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Habs Mailbag: Most Underrated Habs, Waivers, Newhook, Trades



canadiens defenceman markov and subban

Welcome back to another off-season edition of the Montreal Canadiens Mailbag!

This week we discuss the most underrated players in team history, where Alex Newhook will play, the goalie situation, the various prospects in the organization, why I’m still not over a few decisions made by Michel Therrien almost 20 years ago, and much more.

Let’s dive right into it.


Some nicknames make no sense. Especially in hockey, where players simpler add ‘er’ to someone’s family name and call it a day.

But Brian Savage being called “Mr. October” was just about as accurate as it gets when it comes to hockey monikers.

A few years ago I did the math, and he did, in fact, produce much more at the start of the season. I’m not sure he qualifies as underrated, but to his credit, Savage did hit the 20-goal mark on four different occasions.

Montreal Canadiens Brian Savage

As for players that were legitimately underrated, there are a few that come to mind.

The first is Andrei Markov.

Now, you may think to yourself that Markov was recognized as a very good player, and thus should not be included in the discussion. But when we look at Markov’s body of work with the Montreal Canadiens, it becomes clear that he was more than just a good player.

Markov finished his career with the Canadiens by trailing only Larry Robinson in all-time points by a defencemen

In addition, among defencemen, he finished third in goals, second in assists, second in powerplay goals, second in game-winning goals, first in powerplay assists, second in game-winning assists, first in overtime assists, first in powerplay assists, second in shorthanded points, and second in game-winning points.

Simply put, if Robinson did not exist, Gary Dornhoefer would have had a lot more fun playing hockey, but more importantly, Markov would be leading the vast majority of the statistical categories when it comes to all-time performances by Canadiens defencemen.

A few years ago people started putting together lists to determine the best players in franchise history, and for the most part, Markov was not included in the defensive top-six.  It’s a ridiculous perception for a player that was dominant during an era when the team was far from competitive. It’s not his fault that he wasn’t lucky enough to play with a dynasty team.

Oh, and then there’s the matter of him improving every single defensive partner he was given, as well as earning them rich contracts with other teams.

I’m looking at you, Mike Komisarek, Sheldon Souray, and Mark Streit.

It’s also worth noting that he played his entire career with the franchise, a rare feat in the modern NHL.

Markov should be considered one of the best defencemen in franchise history, full stop.

If I had to pick a forward, I’d probably go with Michael Ryder.

Sure, he looked like he was somehow constantly falling down whenever he skated, but he reached 30+ goals in three different seasons during his career, and in my opinion, was robbed of a Calder Trophy in 2003-04.

Ryder was drafted 216th overall at a time when there were only 27 teams in the league, meaning he was drafted in the eighth round, a round that no longer exists in the NHL Entry Draft.

I know that he eventually won a Stanley Cup with the hated Boston Bruins, but let’s just say I was smiling when I got to see him lift Lord Stanley’s Grail.

I’d also argue that Tomas Plekanec was criminally underrated, especially in the years in which he was putting up 20+ goals and was also responsible for the team’s toughest defensive assignments, which was most of his seasons with the Habs.

Steve Shutt should probably be mentioned as well. It’s a little silly that the Habs haven’t retired his number yet, seeing as he still holds the record for the most goals scored in a season (60).

And finally, I have to send some love Christobal Huet’s way. He took over from a Vezina winner (Jose Theodore) and did it with aplomb. Other than Ken Dryden (0.922), Huet owns the best career save percentage in Canadiens history (0.920).

That’s rather impressive for a goalie hailing from a country that isn’t particularly known for producing NHL players.

I don’t want to be mean, but I can’t see any scenario in which an NHL team will want to grab Cayden Primeau on waivers, especially to start the year.

Let’s just say that he’s yet to find his rhythm in the AHL, which is enough to scare most teams when it comes to his NHL potential.

Every team has a Primeau or two in their organization, and most of them are a little younger than the Canadiens’ goalie, who turned 24 last week.

I would like to see him get a legitimate chance in the NHL, one that doesn’t come with a decimated roster on a bottom-feeder team, but he’s yet to get that opportunity.

I could be and often am wrong, but for now, I believe the concern regarding a waiver claim in Primeau’s case is much ado about nothing.


Lindsay lost the draw, but that’s not the worst part of this whole story.

It’s the 2002 playoffs.

The Canadiens had just finished upsetting the first-place Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. They faced the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round, winning two of the first three games.

They were up 3-0 in Game Four, in what looked like another easy win to secure a death grip on the series.

Enter Michel Terrien and referee Kerry Fraser.

The Habs lacked discipline, taking a series of penalties that sent Therrien off the deep end. Shortly after Stephane Quintal took a cross-checking penalty, Therrien lost it.

