Something we’ve always enjoyed about running Habs Chronicle over the years is engaging with the Habs community. Whether its sharing opinions about a player, coach or management, or uniting in disagreement with a call made by a ref – you all make Habs Twitter a fun place.
So, we thought we would start a mailbag where we could try and answer as many of your questions as possible, even if they aren’t about the Habs at all. Without further ado…
Who do you think will be the 1st player on the Habs to score a hat trick this year?
— John Russell (@John_Russ89) September 10, 2021
Think everyone is expecting the answer to be Caufield here, but to buck that trend, we’ll go with the only player on the current roster who had a hat trick last year: Tyler Toffoli. As the LW most-likely to get defensive starts late in a game while protecting a lead with the opposition’s goalie pulled, Toffoli will score his hat-trick goal on an empty net. Book it.
We know Caufield is a pure bread sniper, but do you think there is a risk to rush his arrival in the NHL by claiming he is a 1st liner and Calder finalist?
— Mathieu (@MathieuMMtl) September 11, 2021
Speaking of Caufield, this is a fair question to be asking especially after the debate around whether Kotkaniemi was rushed into the NHL too quickly. In Caufield’s case, he has played two years in the NCAA (where he was a point per game or better the entire time) and has shown his ability to adapt his game to fit the needs of his teams. In Wisconsin, he was lighting up the score sheet, but he was also relied on in most situations and was able to improve his defensive game quite a bit. While offence will always be his bread and butter, he has shown that he is adaptable and mature on the ice.
In terms of calling him a first liner, this may be due in large part to the great chemistry he formed with Suzuki. How we see the Habs’ depth at the wing this year, they have six wingers (Caufield, Toffoli, Drouin, Anderson, Hoffman and Gallagher) who can all play anywhere in the lineup. They also have Lehkonen, Armia, Byron and Perreault who are well-established Swiss army knives. You can place them anywhere in a pinch. Caufield will be considered a first liner due to his centre being Suzuki (assuming this is the case once the season starts) more so than because he is the undisputed best right winger. We do think he definitely has the highest ceiling of those six wingers though; it’s just a matter of when he gets there.
As for calling him a Calder finalist, its definitely very early to be making this claim. Every year, there are a few players that come out of nowhere and end up in the running for the Calder. That being said, if Caufield picks up where he left off from last season and the playoffs, his stat lines would definitely put him in the conversation when compared to previous years.
Could you see the habs maybe selling off a winger or 2 to get a more bit more bona-fide centre if the habs are gunning for playoffs come trade deadline?
— proud habs fan! PRICE and ROY (@33habs) September 10, 2021
If drouin has good start, will they keep or trade?
— dan bloucher (@BloucherDan) September 11, 2021
Putting these two questions together as they might share the same answer. When you look at the wingers of value that could be used to get a bona-fide center in return, the top 6 wingers we previously mentioned are the most likely candidates. Other wingers such as Armia, Lehkonen, Perreault and Byron won’t garner too much return unfortunately (they’re likely in that order when it comes to trade value).
If you then look at the top 6 wingers:
- Caufield: Future 30-40 goal-scorer (minimum), untouchable.
- Toffoli: Top-end goal scorer with two-way capabilities. Likely untouchable (for now).
- Anderson: Wingers of his size, speed and goal-scoring abilities are rare. And his contract is hefty. Don’t see him being moved.
- Gallagher: Perennial 30 goal-scorer (when healthy), heart beat of the team and likely favourite for next team captain. Untouchable.
- Hoffman: We don’t see the Habs bringing him in after several years of apparently trying to acquire him to then trade him away immediately.
So this leaves Jonathan Drouin. We love Drouin. We had his jersey out for the entire playoff run and hope that he is doing better with whatever he was dealing with last season. We hope that he remains a Montreal Canadien and is able to get back to the top of his game. But if there is one forward with some value from the list that we could see being traded, it is likely him. It is clear that the trade for Sergachev did not work out in the Habs favour, and that the pressure has been a lot for him to handle. If he comes out flying this season, would there not be a better time to flip him? The question will be if the return can be worth it, let alone a bonafide center. Habs would likely need to add another significant prospect or draft pick, especially with Drouin having a cap hit of $5.5M for this year and the next.
