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Montreal Canadiens

3 Mistakes Made By Divisional Rivals The Canadiens Should Avoid

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Montreal Canadiens management team

The Montreal Canadiens are at a crucial point in their rebuild, and they could learn from the mistakes of their rivals on what to avoid this summer.

Between the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators and, up until recently, the Florida Panthers, the Atlantic Division has been the most imbalanced division in all of hockey; holding substantially long playoff droughts during the last 15 years.

Be it from catastrophic trades, poor drafting or a lack of asset management, their rebuilds were plagued by rushing the process too quickly.

These moves left general managers, fans and even sports bookies confused. NHL betting odds had these teams at the top of their NHL standings predictions. On top of providing DOTA 2 betting for the 2013 Valve title, or other games involving skill and teamwork, sportsbooks were left scrambling mid-season to re-arrange their predictions due to the disappointing starts of Atlantic Division teams.

As the Montreal Canadiens gear up for an important here are three major errors that rivals have made that should be avoided if they wish to hit another level in the coming years.

Overspending On Free Agents

Overspending on free agents is a way of life, especially for Canadian teams like the Montreal Canadiens, but it could sometimes come to bite you in a cap crunch.

Just take the Toronto Maple Leafs as an example, signing future Hall of Fame forward Patrick Marleau to a three-year deal worth $6.25M per season in the summer of 2017. Although Marleau’s leadership was seen as extremely valuable, it came with significant risk, as the former 2nd overall pick in the 1997 NHL Draft had just turned 38 by the time he had first played a game for the Leafs.

After two underperforming years, the Maple Leafs were stuck. They needed cap space to sign another free agent in John Tavares, while keeping some flexibility to sign their emerging core of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner.

The result? They had to pay an unprotected 1st-round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes to take on Marleau’s contract; proving the signing to be a blatant, unforced error by former GM Kyle Dubas.

What’s worse? Carolina used that 1st-round pick to select breakout star Seth Jarvis at 13th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Imagine where the Leafs would be right now with a cost-controlled Jarvis in their lineup?

Habit of Overspending

Montreal Canadiens general manager has mentioned in the past that he’s willing to overpay for players or assets he truly covets.

In the right deal, that could be fine, but, more often than not, it can set back your rebuild quite a bit, especially if the acquired asset isn’t tied down long-term.

At the 2022 NHL Draft, the Ottawa Senators sacrificed the 7th overall pick and 39th overall picks, along with a 2024 3rd-round pick, to acquire star scorer Alex DeBrincat.

The move was made in an effort for the Senators to take the next step in their rebuild to finally begin competing for the playoffs, but that aggressiveness proved to be ill-advised.

Not only did Ottawa make the trade without a commitment from DeBrincat to remain in Ottawa long-term in the form of an extension, but the Senators were forced to trade him a year later after having missed the playoffs yet again, to a divisional rival in the Detroit Red Wings.

The following year, during this past 2022-2023 season, the Senators took a big step back after the loss of DeBrincat and the organizational overhaul that ensued from the failure of the rushed rebuild.

Now the Senators will look to make sweeping changes to a rebuild that most pundits had earmarked as a future powerhouse.

Hold Onto Underperforming Prospects Too Long

This is perhaps the hardest issue to overcome, as NHL prospects are usually

The Montreal Canadiens have been guilty of this in the past, ultimately trading former 1st-round picks like Louis LeBlanc, Michael McCarron and more for pennies on the dollar.

Then there were the Nikita Schebaks, Noah Juulsens and Victor Metes who were also lost to waivers. Some can be viewed as circumstantial, but it’s imperative to extract value with your top picks and prospects for a rebuild to be successful.

The Ottawa Senators are kind of in the same bind, as they spent good assets in the form of 1st-round picks to try and fill their big need on the right side of their defence. Drafting Lassi Thomson (2019) and Jacob Bernard-Docker (2018) and trading for Erik Brannstrom (a leftie who can play on the right side).

All three have failed to establish themselves as the bonafide top-4 defencemen that they were pegged to be in their draft years, with Bernard-Docker just starting to crack the NHL full-time at 23 years old.

The case of Brannstrom was well-known, as he was unhappy in Ottawa based on his usage, after being the key piece acquired in the Mark Stone trade of 2019. Now, with his trade value all but depleted, the Senators are expected to move him for pennies on the dollar, having virtually nothing to show from trading one of the best players to put on the Senators jersey in the last two decades.

In Thomson’s case, he was not only lost to waivers once (before being reacquired by waivers), but has now signed to play in Europe next season. It is a shame, as he did put up good numbers in the AHL as a 20-year-old, but, unfortunately, the Senators waited too long to pull the trigger on trading him for a bonafide solution on defence.