It’s worth noting he had lost his cool in the previous series, but this particular tantrum was at a whole new level. Therrien had been warned to take it down a notch by the officials, but it wasn’t enough to calm him down.

He started bellowing on the bench, unleashing an expletive-laced tirade toward Fraser, who responded to Therrien’s angry arm waving by giving the team a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The Canadiens were then forced to play a full two minutes with a two-man disadvantage.

It was enough to breathe life into the Hurricanes’ chances, as they quickly scored to bring the score to 3-1.

Bates Battaglia scored midway through the third period to cut the Canadiens’ lead to just one goal.

With less than a minute to play in the game, the Hurricanes were pressing hard and forced a faceoff in the Canadiens’ defensive zone.

Now, it’s key to remember that Yanic Perreault was far and away the best player in the NHL when it came to faceoffs, which is why everyone expected him to take the crucial faceoff.

He was the Michael Jordan of faceoffs. It was Perreault’s time to shine.

Easy call, right?

Therrien thought better, sending Joe Juneau, a left winger, to the faceoff dot, all but confirming that he too would have picked Sam Bowie before Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft.

I like Juneau. He was a friend of the family, and you won’t find many better people in hockey circles than him.

But he was not a faceoff specialist, by any means.

He lost the faceoff, leading to Erik Cole’s fourth goal of the playoffs, and, of course, the game-tying goal with just 41 seconds left.

And then it got worse.

After a series of icings in overtime, the Canadiens once again found themselves with a very important defensive faceoff. Remember, back then you could change your players after an icing.

This time around, Therrien was sure to use Perreault, right?

He literally just made a mistake that cost his team an opportunity to have a 3-1 series lead.

Everyone expected No.94 to jump onto the ice.

Everyone was wrong.

Winger Bill Lindsay was called upon to take the draw, which he quickly lost to Niclas Wallin, who scored the game-winning goal.

The Hurricanes would go on to trounce the Habs in the final two games, winning the series 4-2.

It was a comedy of errors by a coach that was clearly on tilt.

For the record, Perreault had won well over 60 percent of his faceoffs that year, as he had done in almost every season since making the NHL. Lindsay and Juneau, on the other hand, had a 42 percent and 48 percent faceoff efficiency, respectively.

It was the hockey equivalent of using a 1993 Pontiac Sunfire in a street race while keeping a brand-new Ferrari Testarossa in the garage.

One day I’ll get over it, just like I’ll eventually get over Mario Tremblay’s ridiculous actions that led to the Patrick Roy trade.

But today is not that day.

First off, I appreciate that Mr. de Saint-Rome is referencing another random Tweet I made a few weeks ago. I mentioned that cows only face north when eating. It’s true of a few ungulates, apparently, including deer.

I was at the farm recently and I confirmed, they only face north (or south) when eating.

The same phenomenon occurs when they rest.

Scientists think it may have something to do with the earth’s magnetic field, but personally, I think they just want to ensure they get as much sunlight as feasible, seeing as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. That way their side catches as many rays as possible.

It’s absolutely unscientific, but until I’m proven wrong I will pretend it’s a fact and tell as many people as possible.

As for the options when it comes to the Canadiens’ salary cap situation, as Hughes alluded to, the team is willing to put Carey Price on the LTIR if an opportunity arises, as was the case with Sean Monahan, but he would prefer to avoid dipping into the LTIR relief funds during the summer because it negates much of the financial maneuverability throughout the season.

That leads me to believe he’s going to be very selective when it comes to adding an expiring contract to the mix.

I can’t say I have identified exactly which teams will need salary cap relief, but a cursory look at the upcoming free agents doesn’t reveal any obvious targets. I’ll take a closer look as the season approaches to try to get a better idea of suitable targets, but for now, I must admit that I’m not sure who they’d want to bring into the fold.

Hughes did indeed mention he had a few things in the works that he could not openly discuss, but I don’t think he means major moves. Rather, he’ll send a few players that do not require waivers to the AHL to start the year.

Ideally, he would trade a player like Christian Dvorak or Joel Armia, but seeing as the team only has one retention spot available, that won’t be an easy task.

Lane Hutson is the only Canadiens prospect that I would describe as having ‘elite potential’. Which means he’s the default answer to this question.

However, we must remember that Hutson isn’t guaranteed to become a permanent NHL player. There are healthy odds he’ll make it, mind you, and you’d be silly to bet against it, but he’ll have to improve certain aspects of his game to guarantee an NHL career. If he does, All-Star nominations are bound to occur.

As for the rest, I strongly believe David Reinbacher will enjoy a long NHL career, though I’m still not sure he has top-pairing potential.

Players like Adam Engstrom and Logan Mailloux will also have a chance to earn a long-term job in the NHL, but again, it’s far from a guarantee.