All that aside, it’s simply far too early to say. Wingers don’t usually garner you a bonafide centre. It’s usually a combo of picks, prospects and/or high profile youngsters already in the NHL. Most of MTL’s wingers are in their primes or later, with the exception being Cole Caufield – who is untouchable as we said. Marc Bergevin loves having depth and creating internal competition. When Byron comes back from injury, depending on the health of the team and the growth of the wingers in the AHL, it’s possible that he unloads somebody on the wings, but as we said, it’s simply too early to tell. With Dvorak now in the equation, Bergevin has some time to see how Evans, Poehling and Paquette could handle the 3 and 4C role.
With a plethora of forwards where do you see Poehling fitting in this Habs’ lineup ?
— 🅿🆁🅴🆉 (@Presidan) September 10, 2021
Your thoughts on Poehling
— Grape1965 (@Grape1965) September 11, 2021
This is a tough one. It is assumed that the center group will be Suzuki – Dvorak – Evans as the top 3, with Paquette and Poehling fighting for the last spot on the fourth line. However, we think that Poehling has more offensive upside than Evans, and that Paquette could and probably should be our 5th C in case of injury or poor play. We could see Poehling slotting in on the third line between Hoffman and Gallagher to create a good offensive line with a bit of grit to it. Poehling is a big body and Gallagher is a pest. Put those two together and you create space for Hoffman to do his thing. Hoffman needs someone to feed him the puck, and Poehling has shown that he is underrated when it comes to being a playmaker.
A fourth line with Evans at center and wingers from the pool of options (Lehkonen, Armia, Perreault, Byron) would be effective, hard to play against and have the ability to contribute offensively.
If Weber doesn’t return to ice, prediction should Will fill his shoes for leadership and steadying the ship on ice?
— Biff (@49biff49) September 11, 2021
Pls explain the rationale of not naming a captain (an on ice one, naturally) for the 2021-22 season and going with A-captains.
— mustiman (@mustiman) September 11, 2021
We can’t say what Bergevin and the coaching staff think about this situation, but we would venture a guess and say that until Weber is certain that his career is done, the team will hold out hope for his return. In Bergevin’s most recent press conference, he did explain that they hope to still have Weber around the team as much as possible, even if he cannot play. From all of the accounts of how he checks in on players throughout the offseason, hosts them at his house (pre-COVID), etc. we wouldn’t be surprised if he does indeed remain involved behind the scenes.
As for who fills his shoes (or skates) on the ice, there are several good candidates. Just about everybody assumes that Gallagher is next in line for the captaincy, and this might very well be the case. In the meantime, we would expect to see Gallagher, Petry, and maybe someone like Edmundson do the talking to the referees when the situation warrants it. And then there’s Carey Price, who would likely be the other runner up for the ‘C’ if it were allowed. He will be leaned on more than ever to speak up in the room.
Where do you see the Habs finish in terms of the standings in the Atlantic Division?
— Tays (@PriceXNHL) September 10, 2021
Given the changes to the roster this offseason, where do you think the #Habs will be in the standings by Christmas time?
— Nick (@geckos14) September 10, 2021
The Atlantic has been extremely competitive for years now, and this is only becoming more and more true. Teams like Tampa, Florida, Toronto and Boston are poised to have strong regular seasons. There is an argument to be made that Boston might start to regress a little as Marchand and Bergeron continue to get older, but until we see strong signs of a decline we won’t make that determination. Ottawa showed last year that they are headed in the right direction and we wouldn’t be surprised to see them push for a wild card spot as early as this season. And then there’s Detroit and Buffalo who are still deep in their rebuild phases.
So where do the Habs fit in? The Habs usually have a strong October followed by a bad November and decent December. We could see them in the hunt for a wild card spot come Christmas; and this is probably where they are destined to be right until the end of the year. Despite the Habs bolstering their depth up front with more goal scorers than we’ve become accustomed to (Toffoli, Hoffman, Caufield, Anderson, Gallagher), the Metro division has also gotten stronger. It will be a fight until the end to get into the playoffs.
A huge factor will certainly be play of Carey Price and Jake Allen. Carey has not posted great regular season numbers over the last few years, but with Jake Allen behind him, and a slightly more normal schedule (Olympics aside), he may finally be in the right situation to play some of his best regular season hockey in years.
COVID and injuries pose another threat, or opportunity. With divisional rivals Tampa Bay and Florida sitting in one of the worst states in the USA (pandemic-wise), could they be hit by the virus and affect their seasons? Only time will tell.
Who do you think will have the biggest breakout/Impactful season this year?
