Welcome back to the first Montreal Canadiens Mailbag of the 2023-24 season!
The 2023 Rookie Camp is well underway, which means we finally (and mercifully) have many Canadiens-related subjects to cover.
In this edition we discuss Lias Andersson’s future, Joshua Roy’s potential, the Laval Rocket, Emil Heineman, the goaltending situation, golf partners, Martin St-Louis’ bilingualism, the Xhekajs, and much more.
Let’s dive right into it.
Could Lias Andersson make the team out of camp
— William Menard (@William16967919) September 12, 2023
I see Lias Andersson as a good option once injuries occur. In the sense that he can be called up from the Laval Rocket without having to worry about his development, and given his experience, he’s likely to do a pretty good job once he makes it to the NHL. But I don’t see him making a career out of his time with the Canadiens.
I could be and often am wrong, but in this case, I feel like he’s more of an insurance policy than a player who they believe can turn his career around.
Which Hab would put up the stiffest competition against you in a chicken wing eating Contest
— Marc Blanchard (@MarcB_86) September 11, 2023
That depends. Do I get to prepare for the event? And by prepare I don’t mean regulating my food intake so I’m ready to ingest as many wings as possible. I’d need an unreasonable amount of Tums to get through the event. Don’t get old, folks, it sucks.
Another key factor is hot sauce. Are we dousing these things in the hottest sauce possible? If so, I have a decent chance.
But let’s be honest, these guys have made a career out of absorbing as many calories as possible, which they convert to energy to power their athletic prowess. They’d trounce me.
Whereas I was once banned from eating Cinnabon at the mall because according to the security team, I was “Scaring the children. Get a hold of yourself, sir. Here are some napkins. In fact, keep all the napkins. And the napkin holder, for good measure. It’s ruined anyhow.”
Of our top prospects expected to be in Laval this year, who gets the first call up on offence and defence?
— Andrew Smith (@AJSmith_GoHabs) September 11, 2023
I believe it’ll come down to three players up front. We already discussed Andersson. I think he’s likely to fill a roster hole if the Canadiens are desperate for a warm body, but if they want to give a forward an extended look to see if they can follow in Rafael Harvey-Pinard’s footsteps, I get the sense that Emil Heineman and Joshua Roy will be at the top of the list. The next name will probably be someone like Sean Farrell.
Defensively, the options are a little less exciting. William Trudeau is my dark horse candidate in the prospect pool to secure a decent NHL career, and I want to see the Canadiens give him a look. He doesn’t stand out as elite in any particular situation, but he does have the tendency to make the right decision at the right time, and he has a very well-rounded game. Beyond him, they could take a look at Logan Mailloux. His heavy shot would be a boon to their terrible powerplay. Jayden Struble is probably next on the list, though we should also consider a player like Justin Barron might be in the AHL at that point, and he’s clearly the best choice when it comes to NHL-ready defencemen.
What’s your prediction for the Rocket this year? Lots of youth but lots of talent, should be interesting
— Noah🏁 (@Noah_B24) September 11, 2023
I’m not certain they’ll make the playoffs. Logically they should. They have added several fresh names up front, and that could lead to great things. But we also have to consider that a number of players will be starting their first AHL season in earnest, which means there’s always a possibility that chemistry will be tough to come by.
It’s also incredibly hard to judge where the teams will end up in the North Division.
As Joel Bouchard once told me, coaching in the AHL isn’t a year-to-year thing. It’s not even a month-to-month or week-to-week thing. It comes down to the assets you have on hand for that particular day, and even then, you may receive a call from the Canadiens team telling you that your best players are no longer available to play tonight.
It’s chaotic, and I love it.
When it comes to the Rocket, I’m looking to see particular players play a big role. Players like Filip Mesar, who I think will do well in the AHL since his style of play lends itself to professional hockey much more than amateur hockey, one of the reasons his numbers in the OHL were far from dominant.
given his development curve – and the success of it was there for the world to see at the WJC – what do you see as Roy’s ceiling? floor? What does he need to work on most in Laval this year? (foot speed?)
— Derek Ford 🫐 (@derekpford) September 11, 2023
There were several questions about Joshua Roy, and I’m glad to see Canadiens fans are starting to shovel coal in the hype train. That’s not to say I think Roy will be a superstar, but his evolution in the QMJHL was a joy to watch.
