The Habs are off to a good start. With all of the recent historical drama you have to give les boys credit. A win is a win is a win which I’m sure Jean Chretien would agree with. And the team has banked some early season wins.
That’s the thing about beating expectation.
Geoff Molson is in a tricky bind. His meddling into the GM’s realm has his team in a situation where they have to come from behind value wise in this cap age.
We can list the bad trades and even worse signings, but for today let’s grade the squad.
Max Domi – I still think ultimately Chucky is more valuable than Max. What I will say is that Domi is clearly motivated and clearly having fun and what Canadian born hockey player wouldn’t after moving from Arizona to Montreal? Barring injury or suspension he’s going to have a great season. B+
Jonathan Drouin is predictable. The stereotypical cliche of a Quebec forward. But surely Bergy knew that when he acquired this character? He’s putting up the points playing wing to Domi and after all, that’s what he’s paid to do. B-
Tomas Tatar – How many of us thought of this guy as a cap throw in when Patches was traded to Vegas? He’s having fun again and putting up points. He’s also been a big part of the success of the team this season while Might Max is making like he’s Chris Higgins. B+
Brendan Gallagher – Honestly I really don’t know how he didn’t end up being named captain. He does it all and at a good cap hit. Somehow he’s turned into a goal scorer, even after his two hand injuries. A
Jesperi Kotkaniemi – The Habs are determined to burn his first year in the NHL in sheltered minutes. He’s on pace for about 40 points, struggles with faceoffs, and is a fan fave. I still think he’d benefit from a year of top ice time in the AHL, but there are arguments for both schools of thought. B
Phil Danault – Has officially taken Mr. Plekanec’s role sadly. I don’t think Tomas was done and it was heartbreaking to see him put out to pasture in the manner he was. I’m not a huge Danault fan, but he does what he does. B-
Artturi Lehkonen – I just don’t get why so many marvel over this young forward? Doesn’t seem to go where you need to go to rack up goals. How many middle sized perimeter forwards does one team need? At 23 need to up his game. C
Paul Byron – Injured again, but the team wins when he plays. He certainly gives it all and has a role which for someone that Bergy plucked off waivers was a plus. His new contract isn’t. C
Joel Armia – Was making the most of his opportunity until he got hurt. One of the larger Habs and part of the Finnish connection. His job clearly is to protect the rookie, but Jesperi is scoring more since Joel’s injury. C-
Andrew Shaw – One of Marc Bergevin’s biggest flaws as a GM is his love for his boys. Whether it be former coach JJ Daignault or Andrew Shaw, it’s just not how you run things at the NHL level. Shaw is getting better after recovering from his injury. His production vs contract just is a fail. C-
Matthew Peca – Honestly, I’d hate to think they forced Plecky out so Peca could play. I just don’t see any upside to his game, or future as a Hab. D
Charles Hudon – He’s running out of chances. He’s got a bit of a mean streak in him, but for some reason can’t get the points on the board. He’ll never be a top six, but he’s fighting for his spot on the bottom six. D+
Jeff Petry – Man this guy is earning his Benjamins. With Weber out he’s the #1 on this squad and he’s living up to it. A very valuable veteran who doesn’t get enough sunshine. A+
Mike Reilly – Another flea market pick up for the team. He should be valuable playing with Weber, but so far he’s struggling to put points up which should be his strength. C-
Jordie Benn – I like Benn. He’s being asked to do a lot more than he should be and is giving it his best shot. To his credit he’s not embarrassing himself. Should be interesting to see if he resigns in Montreal or not is traded at the deadline… B-
Noah Juulsen – At times he’s looked out of place, but at others he’s done well. I’ve never expected him to put up points, but for a youngun he’s had an interesting first block of games. B-
Victor Mete – Poor Meat. He needs to go down and feast on some AHL opponents and get his game up. If he doesn’t put up points his value is really limited. C-
Xavier Ouellet – If this guys name was Tom Smith would he be on the Habs? That being said he’s given it his best and what we’re seeing this scribbler believes is his best. C-
Kyle Alzner – I feel bad for this veteran. I feel bad for Montreal as it’s good luck dealing with agents when it comes to their clients signing with Montreal while the Bergey & Beer Guy show is in progress.
Carey Price – Most goalies are head cases to start with. To have a goalie suggest that they recognize that they are is another. Price is no longer a kid. Nobody forced him to sign his contract. After a decade plus in Montreal he surely knew the expectations that would come with that contract. This was the season where he put up and showed his value. He’s playing worse than Anti Niemi. Think about that. He needs a good sports shrink and to realize that his legacy is at stake. D-
Anti Niemi – He’s a savvy vet that tries to get it done and has had a career boost in Montreal. He may see more ice time as the season moves forward if Price doesn’t improve. The team wins for him and in the NHL it’s always about winning. C+
Coach Claude Julien & Staff – C+
The boys are finding ways to win and not go into any major slumps. It’s going to be a long season and this will make or break Julien’s second term in Montreal.
Montreal finds itself in a quandary. Tanking like last season isn’t good for business and makes all of us hockey fans cranky. It’s just not the way a legendary franchise should roll.
The real money for this season is getting Weber and Price functioning enough to get them traded.
The team currently lacks a true franchise player. It still lacks a 1C although Domi is giving it his best shot and deserves a lot of credit.
The D is in tatters. It will take skill to offload Price and Weber and Bergevin is probably not the GM.
Geoff Molson has some big issues to mull including firing himself and his GM at the end of this season. Loyalty and relationships do count in pro sports and the team will have more challenges than it already does if a change of culture and character don’t occur.
In the meanwhile it’s nice to see a more entertaining brand of hockey and some fun on the ice. It could be worse, we could be Ottawa.
But mostly it’s nice to see some wins and that will be the challenge as we move closer to the playoffs.
What do you think Hab fans? You can post your comments below.