This scrutiny will soon apply to the Montreal Canadiens real soon, as they begin funnelling the 30+ prospects they’ve drafted or acquired by trade into their professional ranks in the coming months.

Highly drafted prospects will be looked to improve, but, with the wealth of depth in their prospect pool, the hope would be that general manager Kent Hughes would pull the trigger on a deal if he feels a prospect won’t live up to the hype; sooner, rather than later.

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Marc

Lou Lamoriello signed Marleau, not Dubas.

Dana

I do believe there is a “ formula” to a rebuild such as trade away older premium assets, leverage cap space, accumulate draft capital, build a core, sign free agents to fill in for roster gaps and after you’re a competitive playoff team, you trade draft capital to extend the championship horizon potential-ie you’re a buyer not a seller at the deadline

That said, each situation is unique. Habs go from cup finalist to a bottom dweller in less than a year, very unusual circumstances which requires managing timelines and priorities differently. Here are the essentials of the 3 divisional rebuilds.

Buffalo has missed 13 straight playoffs. They have show patience, they have tried trades, they have signed a few guys. They have had 2 forst overall and 2 second overall picks and have selected in the first round all 13 years, including years of multiple picks. They actually did a rebuild inside of the rebuild.

Ottawa has missed 7 in a row but made 4 of the previous 6 and had a 44 win season and won 2 rounds the season before their drought. They made more moves than Buffalo but have done very well at draft and develop historically, but now the pipeline is thin and they haven’t drafted in the top 60 the past few years. Chychrun Giroux Tarasenko and Debrincat were big adds but most of their roster is homegrown.

Detroit has missed 8 straight. Yzerman inherited a system 5 years ago void of draft capital or high end prospects as Holland had made moves in attempting to extend their incredible playoff streak. The rebuild has taken times and he tinkered recently ( Kane Debrincat and Chariot being the most significant) but mostly tried to rebuild at the draft table. He is patient in developing prospects as only 2 of the 11 first or second rounders over the past 3 years have played for the big club and less than 30 total games so unlike Ottawa, they have lots of draft and prospect capital and they were the first team outside tge playoffs.

So, who of those 3 was doing it right? How long should a rebuild take? Are “shortcuts” good or bad? Where are we in the process and what’s next for Hughes? If you have read my opinions over the past several months on this site, I’ve been pretty clear and consistent in my messaging, Hughes is mostly rocking it and we have a clear path to being an elite team.

FlowerPower60

As a team the went from cellar to Stanley Cup, Colorado is a good model. They took 6 years to do so. That is why fans may be getting impatient with Montreal, but I figure the team will be 50% of the way through the rebuild this fall post-draft heading into the season. Yes, great prospect pool, but still prospects and once pro, still need time to mature. Imagine the core in 2-3 years then onward for many more. Once set Montreal won’t be looking to swap out half the roster, just 2-3 players per year, and that’s what you are looking for: stability to create chemistry, a solid locker room and players built around a team-first mentality. Also, getting into the playoffs is one thing. It’s going to take a couple of years building experience and endurance for playoff runs as the difficulty to succeed just keeps mounting. Ultimately, this may lead to a single Cup win in a few years, but that will be momentous nonetheless.

Last edited 24 days ago by FlowerPower60
Ghg55

Not disagreeing with what you’re saying at all, just commenting on your point about the Avs. I don’t think ppl should use that as our standard. We will not have the same type of rebuild. They drafted ppl who are now the second best player in the world, the best defender in the world, and another top 8-13 player in the world. It’s possible our players surprise and become that, but it’s unlikely. If I had to guess, when we contend it won’t be because we have truly elite top end talent like the avs, but rather because we can ice a great overall top9/top4. Like, maybe the best 3rd line, a top tier 2nd line, a strong but not elite 1st line (they won’t be putting up 280-300+pts) etc. And similar with the D. It looks like that’s the path as we don’t have those mackinnons and makers, McDavids and draisaitls, Crosby and malkins etc. And honestly there’s a chance it’s better this way cuz we have top 9 players who are gonna be reliable defensively and we won’t be paying through the nose for elite offense that could potentially be shut down in the playoffs like the leafs etc.