I believe the last time I discussed his defensive prowess I suggested that in his first year in the league, he could not identify his own goalie in a police lineup, and I stand by that.
Since then, he evolved into a legitimate 200-foot player that will improve all the players around him regardless of the situation. His versatility will allow him to be used on the powerplay, penalty kill and at 5v5, which bodes well for his future NHL aspirations.
Coaches love players who don’t need much coaching, and due to Roy’s vision on the ice, he fits the bill.
I see him as a good ‘middle-roster’ player, the type of player that does a lot of great things on the ice, but doesn’t always get the credit for his subtle decisions.
As for his weaknesses, as you say, his skating could stand to be improved. The good news is that he’ll be working with the Canadiens’ development team, and he’s very good at quickly putting theory into practice.
More than anything, I’d suggest his lack of experience is the biggest weakness, and that’s clearly not his fault. I’m very excited to see what he can do this season.
Given your inside knowledge how will the goaltending dilemma be resolved and will cayden be lost on waivers?
— Cliveww (@Cliveww3) September 12, 2023
There were also a few questions about the goaltending situation, which is clearly weighing heavily on Canadiens fans.
I’m here to tell you not to worry. They can just place two goalies on waivers.
With all due respect to Cayden Primeau, who I think still deserves a legitimate opportunity in the NHL, I sincerely doubt any team would claim him. Most organizations already have a Primeau or two in the system.
Some also asked about trading one of the goaltenders, and the possible returns.
It may sound harsh, but the Canadiens won’t get much in return if they decide to trade Casey DeSmith, Jake Allen, or Samuel Montembeault, though the latter would probably garner a decent asset since he’s on a very reasonable contract.
Goalies simply don’t hold much value on the NHL’s trade market anymore.
In fact, I’m not sure how Kent Hughes will trade DeSmith, the options are quite limited.
Do you think Martin St. Louis dreams in English or French? Also, who would win a staring contest between Arber and Florian?
— Claire Cappelletti (@c_cappelletti) September 11, 2023
There are very few things I relate to more than dealing with a bilingual thought process. Since French is my maternal tongue. I have to translate everything in my mind before speaking.
To drive the point home, I realize I should have used ‘mother tongue’ in that last sentence, but as I said, the process isn’t always perfect.
That’s why I laugh every time I see head coach Martin St-Louis turn to Chantal Machabée when he’s reaching for a word.
Je comprends, totally. Des times the mots just aren’t là.
As an aside, I’d like to mention that Machabée is genuinely one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in the sports industry. I know many people will claim the hockey world is full of great people, but in this particular case, we’re talking about someone who always makes time for you and genuinely has an affable personality. You’ll have a very hard time finding anyone who has something bad to say about her, which is always a great sign.
Also, it’s not easy to come up with translations on the spot, especially during live events like press conferences. I’m always impressed that Machabée takes just a second or two to come up with the proper term, though I get the sense that like any good team, her communication colleagues may offer some help in those situations.
If St-Louis is anything like me, his dreams will be bilingual, which is rather entertaining if I do say so myself. Oh, and for some reason they’ll also contain an unreasonable amount of references to the short-lived cartoon ProStars, which featured Wayne Gretzky, Bo Jackson, and Michael Jordan fighting zombies and finding missing Stanley Cups.
As for the Arber vs. Florian staring contest, I’m not sure the world is ready to handle just how intense it could become.
But as a younger brother myself, my money is on Florian.
If there’s one thing the youngest in the family knows how to do, it’s how to easily and quickly get under their siblings’ skin.
Besides, Florian has already a few inches since the Canadiens drafted him, and is now listed at 6’4″, so I assume that he’s grown yet another inch or two since the last update. At this rate, Arber will be straining his neck in staring competition.
Which current Habs player would be your first choice for a Golf partner ?
— PL Fontaine (@PLFontaine) September 11, 2023
At the risk of upsetting every golfer who graciously visits our site, I have to say that I thoroughly detest playing golf.
Wait. Let me rephrase that.
I love spending the day outside, and there are few things more fun than driving a golf cart. I even have fun playing golf.
