How The Canadiens Will Look To Build A Winner ‘The Right Way’
The Montreal Canadiens don’t want a bandaid solution, they want to take the time they need to build a true, sustainable winner.
In the past, top prospects and high draft picks have been thrown around in moments of panic in order to improve in the short-term, but take three steps back in the long term.
We can think back to the Scott Gomez, Jonathan Drouin and Christian Dvorak trades as having been spurred by panic over a major organizational hole; just to remain slightly competitive.
Under the current regime of general manager Kent Hughes and VP of Hockey Ops Jeff Gorton, the Canadiens don’t want to rush the process.
They have two goals in mind to help them move toward a strong future: Optimal drafting and top-down development.
With having said it directly, the Montreal Canadiens brass admitted to being in the midst of a rebuild and not necessarily gunning for the NHL playoffs next season.
They wouldn’t outright deny that the playoffs would be the goal, but they said that their main goal would be tangible individual and collective progression.
If you’re looking for the poster boy of this kind of strategy, look no further than Kirby Dach; who was acquired last summer as a sort of reclamation project from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Hughes and Gorton made a gutsy draft-floor trade for the 6’4 forward and he was easily one of the most dynamic forwards on the club this year. Those are the types of developmental gambles the club is looking at replicating this summer.
“We made the trade for Kirby hoping that he would be the player we saw this year, “said Gorton on why they acquired Kirby Dach. “We think he has more to give us. We asked him if he’s arrived, and he said ‘No, but I think I took a big step’. I think we saw when he played centre, he had a bigger impact on the team. I think we got a core piece that we can build around moving forward.”
For the Montreal Canadiens, continuing to add young pieces to their core is going to be a key step to their long-term success. Dach was a great first step, but there still are holes in the lineup that could either be filled by top prospects or some talented players across the league in desperate need of a change of scenery.
“We acquired a player that had a lot of talent. He’s a good player with huge upside,” said Gorton regarding the idea of taking on young players to develop. “We want to acquire players like that that are going to help us win on a sustainable basis.
It goes without saying that drafting will be at the heart of what the Monreal Canadiens will be looking toward in order to make their club better.
However, the difference in the approach so far has been one focused on upside, rather than simply the likelihood of an NHL future.
That isn’t to say that high-upside players aren’t likely to make the NHL, but, especially in the past, players were chosen due to how “safe” they were to make the NHL, albeit in a less crucial role.
With selections like Filip Mesar, Owen Beck, Lane Hutson and Adam Engstrom, the Canadiens have seemingly shifted from selecting the safe, predictable players outside of the top-15 of a draft.
Hutson and Engstrom already look like impressive players in their own right, while Owen Beck and Filip Mesar could both be playing pro next season.
It seems like ages that the Canadiens haven’t had free-flowing talent in their pipeline, with the potential to add more top-end talent over the next 15 months.
Guaranteed to pick in the top 7 in the 2023 NHL Draft, it will be the first time since 1980 and 1981 that the Montreal Canadiens pick in the top 10 of two consecutive NHL Drafts.
Should Montreal retain their 5th spot in the NHL Draft Lottery or get lucky with the 1st or 2nd overall pick, it would be the first time they select in the top-5 in two consecutive drafts in almost 50 years.
By continuing to add top talent and swing for high-upside with later picks, the Canadiens are putting all the chips on their side to find some more diamonds in the rough to add to their increasingly impressive pool of prospects.
For the first time in decades, the organization will not only be banking on developing interesting youth, but also capitalizing on acquiring the best youngsters of upcoming age groups; giving themselves the best opportunity to uncover stars.
The last time the Canadiens afforded themselves the same luxury, they drafted Guy Lafleur (1971), Steve Shutt (1972) and Bob Gainey (1973) with top-10 picks; selections that helped them build a dynasty.
With the club still looking to the draft for the next couple of seasons to help accelerate their rebuild, their patient approach is more likely to produce successful results than what we’ve seen in the past.
Consider it like the Canadiens going back to what made them so dominant in the 60s and 70s; top-notch drafting and optimal development.
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Yep, there are no guarantees and you have 31 other teams supposedly with similar goals but build through the draft and develop young prospects. Do not trade them for patchwork or instant attempts at success. That strategy has failed for 30 years. It leads to continued mediocrity. Hopefully things like Sergachev for Drouin will never reoccur.
It was NOT a level playing field with the NHL draft in the 1970s. Not even close, so there is NO comparison. The Habs raped the Golden Seals to get that #1 pick (Lafleur). Then, in 1972, just after a 108 pt season, they get 3 top 8 picks??? Then, in 1973, after winning the cup, they get the 8th pick in the draft? You have to be kidding me with these “gifts”. Well, then, as soon as the drafting rules changed in 1979, things changed. Yet somehow, again, they were gifted two top 8 picks back to back in 80 and 81 – but both were busts.
So far the Slaf #1 pick last season is an unknown, but we are all wondering at this point. But frankly, that entire first round from last season was the worst in forever how long. Was he a “reach”, and will he be a bust? Certainly, KK was…when we could have had either Brady or Quinn.
Let’s see what happens. I can’t be as optimistic as this article suggests. Yes, it SEEMS they are doing the right things, but I’m not all in yet…too hard to ignore history, I guess.
I enjoy reading your posts, but I can’t say I’m a fan of your description of how we made out in getting the Lafleur pick from the Golden Seals. Imagine a woman reading that, especially one who may have endured such a horrific event in her life.
You correct, I can’t go back and change it, but I won’t use that term again! Mistake…
I’d be interested in reading a future article of potential Dach-like targets that HuGo could be looking at to acquire this summer in a similar manner that we used to get Kirby. I’d also like to hear who the “Romanov piece” would be going the other way.
The gamble on the Druin trade is the same type of gamble they made on the Dach trade. Only difference is hindsight.
Watching the Boston Florida game trying to visualize Farrell playing against these two teams. Time to draft size in addition to skill.
Its not level, not in today’s NHL. Mind you, Panthers should not be in the playoffs now, but for Pitts laying an egg in the final two games against both CHI and CLB! I’d rather have more skill n speed than size. Besides, Farrell is the same “size” as Marchand (look it up)…so I’m quite sure if Farrell turns out to have the same type career that Brad did, you’d applaud quite loudly, yes?