Welcome to the final pre-draft edition of the Montreal Canadiens Mailbag.
This week we cover all things related to the 2023 Draft, the Pierre-Luc Dubois situation (again), the work done by Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton, Gary Bettman’s latest decision, and much more.
Let’s dive right into it.
Paraphrasing the late, great Billy Preston. am sure Habs fans and pundits feel this draft and PLD commentary leaves them dizzy……. "Will It Go Round in Circles". !!! Question-what are the odds Habs trade down to 6 or 8 if Michkov is still there at 5?
— C. de Saint-Rome (@cdesaintrome) June 23, 2023
I’ll cover this subject with an in-depth article tomorrow, but for now, I would say the Montreal Canadiens would be foolish not to perform due diligence as to the possibility of acquiring assets in a move that would see them trade down at the Draft.
Teams tend to pay a premium to move up in the NHL draft, at last historically speaking.
The main caveat is that they should not ignore a prospect oozing with talent (ie: Matvei Michkov or Will Smith) if he’s available.
What do you make of the PLD situation? I find it hard to believe after all these years trying to force his way to Montreal and now being a year away from free agency he’s open to signing long term elsewhere? This feels like a play by Brisson to pressure Hughes to acting sooner.
— Dude (@bshah79) June 23, 2023
To me, it’s quite apparent that the Winnipeg Jets and CAA (Creative Artists Agency) are using the media to spark interest in Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Personally, I hate that type of approach, and if I were Hughes, it would probably sour any type of potential negotiation regarding a potential trade for Dubois.
That being said, I was in charge of the Jets or CAA, I’d definitely take the public route. For them, it’s all about maximizing value.
However, I don’t think it changes anything from a Canadiens point of view. It’s a desperate attempt to create leverage, and as long as Hughes sticks to his gun, it won’t impact negotiations. If Dubois is really intent on coming to Montreal, he will. And if not, he’ll sign a long-term contract elsewhere.
To quote WarGames, “The only winning move is not to play.”
As long as the Canadiens don’t blink first, and we all know Hughes is intent on sticking to his guns, the rumours Dubois may sign elsewhere won’t change anything. It’s as simple as that.
The moment the Canadiens re-signed Sean Monahan to a team-friendly deal it signalled that Hughes and Co. are in no rush to get a Dubois deal done. They’ve essentially already pencilled in their top three centres for next season: Monahan, Kirby Dach, and Nick Suzuki.
Besides, I’m having a hard time seeing how the LA Kings, the other team interested in Dubois’ services, could even fit him into their roster. They have a little over $6 million in salary cap space projected for next season, and they only have 18 players under contract. Not to mention, they have several restricted free agents that are due for a raise. They also have almost $3 million in potential bonuses that could be paid out, leading to overages the next season.
Things can and probably will change, but it would take a hell of an overhaul to make it work. If someone can explain to me how they’ll fit Dubois, who is rumoured to want $8-$9 million per season, in their lineup, I’m all ears.
What would be the wost move of the HuGo era to this point?
— Julien Lemieux (@Mousspower) June 23, 2023
This is an interesting question, because we’ve essentially hit the point where the honeymoon phase is over, and there’s been very little criticism of Hughes and Gorton’s work.
I’d say their biggest mistake last season was how they handled Juraj Slafkovsky. It was almost a scene-for-scene remake of the Jesperi Kotakniemi development disaster, and consequently, made a lot of fans nervous.
I don’t think all is lost in Slafkovsky’s case, but you’d be hard-pressed to state that they made the right decision by keeping him in the NHL as he struggled to find his rhythm. He simply wasn’t given consistent usage, and he was mostly used on the fourth line.
That’s easily the worst approach possible to developing a top prospect in the NHL, in my opinion.
Slafkovsky should have been sent to the AHL, and he also should have been allowed to join Team Slovakia at the World Junior Championship.
We’ll see how they use Slafkovsky next season, but if they can’t find him legitimately talented linemates and reasonable ice time in the NHL, they’ll have to find another solution, one that is conducive to thriving.