— SuzukField (@HabsRSus) September 11, 2021
Has to be Nick Suzuki. He will be relied on as the undisputed 1C all year, and after his breakout performance in last season’s playoffs, he’s poised for a very big year. With Caufield on his side all year, and a plethora of scoring options to pass to on the powerplay, expect big things from the kid.
Is there any department that the Habs should hire more for? (Scouts, President of hockey Ops, athletic trainers, etc.)
Or another way to phrase it is where should the Habs invest more money in the organization?
— Derek Varkonyi (@dvarkonyi) September 11, 2021
Fans have been clamouring for a President of Hockey Operations for years now, and we would tend to agree with them. We would also say they need to invest more in scouting and player development. While the Canadiens don’t shy away from analytics in their decision-making across all levels of the organization, they still don’t come close to leading in this regard in the NHL. We firmly believe in the eye test, and so do most teams, even those most analytically-inclined, but we’re in an age of information – this could help with amateur scouting, professional scouting, player development, and more. They are one of the richest teams in the NHL. Flex your wallet, Geoff.
How much points does Dvorak get
— FA Nasty (Need Header) (@NastyGaming_00) September 10, 2021
How much better is Dvorak than Kotkaniemi?
— Hobie Hansen (@Hobie_Hansen) September 11, 2021
Let’s answer both of these questions: We all want to know how Dvorak will do in Montreal after Kotkaniemi and Danault left the organization. We want to feel that Bergevin made the right decision to let KK go and immediately pick up the former Coyote, and we want to know that he paid a good price. A lot of players and execs around the league believe that Montreal just got an excellent player, so we are optimistic that Dvorak will be a key player for the Canadiens. He’s clearly better than Kotkaniemi right now, but being 25, he has less runway to reach a next level. Now, it isn’t unheard of that a player, especially a centre, breaks out in their later 20s. In Dvorak’s case, he played on a very bad team for his whole career, mostly with bad wingers. It will be fascinating to see how he plays in Montreal. We feel fairly confident he’ll hit 50 points this season.
As for Kotkaniemi, he has a lot of untapped potential and is going to a very strong team with a great coach in Rod Brind’Amour. They will play him on the wing to start, which we don’t think will be optimal from him based on what we’ve seen from him as a winger in Montreal. But he will likely be playing with some high quality players, so there’s another big question mark.
Where does Wideman fit in this year?
— Andrew Pierce (@AndrewP27020107) September 11, 2021
Great question. Wideman was a promising puck-moving defenseman for the Ottawa Senators until the infamous Uber incident. After being tossed around the league for a little while, he ended up in the KHL where he won defenseman of the year. That award doesn’t necessarily mean he will be an effective player in the NHL – we’ve seen far too often that players look far better in the KHL than in the NHL. But I distinctly remember liking watching him when the Sens played the Habs back in the day, so we are very curious to see if he lands a spot in the top 6. He would be a 3rd pair defenseman who could QB the 2nd powerplay unit. He’s a real wildcard – while we don’t expect much from him, there’s certainly potential for him to surprise.
Given the off-season moves, what is Habs most pressing need? Centre depth or mobile defenceman?
— Norman De Bono (@NormatLFPress) September 11, 2021
Ideally, Jake Evans or Ryan Poehling would have already gotten a couple years of NHL experience by now and established themselves as great two-way players who could undoubtedly handle the 3C role. But that is simply not the case. Both have the potential to fill it but they are both fairly inexperienced. Evans is more established but hasn’t ever had such responsibility over 82 games. Moreover, with the 6 strong wingers the Habs currently have in the top 9, we’re not sure if Jake Evans is the guy who will complete them offensively. He’d be great on the 4th line with the 2 remaining Finns. If Poehling isn’t ready to play the two-way role in the 3 hole, Bergevin would be best served trying to acquire a tried and true third centreman.
A mobile two-way D is a big need, but the answer could be in the room in Alexander Romanov. The coaching staff needs to let him play. He has all the makings of a modern two-way defenseman but his leash has been short in his early career. Time to let him loose.
— CookieDoughCaptain (@Interdit_450) September 10, 2021
Anyone who says less than the whole cookie sheet is lying.
What color was the dress?
— alex csontos (@csontos) September 10, 2021
Don’t start with this. We all know it was black and blue. Or was it it white and gold (editor’s note: it was definitely white and gold you fool)…
What goes first cereal or the milk
— It’s your girl Lola (@Jak3frmStfrm) September 10, 2021
Anyone who puts the milk first is well… we don’t have words to describe anyone who commits such an egregious act.