When it comes to players that are currently in the NHL, I think you have to look to Kaiden Guhle.

MUST READ: Defenceman Kaiden Guhle Poised To Flourish

He has all the tools necessary to become an All-Star, but he needs to be used properly to reach the next level. That means a less intense quality of opposition and a much better defensive partner.

At the very least, now we know where Dwight Schrute got his inspiration for his clothing choices.

It’s not quite yellow or Dijon.

More of a spicy brown.

It’s funny that Pierre mentions the RHD issue because I’ve noticed it as well, but things are going relatively well in the rebuild so I hadn’t pointed it out.

It’s not a problem, yet.

I believe the ‘obsession’ started when they acquired Justin Barron and hasn’t lost any steam since then.

Clearly, Kent Hughes has identified it as a position of weakness in the organization, and he’s trying to ensure the team will have plenty of options on the right side once they’re ready to compete.

He mentioned Barron’s right-handedness at length following the trade.

And he’s mentioned the importance of having right-handed defencemen several times since.

It’s a smart strategy and one that I applaud, but much like you, I get the sense that they’re pushing the envelope a little when it comes to the value they put on right-handed blueliners.

From the outside, it seems like they’re almost putting as much value on the fact that some defencemen can play on the right as they are when it comes to their overall potential.

Now that he’s acquired a few right-handed defencemen, hopefully, Hughes will put less of an onus on defensive positioning going forward.

I genuinely hope he proves me wrong, but at this exact moment, I don’t feel like he projects to the NHL level.

However, I am mostly basing this on his play in the NCAA, and as we all know, the AHL and NHL are different animals.

I will re-evaluate throughout the year, especially if he manages to translate his offensive prowess to the professional level, which is my greatest concern at this point.

I’m also worried about his ice time in Laval, but again, we’ll have to re-evaluate once we have more information at our disposal. After all, he’s only 21 years old, and now that he’ll have a group of professional coaches helping him, not to mention the Canadiens’ development team, there are decent odds that he will be able to unlock some of his untapped potential.

It wouldn’t be the first time I get a prospect projection wrong. Far from it.

I don’t think Newhook will be used as a centre, and that’s perfectly fine.

By using him on the wing, he’ll be burdened with fewer defensive responsibilities, and it should allow him to use his fantastic speed to his advantage.

He’d look good on the second line, alongside Kirby Dach. Though, to be fair, everyone looks good beside Dach. As for the other winger, Josh Anderson may be a good fit, but I also wouldn’t mind splitting up Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, which would spread the talent around the lineup a little more, and lead to a second line of Newhook, Dach, and Caufield.

I know Caufield is a left winger, but he has no issues playing on the right.

I’d suggest the odds of Emil Heineman cracking the Canadiens lineup at camp are very low.

But in that same vein, I would also like to remind everyone that I predicted Heineman would have a slow start with the Laval Rocket last year, and, well, I was somewhat wrong.

In my opinion, he’s one of the first players in line for a promotion if injuries occur, due to his fantastic offensive prowess. Unfortunately, his defensive play leaves something to be desired, and that may hinder his eventual ascension to the NHL.

I’ve realized now that heading to an open field to be crammed into a hot, sweaty crowd to listen to music is no longer my cup of tea.

I used to spend my summers heading to concerts and having a great time, but nowadays I just can’t handle the crowds or the prices.

I remember not too long ago getting a ticket to a Foo Fighters concert for about $25. Nowadays, it’s closer to $150, and that’s in a general admission area, meaning you don’t get a seat.

If you want very good seats you better have healthy organs and a good black-market organ dealer.

On that note, my ideal festival would be called “I’m too old to stand in massive crowds and just want to watch my favourite artists without knowing exactly what type of cologne the guy in front of me is wearing too much of–fest”

It’s not very catchy, I know.

But I think it would appeal to my demographic.

As for the artists, well, I’m an ‘old’.

That means I stopped listening to music created after 2000, because, again, I’m an ‘old’.

Unfortunately, many of my favourite artists have since passed away, like Chris Cornell, or most of the members of The Band,

A throwback to the 90s would be great because we were blessed with a lot of great music at the time. I would have to rely on bands like the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Thrusth Hermit, Sloan, Jean Leloup, Foo Fighters, Blink 182, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, and perhaps even Weezer.

But if I’m being perfectly honest, I would probably just book Anne Murray and Mavis Staples, and not sell any tickets, ensuring that I get a private show from one of Canada’s greatest singers as well as one of the most beautiful voices in music history.

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Tony Schimek

Jean LeLoup, love it! Back up 10 years in time warp and I could see him opening for Plume Latraverse.


OMG that Bill Lindsay faceoff fiasco was 2002!? I remember it so well…yet forgot to pick up milk last night at the grocery store when that was my only reason for going there. I too am an “old”.