I’d also suggest the logjam in the lineup last season was a mini-disaster. It led to a lot of discontentment among veterans, not to mention the aforementioned Slafkovsky situation.
There was simply not enough ice time for all the forwards, and Hughes seemed intent on turning his many overpaid forwards into assets at the deadline.
It only worked for Evegenii Dadonov, which means a half dozen veterans were taking up precious ice time despite not helping the team win. It also meant that Martin St-Louis had to constantly shuffle his lineup in a desperate attempt to keep his locker room healthy. It was a lot to ask from an inexperienced coach.
I understand why Hughes took this approach, but it simply did not pay off in the long run, and besides, is a late-round pick really worth investing precious ice time in veterans that won’t be a part of the long-term vision? Definitely not.
In your opinion, what would be the WORST possible draft outcome for Canadiens fans? Some people hate the idea of drafting Reinbacher at 5, but could it be even worse?
Extremely positive attitude here, i know.
— Montreal Canadiens Legend Jake Allen (@kavanyoung) June 23, 2023
This is a hard question because despite reading hundreds of profiles and studying dozens of draft guides, I’d be rather arrogant to claim I have the ability to peer into the future and see how everything will work out.
That being said, I think going the safe route, which means avoiding a ‘risky’ pick such as Michkov, is actually the most dangerous approach possible.
We talk about the importance of risk management in sports, and it’s definitely something work keeping in mind, but sometimes the greatest risk is avoiding risk altogether.
Which rookie, if any, has the best chance to make the team out of camp?
— AlMustashriq (@AlMustashriq) June 23, 2023
There are a few players that may make some noise at camp, but as we already established, the Canadiens’ forward lineup next season is unlikely to look very different than the one they iced last year.
I could see a player like Joshua Roy, Sean Farrell, or Emil Heineman stand out from the crowd and earn an extended audition, but I doubt they’ll end up sticking throughout the entirety of the season.
One name player that has decent odds, at least relatively speaking, is Owen Beck. Not necessarily because he’s ready to slot into the NHL roster. Due to the archaic NHL-CHL transfer agreement, Beck either has to spend the year in Montreal, or be sent back to the CHL.
Some people will tell you the agreement is in place to ensure the proper development of young players, but that’s a complete fabrication. It was a decision made in the 70s to ensure CHL teams would profit from talented players as long as possible and thus, would earn more money on ticket sales.
Ideally, he’d evolve in the AHL, where he could learn the ins and outs of professional hockey from the Canadiens’ development team, thus giving him a head start when it comes to playing the type of hockey the organization wants to see from their players.
Beck is a cerebral player with very little left to learn from Junior hockey coaches, which is why I mention him. When he was put in an offensive situation he thrived, when he was told to focus on defence, he thrived.
That being said, odds are he’s heading back for another year in the CHL.
Why is PLD such a bad guy for providing Winnipeg with the opportunity to recoup assets for him via trade but when a player leaves as a free agent (and even leads a team to believe they are still being considered until the final decision) is seemingly perfectly ok?
— Hockey Fan (@HabsFan12121212) June 23, 2023
It’s funny, I don’t remember Adam Fox getting as much heat as Dubois, and yet, he also made it quite clear he did not want to play for two particular organizations, which led to a pair of trades.
That being said, I get why Jets fans are annoyed.
Let’s be perfectly honest, Canadiens fans would be flipping police cars if the situation were reversed.
But we need to get used to the idea of athletes choosing their destiny. Teams get their rights, for free, for seven years, simply by calling their name at the Draft.
On top of that, most of these athletes only have a finite window in which to compete for a Stanley Cup. In any other industry, wanting to put yourself in a position to succeed is seen as a legitimate decision.
Hell, in most other sports it’s become a common occurrence.
But hockey always lags behind other major sports when it comes to the decisions made by high-profile athletes. We expect these players to be hockey robots, never daring to state their honest opinion. And if they do dare look for greener pastures, we immediately label them as cowards or troublemakers.
Enough about 5OA. That horse is beaten.
What’s the scoop with 31 and 37? You reckon the Habs target a goalie that early? Should they?