But that’s because I decided to treat golf as a fun activity rather than something that haunts my dreams, which is what golf seems to be for most of my friends.
Deep down inside, I truly believe the majority of them hate golf, but they play for the slim chance that they’ll pull off a miraculous approach shot from the second cut of the rough that rolls beautifully on the green and settles down in a perfect spot just two feet away from the hole.
In that exact moment (and every time they tell the story, which will be often) they enjoy pure bliss. But there rest of the time, most amateur golfers have the same alarming face as someone who has just emerged from a tent after a sleepless night.
So, with that in mind, I’d like to golf with someone who solely focuses on the fun aspect of the sport. I don’t think Nick Suzuki would appreciate my presence, at all. He looks like he takes golf very seriously, which is probably why he’s pretty good at it. But I do think I’d get along with Cole Caufield, as long as we play best ball. I’d also like to play with Jordan Harris, just because he’s a fascinating person who stands out as a leader off the ice, and half the fun of playing golf is having great discussions.
But if I’m being perfectly honest, I’d find out which teammate wanted to ditch the golf and head to the closest fishing hole.
The most likely candidate would be Johnathan Kovacevic. He seems like the type of person who would not hesitate to go on a six-kilometre trek through the forest just to see if he can spot a rare type of flower that only blooms in a specific area and time of the year. That’s more my style.
Oh, by the way, did I ever tell you about the time I hit a great approach shot from the second-cut rough at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club in 1999?
It was a beautiful, yet dewy Sunday morning. A slight fog covered the fairway, pierced by the sun’s relentless, life-giving rays…
What are some recommended necessities when bedridden for 4-6 weeks?
— Melissa Leigh (she/they) (@MochiMayhem89) September 11, 2023
In my experience, three key ingredients help you deal with anything. They must be used together.
1 – Soda crackers (Premium Plus, ideally), an unlimited supply.
2 – Canada Dry Ginger Ale. For some reason, my mother insisted that it needed to be flat, but I’m starting to suspect she just used the opportunity to get rid of old two-litre bottles.
3 – The Price Is Right, preferably with Bob Barker, but Drew Carey will do in a pinch. The episode must contain Plinko, and ideally, Cliffhanger (the one with the yodelling). Without Plinko, the episode loses all healing powers.
On a more serious note, I am sorry to hear you’re going through a rough time. Keep your head up, and don’t hesitate to send me a message on Twitter if you’re bored. Also, Canadiens hockey is just around the corner, and there’s a decent chance that the team won’t suffer thirty-two hundred and fourteen injuries this year, which should be fun.
Last weekend during a charity match, YouTuber Max Fosh show a reverse Uno card to a ref that issued a yellow card to him. What is a past penalty call that you would like to use a reverse Uno card. Could be Habs or any other team.
— https://bsky.app/profile/ryanlee.bsky.social (@rylee_mtl) September 11, 2023
That’s an easy one. I’d get rid of the ridiculous yellow card that was given to Robin Van Persie at Camp Nou.
First off, it was a ridiculous call. There was less than one second between Persie’s kick and the whistle.
Secondly, Camp Nou is known for being one of the loudest stadiums on earth. How in the hell are you going to book someone for wasting time when it was impossible to hear anything due to 100,000 fans making as much noise as possible?
The answer (which I always present as a fact despite it being an opinion) is that Arsenal was on the verge of sapping all the momentum out of Barcelona, and was well on their way to beating them in the round of 16. UEFA wanted no part of losing their golden goose, which had just squandered a lead.
Also, the referee was best friends with Barcelona’s vice-president of soccer operations. And he hates puppies.
Those last two sentences aren’t actually true, but I like to throw them into the story to make it seem worse.
Oh by the way, if you haven’t noticed, I’m still slightly bitter about it, even if Van Persie would go on to join Man U a few years later, which is one of the worst sins possible in sports.
If I had to choose a hockey moment, I’d probably go back and reverse the high-sticking call from the 1993 playoffs between Doug Gilmour and Wayne Gretzky.
Why? Just to put an end to all the delusions of grandeur from Leafs fans who assume they’d go on to win a Stanley Cup and not get trounced 4-0 by the much stronger Canadiens lineup which happened to have a prime Patrick Roy guarding the net.