Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes has only held his title since January 26, 2022, but he’s quickly gaining a reputation around the league.
As we saw during the Pierre-Luc Dubois saga, the Kirby Dach trade, or the Sean Monahan grand larceny, Hughes is not afraid to put in place a certain set of parameters that will dictate whether he’s willing to pull the trigger on a deal.
It’s one thing to perform due diligence, the bare minimum for any general manager in the NHL, but holding your ground despite the allure of adding a shiny new toy to the lineup, like in Dubois’ case, is a clear indication that Hughes is not afraid to walk away when the trade waters are muddied.
But it goes beyond having confidence in his trade negotiation prowess.
You’d be hard-pressed to argue the Canadiens did not pay a premium for Alex Newhook’s services. The 31st and 37th overall picks hold significant value in the NHL, especially when discussing pre-draft value. According to NHL draft history, the value of those two picks should be enough to move up from the 3rd overall draft position to 2nd overall.
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Considering Newhook saw a slight regression in most of his numbers last season, it’s a risky trade. Trying to replicate the results from the Dach trade is great in theory, but we must remember that more often than not, players struggling to find a role with their draft team do not go on to enjoy the type of resurgence that the Canadiens saw with Dach. For every Dach, there are half a dozen Gurianovs in play.
However, one thing is clear.
Hughes has confidence in his revamped development team, to the point that he’s willing to bet on them to serve as the team’s rudder.
For well over a decade, the Montreal Canadiens were essentially run as an oligarchy, one that ignored the value of having a legitimate data analysis and development team.
It has left fans understandably jaded.
Every draft pick, every trade, and every roster decision evokes bad memories.
But given that Hughes has established a clear plan and has stuck to his guns throughout the process, he’s earned the benefit of the doubt as we leave the honeymoon phase and enter the nitty-gritty of his tenure.
That’s not to say Hughes is a perfect general manager. But he is taking a methodical approach to putting the rebuild theory into practice.
His willingness to trade two good picks at the 2023 NHL Draft is another hint that he’s not afraid to trust his professional and amateur scouts.
Of course, there are no guarantees that St-Louis and the development team will hit another home run in Newhook’s case, but if history is any indication, they’ll place him in the best possible situation, a situation that’s conducive to thriving.
And that’s exactly what you want to see from a professional sports team in the Canadiens’ situation: faith in the professionals they put into place to help them traverse the choppy waters of an NHL rebuild.