Last edited 24 days ago by Ghg55
Dana

In the cap era it’s tremendously difficult to have a competitive advantage over all other teams so it’s likewise difficult to win the cup as it depends on who you play. The Kings are cursed by drawing the oilers in the first round and have spent the past year or two trying to build an Oilers conquering roster- and the leafs fans know what I’m talking about. So your point is valid about tweaking a roster spot or two annually to target a competitive strength of a likely playoff foe. Personally, I’d be estatic with a single cup during our upcoming reign of pain ( no trademark pending, lol). It would be fun as a fan to be competitive for a decade which is possible if you look at the Blackhawks bruins penguins Caps etc. I think we need two high ceiling top 6 forwards and while it takes a couple of years for them to become strong contributors, you have guys that play middle six roles until they are ready. Newhook and Roy specifically. We will take a big step forward this year and another each of the next two, so by my projections, we will be a minor cup contender in 3 years as long as Hughes plays his part, which I expect he will with excellence.

William O'Neill

Excellent points. Couple of the young D need to be packaged for young scoring. Defence looks strong for the foreseeable future. It would be radical to trade Matheson but will he ever have more value? Low bucks contract capable of big minutes. Nice return to be sure.

Thomas

Look, there are 32 teams now all trying to accomplish the same thing. Luck and timing play as important a role as anything. All these things you mention are gambles.

Dana

Sure, luck and timing are elements. Getting first puck in 2015, mcdavid, and not 2014 Eckbkad woukd be an example for the Oilers. But it doesn’t diminish responsibility and if anything likely reinforces the necessity of discipline.Elements like that are accelerants or conversely inhibitors. That’s is why I don’t like the assessment that a shortcut is a negative- by design you get to the same destination quicker so it’s a positive. The cost , both near and long term, becomes the basis of assessment of the shortcut. Making the playoffs( the destination in this example) by acquiring a couple of good players at the expense of future draft capital which inhibit the teams ability to stay a playoff team or become a legitimate cup contender is the real measure of costs. It’s a business and GMs want to keep their jobs so they make decisions that align with those two imparitoves
more than ypu would as an armchair GM such as me.

Pete

Great article and insights. As for the rebuild, steady as she goes. There’s been a great accumulation of talent and assets. MTL fans are more tolerant of a rebuild than they’ve been given credit for, and this one seems exceptionally well managed. Slow, steady and methodical will win the race.

Greg

I’m not sure there is a right way, but there are steps the rebuilding team must make if they wish to become a team that can make the playoffs every year for a while and be legitimate contenders too.
I’m afraid Hughes is going to end up rushing the rebuild, and I fear that may well begin in the next few months. Did the team make strides? Of course, and it’s well documented the progress individual players have made, despite placing 5th last yet again.
While I don’t think we are too far away from becoming that perennial contender we all want, we are still several years from that. When I hear talk of how aggressive Hughes can be this summer, ‘with 4 × 1st round picks in the next 2 drafts,’ as well as our glut on defence to use as trade fodder, I cringe, because it’s not the time to do that–we aren’t one or 2 players away, we are a couple forward lines away. And without adding even more conditions to the 1st we get for Monahan in 2025 draft, we can’t be dealing that away when we have no idea where it will land.

Dana

I look forward two years and I see four competitive lines comprised of guys we mostly have in the system today.
1.Nick between Caufield and slavkovsky
2.Dach between our pick at 5 and a ufa or trade guy ( either way a really good player) in the next 16 months using picks, prospects and excess defensemen
3. Beck or Evans between Roy and Newhook
4. Florian Xhekaj with Anderson and Dvorak or EvansBeck or Gallagher. ( big heavy physical fast line that can chip in offensively)

I don’t see that as unrealistic and I see it as very competitive. You think it’s two full forward lines, so where am I off track? Maybe it’s 3 years but could be 2. I also don’t know what the plan is if you keep all those picks and use them? We only have so many roster spots so the most logical resolution is to trade some for a really good player and keep some to replenish as the cap or injuries or non performance mandates. We have over 10 picks in the top 3 rounds this/next year so there is no room for them all in our system, especially nhl. Plus we will be trading matheson and savard bringing in more roster pieces or prospects and picks. If I thought slow was the better process I’d say so but with so much young talent in the system with varying degrees of nhl experience, I think it hinders the team to wait 3-5 years to add a star forward- next year likely works better than this off season as the ufa crop is very good.

As for trading a pick from first round next year, you top 10 protect it as a condition and or the lesser of ours or the Monahan pick? I’m not advocating emptying the draft, excess dmen or prospect pipelines, but using some if it to aquire a premium asset that fills a roster gap as that is where we are in the rebuild. I never touched on the rest of the roster as I don’t think a whole lot of additions are required.

RandyK

Personally, I trust what Hugo are doing, slow n steady and most important smart. The Calgary pick, unprotected, next year may be his best move. A healthy Dach, Newhook and hopefully Roy all clicking…second line! Patience gang…we gonna good…real good!!