Struble just has to play as his development was severely affected by covid and injuries, he played only 104 games in the last 4 seasons at the college level. I would be willing to bet a lot of money he will be playing the NHL a lot longer than Arber Xhekaj will.
Also a second line of Slafkovsky, Dach and Anderson could be electrifying.
I think the two players with star potential are Caufield and Guhle, lets up hope these horrific injuries are something from the past.


I’ve been drooling for that Dach, Anderson, Slafkovsky line since the 2022 Draft. 😁


They actually played real well together in their like 8 games together.
Slaf couldnt keep his head up though and became the lines Target of Choice when opponents are looking for revenge.

Slaf is addressing some of his issues.
That said Xhekaj should skate when Slaf does.
Protect our investment with an Insurance Policy


Anderson can protect Slafkovsky for now. I’d rather see Arber on when Suzuki & Caufield are.


So was Xhekaj’s for the better
I love both these players, followed them for years since just after Primeau days in NCAA and Xhekaj since he was signed on a PTO .

Xhekaj went from a nobody to putting on 53lbs of Muscle thanks to the Pandemic.
Like he said all he could do was Cardio, Weights and Work at Home Depot or Costco or something like that.

Struble by comparison focused on his Education
Its a Choice, and he made the one right for him at the time.
It just put him behind many in our system.
If he didnt grow up with MSL and Hughes kids , we likely dont sign him.

That said Struble’s known to be a Cardio Freak who lives in the Gym.
Its just Xhekaj built his name on it and built a house on one basically.
First one in , last one out always

Xhekaj worked on his Slapshot in Junior and it paid off.
He led all NHL Rookie D in Goals and Hits for months after he left on LTIR.
In the OHL he took a 20 year old unsigned nobody and made him CHL player of the Year allowing him to sign a contract that FLA is 100% regretted ever since. Xhekaj created space for him and without him he dropped to barely ECHL level now.

Xhekaj defers to sending messages because he can
But as a playmaker and Goal Scorer he creates a ton of offense Struble isnt capable of.

Struble to put it in terms you’ll appreciate is Francis Boullion 2.0.
Boullion wasnt the biggest or the toughest but he was one of the strongest and never back down from a fight. He used his overwhelming and deceptive Strength given he’s a midget to overpower much bigger opponents. He’s a Pitbull just like Struble… But he isnt a Offensive Talent or Standout D. He’s a #5/#6 D similar to Boullion

Xhekaj is The Sherrif and Extremely involved in giving back to his community and Youth Hockey so he’s more then just a tough guy, he’s one you can invest in and almost make as much off Jersey Sales as it will cost you for his Contract.


Dude is valuable enough that he should only fight in special circumstances.


That line(Slaf, Anderson, Dach)has some big boys. Like the wcw slogan, “where the big boys play”.


I remember the talk at the time was that Therrien didn’t want Perreault on the ice during the last minute of that game because he had no confidence in his defensive play and felt it wasn’t worth it to have him on the ice just for the faceoff.
Bottom line, Therrien was/is a moron and way too hot-headed to be a head coach. But he was correct that the cross-checking call on Quintal was incredibly soft. Remember, Kerry Fraser was one of those guys who felt that the fans paid to get tickets to games only so they could see him ref.


Wasnt Therrien unemployed like a season and a half by the time we got Perrault?

Julien came in during 2016 in Lehkonen rookie season.
Lehky was playing great under Therrien , Julien made him something he wasnt.
Then we traded him and Lehkonen steps up again like under Therrien but with success.

Therrien did that with Torrey Mitchell i believe it was or Brandon Prust


I personally am hoping that the new management will sign Markov to a 10 game contract. Sit his arse on the bench for 10 games and then retire his number….


Markov was one of the highest paid D given his role.
Scott Nedermeyer won basically every Trophy Medal and Cup over and over.
Still averaged just under what Markov made in his career.
5 year different in age but competed against each other for years and years.

NJD fans are always quick to remind us how much Markov cost for no awards either personal or team to his credit. Robinson did all that while becoming a top Generational star because he wasnt only a top habs he was a Top NHL Defensman while Active.

Markov cant say that
Most of the time he wasnt the best D on our Team
The years he coulda been he was on LTIR for basically 3 seasons.
Because of it Gorges and PK Subban got to grow behind some notable UFA’s we signed to replace Markov in the short term

Im not saying Markov’s bad
Top 10 Habs all time
But he is a Champion, he isnt a Contender , He isnt a Mentor as Subban said “Scott Gomez” was the one who taught him what it was to be a Pro Hockey Player and cut his penalties in half over the next 4 years after they played together. It lead to PK becoming an asset on Special Teams and Surpassing Markov in a shorter time IMO