The best way to procure outstanding defensive talent (or any talent) is via the draft. However, being patient with young defensemen can be the hardest part–suffering through the growing pains is almost impossible and has caused many NHL teams to send away future stars of the game.
Even very good organizations lose good defensemen because their performances vary from season to season (usually because of injury) and it takes longer for them to mature. Serge Savard was once a successful NHL General Manager in Montreal and will have a major impact on the direction of the Habs beginning this summer.
It should be a season of change in Montreal. An old quote from Savard perhaps give us some guidance about the summer:
- "When the Canadiens lost in 82-83, they had just about the same looking team as they have now (2010-11), with only two or three local guys. When they lose in the playoffs, they all go home and they don’t see anything here. In my 14 years as a player with the Canadiens we won 8 Stanley Cups and the years we didn’t win we paid a heavy price in the summer. People asked ‘what happened, how come you didn’t win?’ I wanted my players to live the same thing I lived. So I did not pass on the local talent. So, Simon Gagne would never have played In Philadelphia in my day, not because I’m smarter but because I wouldn’t have allowed him to go (ahead of me) in the draft. Same with (David) Perron in St. Louis. Montreal drafted twice in the first round in 2007 (picking up 2 Amercians) before he was picked from St. Louis. THAT guy would never have passed two picks with me….There is enough local product, and I had a big enough edge because everyone downgraded the Quebec junior league–what an edge. How come I got Patrick Roy in the 3rd round? I got Stephane Richer and Claude Lemieux in the second round. Why would those guys go in the 2nd round? That was an edge for us." (quote courtesy Behind the Moves by John Farris)
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY
When Savard played the game, Montreal had 5 outstanding defensemen with the big club and about that many bubbling under. The Montreal procurement system was something Henry Ford would have been proud of, as the production line was long and filled with tremendous talent. Those Montreal clubs were legendary, and their AHL farm teams were just shy of that; in fact, it was often said that the Nova Scotia Voyageurs (AHL) would have given most NHL teams a run for their money and might have won out in the expansion division.
IF Edmonton is looking at trading the first overall pick, the return would have to be bountiful and the Oilers would need to be certain of getting their man. We’ve gone through this exercise assuming that player is Ryan Murray, but it could be Griffin Reinhart or Morgan Rielly.
The case for trading the pick revolves around another team in the lottery wanting Nail Yakupov more than the Oilers. We don’t know that as fact, we’re just blue skying. We also don’t know if Montreal has interest in him, and using the thrust of the Serge Savard quote above perhaps a QMJHL prospect is more likely to be taken by the Habs when they step to the podium. The only Q player near the top of the draft is C Mikhail Grigorenko, who may indeed be a player of interest for the undersized Canadiens.
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
The math works a little better for the Oilers if they are trading down with Montreal at three instead of Toronto at 5. Although the possibility still exists that both Nail Yakupov and Ryan Murray will go 1-2, Edmonton would be able to control the draft to the extent they would know what they were giving up by moving down to #3. Perhaps Montreal or Edmonton could bribe the Jackets to stay away from a specific player with a pick or an asset (it’s been done before).
Does the hesitation the team has (real or imagined) over Yakupov warrant passing on him or is he still worth the top selection? Is Murray worth taking #1?
One of the areas Edmonton must spend time looking at is Yakupov’s knee inury this past season. speeds mentioned the other day that Yakupov was looking very strong compared to previous #1’s before a knee injury poked a hole in his season. The splits–before and after injury–tell a story:
- speeds: Before injury at the WJHC: 26GP 21G 32A for 53 pts, +21; After injury: 16GP 10G 6A for 16 pts, -6. Small sample sizes, and all that, but I would be investigating that knee pretty closely if I were the Oilers. If he had been playing through a bothersome knee for the rest of the year, and is expected return to 100%/has returned to 100% by the combine, it’s a factor to consider.
Yakupov followed up his regular season with an indifferent playoff. How much would Montreal need to give up outside the draft swap (#1 for #3) in order to make the deal work?
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Montreal is a mess in many ways. They have $35M tied up next season in Scott Gomez, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, Erik Cole, Rene Bourque, Andrei Markov and Tomas Kaberle.
In other ways, Montreal has terrific potential. Carey Price, PK Subban, Max Pacioretty and others given them a very nice foundation for the future. Adding Nail Yakupov (or Mikhail Grigorenko) will give the Habs another bullet for the future.
I’m not certain how much value Edmonton could extract from Savard and the Habs. The pricetag would be dear, and Montreal has a variety of needs that could be addressed. Their own possible bias (French kids from the Q) does not make them more likely to trade up and unless they have a passion for Nail Yakupov it seems unlikely a deal can be made.
Up next: the Jackets.