Looking @ the Habs the Morning of Free Agency 2022. By Jamie Gilcig HOCKEY CRUNCH Have They Moved Forward?

July 13, 2022 – As I sit here pondering whether the Habs under new GM Kent Hughes are doing well or not I’m mulling over their core.

Clearly the Habs are not addressing the very real factor that the team needs a few francophone players in their core. Right now there seems a huge opportunity to pick up Pierre Luc Dubois from the Jets.

Big Centre with enough talent to be a 1 or 2 C. He fits many points that this franchise desperately needs. The team also failed to draft Nathan Gaucher who while not looking to be a 1 or 2 C would probably be a very good 3c. Anaheim nabbed him 22nd. Clearly Montreal could’ve had him if they really wanted him.

Those were my two targets this off season for the team. But of course I’m not the Habs GM. Mr. Hughes is. I am glad they passed on Shane Wright whose interviews had my head shaking, and I really don’t think his ego would be a fit in la belle province. There are many talented players in hockey now who simply wouldn’t make a good Hab. I’ve always said that about Carey Price.

Speaking of Price it’s time to say enough and put him on LTIR. If the allegations that his substance issues were related to his injuries he’s essentially done as those injuries mean he simply will not be able to perform up to his talent level without said substances, certainly not for a season and playoffs. He owes it to the team to admit that, and either retire or be placed to LTIR so the team can solidly move forward.

Do I like the Habs draft and trades overall? Kinda, sorta. No major clangs, and no major whoofs. If they can trade Dach to get Dubois then I really will appreciate the moves, but so far that doesn’t appear to be in the works.

Is the team better today than the end of last season? Well for this writer the loss of Luke Richardson is critical. Frankly if it wasn’t for language issues he most likely would be the Habs head coach. But that’s the reality of the market. I think he truly made Marty’s coaching debut safer and more successful. The team needs to support St. Louis and find him a really good X&Os support coach especially with the team’s young D corps.

Slafkovsky. I understand why the team took him. It’s not like that wacky Poehling pick. BUT, Slafkovsky still hasn’t put up a major season at any level under the NHL. He needs to establish himself clearly before the Habs bring him to the NHL.

If the Habs can get Dubois the tandem of him and Suzuki would make them very solid up the middle with Evans as a 3C. Dach or Dvorak should help the team get there if there’s a trade to be made. The Habs have the pieces if the Jets are ready to trade.

The D is much better than it looks now. It’s going to get even better as we see which youngun fits in where. IF the team does trade Petry they need a QB for the PP which isn’t apparent yet unless they go with Wideman and Drouin. I think young Logan Mailloux is going to be a monster 1D within a few years barring injuries.

Drouin. It’s his year to shine. Otherwise his career will slide to oblivion. I think with the right centre he should do just fine. He endured a lot of unfair criticism last year. He is who he his and has talents that are very valuable in the NHL today. He can be a strong francophone player for the team and should blossom under St. Louis. He needs to simply put up 60 points and play in 70 games.

RD is a problem for the team if they move Petry.

Arber Xhekaj, or Eye Chart as I like to call this talented young man. I’d like to see the Habs experiment with moving him to the wing. He’s an exciting player with a mean streak that talented forwards will need. That’s no knock on him. I just think he can better use his talents up front, especially with Montreal loaded on D. Either way I think Habs fans will be really happy to see him in Montreal eventually.

In goal it’s time to let Cayden Primeau make it or break it. Perfect timing and Montembault is still around to do what he does…urm…best. The return for Jake Allen’s contract simply is too huge for Montreal not to take advantage of. Allen at 1.4M (habs retaining 50%) is simply too valuable for Cap strapped contending teams. He should net a late 1st at least.

The biggest mistake fans and the team can make frankly is thinking this team is in quick turnaround.

Right now I give owner Geoff Molson a lot of credit. He listened to voices like my own and has built a structure which is making inroads towards becoming a truly strong franchise which is what Habs fans and Montreal deserve.

In my ultra secret Core formula one of the keys is adding or improving at least one member of your core each year. Has Montreal done that as I write that this morning, the day of Free Agency? No, but they are moving ever so slightly forward and that’s better than continuing the deep dive backwards that the team had been on. It’s not easy building a barn while it’s on fire and that’s where the Habs are coming from.

The goal in this scribblers opinon, as the Habs first Analytics guy back in the 90’s, is to play and develop the kids and have another good draft while trying to gain assets where they can. They have a few assets that will get them something now, and at the trade deadline.

jamie@cornwallfreenews.com

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