clothes that were involved in yet another gravy incident.
Or so I heard.
Hi Marc! As we go into the second half of the season, how do you feel about the state of our coaching staff beyond Marty? Do you think they're going to be looking to replace some of them over this summer? (I do) If so, what do you think they'll look for in the new hires?
— kay (zukes defender) (@linecomposition) February 7, 2023
I’m one of the few people who isn’t convinced Martin St-Louis is going to be the long-term saviour for the Canadiens.
More than anything, the results from Cole Caufield since the coaching change were a matter of his shooting percentage returning to normal, rather than some sort of magical spell cast by St-Louis.
Statistically speaking, the Canadiens are getting worse results this season compared to when Dominique Ducharme was at the helm, but that’s to be expected given the exodus of talent.
And we should also keep in mind that St-Louis is a fantastic motivator, which is important on a roster filled with players looking to evolve into full-time NHL players.
When it comes to his future, I don’t think we should be in any rush to use the results this season. He was handcuffed with a roster filled with veterans who were given a surplus of ice time in an attempt to bolster their trade deadline value.
His coaching decisions next season should give us a much better idea of his long-term potential.
As for the work done by Stephane Robidas, Alex Burrows, and Trevor Letowski, I’d suggest Robidas has done a reasonably good job, especially when you consider the team iced a roster with a surplus of rookie defencemen.
Letowski has also played a crucial role, pulling videos and working closely with Adam Nicholas to help players develop into full-time NHLers.
But it’s only fair to say Burrows has struggled to create any semblance of consistency when it comes to the Canadiens power play.
It’s an issue that has plagued the team for many years, well before Burrows joined the club, but it’s also an issue that needs to be solved as soon as possible, and Burrows has failed to adapt throughout the season.
Burrows is a great person and has a great story, but the results are simply too poor to ignore.
When it comes to potential hires, I’d look for someone that has one of two things: a history of improving the power play on whichever team they coached, or a fresh face that goes against the recent hiring trends.
St-Louis went undrafted, as did Burrows.
Letowski and Robidas were both seventh-round picks.
It may be time to flip the script and find a coach who relied upon talent during his or her playing career, rather than a strong work ethic.
A good power play should rely on high-end talent* and elite decision-making, and there’s no better teacher in that case than someone who spent their career terrorizing opponents with the man advantage. (Addendum: St-Louis was incredibly talented, but is not in charge of formulating the power play game plan.)
It gives them precious insight that can be used to formulate a game plan for elite players such as Caufield or Suzuki.
Someone like Caroline Ouellette, Julie Chu or Andrei Markov may fit the bill, although Markov’s lack of communication skills could be a hurdle to a potential return with the organization.
Either way, I’d suggest looking beyond former grinders when it comes to a power play coach.
What's better, smoked meat poutine or Philly steak poutine?
— Adam Davies (@adam_c_davies) February 7, 2023
As a card-carrying member of the Poutine Purity Party, I’ll say that, for the most part, traditional poutine is much better than anything that includes more than the three foundational ingredients.
If the smoked meat is good, it will work, but I don’t think it actually improves the dish.
Just make sure your fries are hand cut, your sauce is thick, and your curds are fresh.
I’ve never actually tried a Philly cheesesteak poutine, but I was in Philadelphia on a layover prior to the start of the season, and I had several hours to kill.
I honestly can’t remember the exact name of the place I went to, but I believe it was called Ricco’s or Rocco’s.
And it blew my mind.
It was cheap, delicious, and simple, which is how all food should be, including poutines.
The lone exception, of course, is the fresh chicken and chorizo poutine at Ma Poule Mouillée, which is basically happiness in a dish.
How Hudson numbers compare to any other rookie in NCAA history, any defender in NCAA history, and any rookie defender in NCAA history ?
Not saying he is the best of all time.
But he is.
— The Arch (@SCirculaire) February 7, 2023
When it comes to 18-year-old defencemen in the NCAA, few, if any, compare favourably to Hutson, who is enjoying a great freshman season with Boston University.
We’ll delve more into this subject at the end of the season, but right now, the Canadiens’ prospect is outproducing elite players. Or rather, he’s eclipsing their scoring pace by a significant margin.
Click here to read more about Hutson’s recent exploits.
Click here to read our recent interview with the exciting prospect.
We can’t say he’s the best NCAA rookie defenceman of all time, yet.
But we can say so far, there’s very little to indicate that he isn’t.
On a side note when I listen to RDS some of the French analyst keep miss pronouncing Caufield’s name. It’s not COFIELD.
My favourite was when I had the ASG on in the background this weekend. I kept hearing “Clou de Girofle” (clove), and had to stop my writing to figure out who they were talking about. It was Kucherov!!
Everyone gets pronunciations wrong when it comes to another language, so I don’t fault people for struggling, but as a francophone, that one made me laugh a lot.
The recent correction (or not) of Ylonen’s pronunciation has been funny to say the least. Mudryk and Poulin talking back and forth at length about the player switching pronunciations between the both of them and then even switching over to what the other guy was saying was a hoot.
What about Adam Oates to run our PP? He’s definitely outside the box. Plus, he’s a skills guy for younger players, so we’d be getting double value there.
As someone who grew up watching him dominate with his elite playmaking, that’s an interesting idea.
Thanks. I’ve been saying it for a couple of years actually. Back in the Bergevin era days (since our PP has stunk for years). I think Oates would bring a different approach than what we have. He’d have the respect of the older guys in the room being a HOFer, and his ability to work with younger players certainly fits right in our new development philosophy.
How about a guy like Adam Oates for the PP? He’s also got a background as a skills coach for young offensive players, so we’d be getting an added bonus there too.
I have been watching quite a few games where I’ve seen players passing around something that they inhale – like smelling salts. What gives with this? I get smelling salts have a place, but to be passed around? Can you clarify the mystery of what it is and why players are passing it around? What effect are they looking for?
Regarding the Josh Anderson/Jersey trade rumour, Kent Hughes holds the ONLY card at the table – Anderson. Period. He’s the player in demand, not Holtz, Nemec or any other NJ prospect. There are multiple teams calling, according to ALL reports from Montreal media types, and as we have seen re: Toffoli and Chariot, a team viewed as a Cup contender or in a dogfight for a playoff berth will overpay in a bidding war (there surely would be one for Anderson). He checks all the boxes for Devils’ GM Tom Fitzgerald – size (he would be their biggest forward), physicality (yep), speed (yep) and term (five playoff runs at a very reasonable price). To boot, he’ll pot 20 goals and keep the wolves from gooning Hughes, Pratt, Hischier et all. With 19-year-old Luke Hughes primed to join NJ as a top-pair D-man and the likes of Hamilton, Marino, Graves et all around, Nemec is in play, easily. Kent Hughes has the chess piece Tom Fitzgerald and any other GM would want. Stay tuned.