Canadiens Lineup Exposes Major Organizational Weakness
The Montreal Canadiens’ run into injuries as of late has exposed one of their more glaring organizational weaknesses.
We currently live in a time where the Canadiens will ice a centre line of Nick Suzuki, Alex Belzile, Chris Tierney and Anthony Richard.
This is due to a string of injuries to Kirby Dach, Sean Monahan, Christian Dvorak and Jake Evans out with injuries.
To give credit where it’s due, Belzile and Richard have given the Canadiens some valuable performances during their recalls this season.
Although their inspiring play may help them stick around in the short term. neither should figure prominently in the long-term plans of a soon-to-be competitive team.
Unlike on defence or on the wings, the Canadiens don’t have a top prospect to call on to fill in at the moment in case of injury; as none of them are of pro age.
Lack Of Immediate Support
It shows that the Canadiens have a major weakness down the middle from an organizational perspective, as their top prospects at the position, Owen Beck and Riley Kidney, are simply not close to being everyday NHLers just yet.
The Canadiens likely hoped that prospect Jan Mysak would take the next step in his development and rise up the ranks; but Mysak has instead struggled so far this year and run into significant injury trouble.
This rash of injuries exposed an underlying issue that the Montreal Canadiens’ AHL affiliate and organization has had for a significant time; a lack of centre depth moving up the pipeline.
General manager Kent Hughes attempted to improve that aspect on the floor of the 2022 NHL Draft when he drafted Beck and traded for Dach; but there is still more work to be done.
Outlook Moving Forward
Next season, the Canadiens will have the likes of Jayden Struble, Joshua Roy, Emil Heineman, Riley Kidney, Logan Mailloux and possibly Sean Farrell joining the Laval Rocket in an unprecedented youth movement for the Canadiens.
That being said, of the group, only Kidney is a true centre and the Canadiens will once again have a glaring hole in their minor-league system.
The best teams in the NHL all had a viable and consistent pipeline of centremen within the organization; and, with the Canadiens currently rebuilding, bolstering that position in the coming years will quickly become a necessity, as championships are won down the middle.
With only Beck and Kidney as notable centre prospects at the moment, the Canadiens need to some more quality and quantity to that group to support Suzuki and Dach down the line.
2023 NHL Draft & Beyond
In the last five years, the only centre to spend some time with the Rocket and eventually work their way to the Canadiens’ roster on a full-time basis is Jake Evans.
You can chalk it up to a combination of draft bias, with former Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin drafting many defencemen, and a lack of developmental success, with the likes of Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling.
As such, the one constant down the middle for the Canadiens has been Nick Suzuki; who has not only been the Canadiens’ ironman, but is tied with Phil Kessel for the most games played in the NHL since the 2019-2020 season.
With the 2023 NHL Draft coming up, and the Montreal Canadiens picking thrice in the top 40, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see them continue to bolster their centre depth by picking a top-end centreman.
They’re fairly set on the wings and on left defence, so it would almost be an expectation to see them pick a centre; as they can always be shifted to the wing; like Filip Mesar has.
It’ll help ensure that, at the moment when injuries do strike, the Canadiens can give opportunities to youngsters that could provide the organization with long-term benefits, rather than needing minor-league journeymen to fill their roster.
cant wait to see Mesar and Slaffy play together!!
also cant wait to see Roy and Beck .. also Hutson! …. were going to be a threat in the next 3-4 years.. Especially when we get rid of the 10.5 mill a year on LTIR. ( No offense to carey price)
Price’s LTIR has little effect on the habs because the cap space will be opened to start the season. Not all the guys you mention will be in the nhl. Some will have a season in junior or AHL.
but with all fun aside… We are abit weak down the middle.. pipeline wise.. but the one MAJOR rehaul we need to do … is goaltending… i think its time to give some of the lower depth chart goalies an opportunity.. seeing its taking longer then usually for primeau
This Primeau talk seems to be overblown. We saw how he did in the AHL playoffs. From what I can tell, all the good young D was playing in the nhl this year. Lava is also in transition with the player loss and new players. If he’s given a chance with a stable hand team, he can be an excellent backup, worse case scenario.
Not sure why you say it is overblown. He has had 4 years to improve and he has not done that, at least at the NHL level. I would say best case scenario he is a backup. He certainly is not the starter of the future he was once billed as.
Considering this is the first full year in the rebuild, I’m not concerned at all about gaps at various positions. In all likelihood we’ll be picking a C with our own pick and possibly Florida’s. If we secure a third 1st rounder prior to the draft, I can see a RD or goalie being chosen. Our trade deadline was ruined by injuries to our key trade chips, otherwise we would have likely brought back a couple prospects for those problem areas. By next year’s draft and deadline, I can see us flush with prospects at all positions, so then it’ll just be a matter of development and time. Strengths at one position (like LD) can also be used to help shore up weaker areas like RD and in net. It’s early. Patience is the key. Signing Dubois in the summer of 2024 also eliminates any concerns about the middle. Suzuki, Dubois and Dach are a pretty darn solid centre trio. Having any of those guys as your 3C is a sign you’re ready to compete.
Or if Beck proves ready, Dach can move to wing.
Beck is not moving Dach to the wing at 19 years old..