Monday, May 09, 2016

Pool Outlook for Montreal

Do we start with the blatantly obvious?  Of course we do.  Living gloriously and dying painfully by the health of the 2015 pool (and NHL) MVP was the story of the 2016 season for the Montreal Canadiens and one may talk about how individual efforts don't make a team, I know I mention that a few times, when it comes to some superstars, but let's not forget about what kind of impact a superstar player has on a team's confidence and state of mind.

Carey Price is, without a doubt, one of the best goalies in the league and one of the best players (in any position) in the world.  The Canadiens got off to a magnificent start with their number one in the crease, they rallied when he went down the first time with injury, but when things really went South, when Price didn't last more than a game, confidence dropped... through the floor, down into the Earth's crust.  The only thing that really kept the Canadiens out from the absolute bottom of the standings was their hot start.

Management was questioned, the coaching was very much up in the air and the team only had one answer... wait until our guy gets back.  It's a real shame that their season boiled down to that, but it's pretty much the case.

Were there positives in this season?  Yeah, maybe a couple.  Alex Galchenyuk and his rise to the top line centre comes to mind and Mike Condon's performance in relief was very good.  It wasn't a complete loss this season, but they were nowhere near where they wanted to be at this time of the year.

The Canadiens were in the middle of the road, when it came to popularity at the hockey pool draft last September, as 12 players were taken at the pool opener, including the 1st overall pick, which was Price.  Their good start helped propel them to a two dropped, five picked up ratio at the Week Nine Waiver Draft, but those three selections that were gained, were dropped with no picks in Week Eighteen and the Canadiens finished with 12 players on active rosters at the end of the year.

Max Pacioretty received the captaincy before the start of the season and he did well to lead this team, playing in all 82 games in 2016 and having a 30-goal campaign, finishing with 64 points in total.  He finished ranked 38th overall in pool scoring, which would have equated into a 2nd round pick into the draft, which was better than the 3rd round spot that he was taken at.

Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais and Lars Eller all rounded out the pool-worthy forwards in the group, as they had their ups and downs through the year, but with the team's lack of confidence, as a whole, their numbers could have been so much better.  The blueline was good for the pool, despite being a bit banged up through the year, as P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Nathan Beaulieu and Jeff Petry all finished with pool-worthy honours, but Markov was the only one to play in all 82 games.  In net, Mike Condon finished 27th among all goalies in pool scoring and even with going out of the lineup in November, Carey Price still managed to finish 48th, which was still considered pool-worthy.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

Solving the short-comings of this Canadiens group is going to be tough in the off-season, which suggests that wins may be a little harder to come by next season, but they certainly won't be out of reach for this club.  Having arguably the best goalie in the league and a couple top end defensemen certainly helps this side in the long run.  With some changes in the atmosphere, which is the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens will be faced with some interesting new challenges, including their rivals getting better, before the off-season even really starts.  I think the Canadiens will be in the mix for the division title, but without making those improvements in the off-season, that's about all they'll get next year.

Unforeseeable circumstances.  They call them that for a reason, I guess.  Who knew that Price would miss the better part of the season with a groin issue?  Not me, not anyone.  Missing the playoffs was a tough pill to swallow for this Habs team, especially since it really reflects poorly on them that they were only missing one key piece for this collapse to happen.  There were definitely some new challenges for this group, most of which, they couldn't overcome.

2017 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Tomas Plekanec 6.000 P.K. Subban 9.000 Carey Price 6.500
Max Pacioretty 4.500 Andrei Markov 5.750 Mike Condon 0.575
Brendan Gallagher 3.750 Jeff Petry 5.500
David Desharnais 3.500 Nathan Beaulieu 1.000
Lars Eller 3.500
Alex Galchenyuk 2.800
Torrey Mitchell 1.200 Alexei Emelin 4.100 Charlie Lindgren 0.925
Paul Byron 1.167 Noah Juulsen 0.925 Zachary Fucale 0.714
Brian Flynn 0.950 Greg Pateryn 0.750 Michael McNiven 0.647
Jacob de la Rose 0.925 Thomas Parisi 0.718
Nikita Scherbak 0.894 Ryan Johnston 0.680
Michael McCarron 0.863 Brett Lernout 0.657
Daniel Audette 0.665 Dalton Thrower 0.647
Mark MacMillan 0.665
Connor Crisp 0.647
Tim Bozon 0.640
Max Friberg 0.633
Charles Hudon 0.625
Stefan Matteau 0.613
Jeremy Gregoire 0.607

From a hockey pool standpoint, the Montreal Canadiens pretty well have the entire base of their worthy players signed on and ready to go for next season, so you pretty well know what you're going to get from these guys.  The Habs have a good number of their support players already signed on and this appears to be how this team chooses to go forward.  From a franchise standpoint, is that really the way they should be going?  Are they going to explore contingency plans for those unforeseeable incidents?  If they go like this, the answer is a resounding no.

Despite playing in 20 games in 2016, Michael McCarron will still have rookie status in 2017 and that will keep him in this category, at the very minimum.  McCarron is a big forward, something a little different for Montreal, but still needs to find where his strengths are going to lie for the Canadiens.  With the cupboards pretty bare, when it comes to the youth, Montreal is going to have to lean heavily on McCarron, if they are going to build within right away.

Needs at the 2016 Entry Draft

The Canadiens could really use a home run with the ninth pick in the draft and that could be either a forward or a defenseman, because they really don't need a goalie with that pick.  With this pick, I would try and add some more offense and size to this group of players, taking American-born centre Logan Brown, who played in Windsor of the OHL last season.  The North Carolina native ranks well with Central Scouting and his numbers in junior were pretty decent.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

Players that are heading to free agency from the Montreal roster did not make a lot of noise for us poolies, as none of them were pool-worthy by the end of the year.  Guys like Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann made an appearance in the pool, but their overall effectiveness was lacking.  Weise became a fan-favourite and did get into the dirty areas for the team, so it will be interesting to see what direction the team goes in with him.

As for the restricted free agents, Sven Andrighetto had a good spin with the team this season, making him one of the few home grown prospects that has made it up through the ranks, but if this team does any sort of upgrading in the scoring ranks, he could find himself without whatever leverage in a new deal he had.

The Canadiens are going to be pinching some pennies here and there, since the pool-worthy players alone have a cap value of $52.4 million and there are only 12 players in that distinction.  They will have to be clever in filling those other 11 spots, which is easier said than done.

How the Montreal season hinges on one player is exceptionally difficult to offer an off-season prediction around.  The Canadiens fully expect Price to be ready to play and get a warm up in the World Cup of Hockey in September and then be ready for the grind of the 2017 season and if he can be healthy, then yes, the Canadiens will be better all the way around their lineup.  Confidence will be up, the willingness to take some more calculated risks will have a higher return and that should all add up to more games won and they'll be in that fight for a division title.  If the Canadiens could lock up one more quality defenseman though, that could put them a step up from where they were at the end of the 2015 season.
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