Assuming they don’t waste 5OA on Reinbacher, should they target a RHD there as well, or is the forward depth this year too appealing?
— Incredibly Durdy (@NickDurdy) June 23, 2023
Very little has been said regarding the 31st overall pick, mostly because all bets are off this season. Draft lists vary greatly, and I’m not sure it’s feasible to pinpoint a few likely targets as we did with the 5th overall pick.
But I will say this.
NEVER DRAFT A GOALIE IN THE FIRST ROUND.
You can find good goaltenders in the late rounds, and what’s more, they’re usually hailing from the NCAA or Europe, which gives you four years to evaluate their development rather than just two, which is the case for CHL goalies.
I know this may sound odd coming from someone who covered the majority of Carey Price’s career with the Canadiens, but there’s very little reason to use a first-round pick on a goalie.
As for who they should target, I’ll keep it simple: BPA, all day. Drafting for need works in the NFL, where players immediately jump into the lineup, but it’s rather counterproductive in the NHL due to the long development times. That is unless the player in question also happens to be the best player available. (Voir: Michkov)
interested in your comments on Bettman doing away with the special jerseys 😔
— adamfirebear🏳️🌈 (@adamfirebear) June 23, 2023
Cancelling Pride and Hockey Fights Cancer events because a handful of players chose not to recognize certain people’s right to exist?
It’s a cowardly approach, however, it isn’t disappointing because I never expect the NHL to stand up for what’s right.
Honestly, I’m somewhat relieved their performative events will no longer take place because I abhor the idea of the NHL profiting from certain important social issues. That’s all it was for the NHL, a different avenue to sell merchandise.
I’ve long abandoned the idea of looking to the NHL as part of the solution. The NHL’s only goal is to make money. Full stop.
At least now that it’s in the hands of the teams, we’ll be able to see whether they truly believe in the causes, or whether they were doing it to avoid criticism.
Best thing you like about the NHL draft.
— Fortune Seeker 💵 (@JJFortunes) June 23, 2023
I love the general sense of hope surrounding every draft class. At one of my previous jobs, I pitched an idea that we should all get together with the fans to have a huge Draft party, allowing fans to meet other like-minded individuals and exchange draft opinions, building on the excitement that comes with every Entry Draft. You know, bring in some of the players, let them meet the fans, etc.
The proposal was ignored, par for the course, but it’s that type of stuff that I love, and I know the fans love it too.
It’s one of the few times we can look at a hockey-related event with unbridled enthusiasm and excitement.
And it’s always funny to look back at what was said before the draft with the benefit of hindsight.
Kind of like how I said Mark Stone was such a terrible skater that the Senators wasted a 6th-round pick on him, or how I said Maxim Trunev has all the tools necessary to dominate in the NHL.
After watching the Salfkovsky and Hutson discussion on video last year, am I nuts to think that the Habs are not passing on Michkov(or Smith if he slides) for a much less skilled player? You can trade/sign a Reinbacher Dvorsky Leonard but not a Michkov/Smith level talent usually.
— Monctonscout (@Monctonscout) June 23, 2023
Honestly, I don’t know how the Canadiens are leaning heading into next week’s Draft, but I will say that anyone claiming to know the team’s intentions is probably lying, or rather, looking for clicks.
The Canadiens don’t even know who they’ll Draft for certain, because it will depend on four players chosen before they take to the podium with the 5th overall pick.
That being said, I’d be shocked if the Habs don’t recognize players like Smith and Michkov are rare talents that should not be overlooked.
Do you need to speak french to live in Montreal?
— Mick (@Mick_Chow) June 23, 2023
You don’t have to, but it certainly helps.
All the signage is in French, as are the services offered by the city. Which makes sense given French is the official language.
For example, when the metro suddenly stops working and they come on the intercom to advise passengers of the delay, the information is only provided in French.
But at restaurants and areas that aren’t controlled by the province/municipality, you will find bilingual service.
Personally, I suggest learning French because it’s a beautiful language and it will lead to job opportunities throughout your life, but I also understand it’s a rather difficult language to learn as an adult.
If the provincial government focused less on eliminating English and more on promoting the learning of the French language, I truly believe the language itself would be in better shape overall.
But that’s a topic for another day.
What happens if Michkov and Smith are both available at 5 (SJS takes Reinbacher/Leonard)?
— zk97 (@zk97__) June 23, 2023
Montreal Canadiens fans should celebrate if your proposed scenario takes place.
Essentially, at that point, the decision will be taken out of the Canadiens’ hands, and they won’t have a ‘safe pick’ to fall back on, which would force them to choose a player that has more natural talent.
Leaving the draft with a player like Michkov should only happen if you have the first or second-overall pick. This year just happens to be very different, but these types of opportunities rarely present themselves at the Draft.
This is the point in the Habs Mailbag where we discuss things unrelated to the Canadiens or hockey. If you’re only interested in hockey-related questions and answers, your mailbag ends here. I’m looking at you, Peter.
On what basis is Billy Preston(great as he is) more talented than the greatest songwriters of the 20th century?
— James Gordon (@jamesgordon44) June 23, 2023
With all due respect to Paul and John, they pale in comparison to some other amazing 20th-century songwriters.
Like Brian Wilson, Bob Marley, Leonard Cohen, Stevie Wonder, Bernie Taupin, Dolly Parton, Paul Simon, Carole King, Smokey Robinson, Chuck Berry, and Bob Dylan.
Remember, we’re talking about songwriters, not necessarily performers.
In fact, The Beatles recognized Smokey Robinson as the patron saint of songwriting, and for good reason, too. Tears Of A Clown is a masterpiece.
As for actual talent, I don’t think it’s remotely close between Billy Preston and the rest of the Fab Four. Paul was a decent bassist, John was an okay guitarist, Ringo sorta knew how to play the drums, and George was never allowed to shine, so he gets a pass.
But in terms of pure musical talent? Preston stands alone.
Take a look at Paul’s face the moment he realized Billy Preston was the missing ingredient for ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ (and the rest of Let It Be.)
Pause it at the 0:14 mark.
I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for anything related to keys, be it a Moog, piano, or organ, but there’s something amazing about the way Preston approaches every song.
For example, could you imagine “Shine A Light” without Preston’s amazing piano holding the line and advancing the pace when necessary?
Starting from 0:44 on, Preston steals the show.
If you can name another artist that can immediately make a Beatles or Rolling Stones song significantly better, I’m all ears, but they’re quite rare.
James Jamerson could do it on bass. End of list.
Now, before anyone gets upset at me for slagging The Beatles, I’d like to point out that I’ve essentially memorized every single note they created because I’ve listened to every album roughly 42 times, or more.
But they weren’t great songwriters. Or lyricists.
They were, however, one of the greatest bands of all time.
Always wondered why Donald Duck had a top and no pants and Mickey Mouse had pants but no top. Any deep thoughts about that one Marc?
— Terry (@tfish65) June 23, 2023
The first one is simple.
Birds can’t wear pants.
It would interfere with the gland tasked with oiling their feathers. This oil maintains the structural integrity of the feathers and is crucial to their survival. As far as I know, every single bird has the preen oil gland, though I may be wrong when it comes to flightless birds, like penguins or Deandra Reynolds.
As for Mickey Mouse, well, I’d say he’s clearly a ‘sun’s out, guns out’ type of rodent.
You've just won the $25mil Lotto Max jackpot for tonight. What's the most reckless thing you're buying?
— Melissa Leigh (she/they) (@MochiMayhem89) June 23, 2023
I’ve never really thought about winning the lottery, because honestly, I feel like -not playing- the lottery is the only way to win, but let’s have some fun.
First off, I’d immediately delete any and all social media accounts.
I’d put $5 million in a trust, to be distributed in the future among underprivileged children, and another $19 million donated to local shelters.
And then take a taxi to the airport with the remaining money, leaving a very generous tip to the first car to pick me up.
As for the destination for my holiday?
I wouldn’t bother to pack my bags. Or my map. I wouldn’t need them where I’m going.
I’d head to where the wind is blowing. Not knowing where I would stay.