Yloadin’ Up In Laval
February 29, 2020
By Grant McCagg
The Canadiens are now nine points out of a playoff spot with a little more than one month left in the season. Memo to the masses from Captain Obvious – they are not making the playoffs.
The Laval Rocket are also on the outside looking in, but their task is less arduous – they actually have more than a mathematical chance – there’s even a fighting chance.
So why were none of Weise, Alzner, Evans and Hudon available for last night’s Laval game? Rochester, NY, is a stone’s throw from Montreal…they could have been back in Montreal and in bed a little after midnight. Molson should have loaded some of them on his private jet (I’m assuming he has one), and flew them there himself. And so what if they had weary legs for Saturday night’s game? Finishing with the seventh pick in an NHL draft with ten or 11 clearcut elite prospects beats picking 12th or 13th.
Instead, the Rocket had to dress the likes of Joe Cox and Ryan Culkin. Nothing against those guys, but Culkin should have been home alone. They have no business being on an AHL roster. Solid ECHL-level players, and that’s it.
I get that the Canadiens wanted to purge the malcontents from the dressing room last week, but trading for an injured player in Blandisi when the parent club and the farm team are going through injury woes isn’t helping the club that truly needs to get into the playoffs. It’s bad enough that the Canadiens will be missing the playoffs for a third straight time, but their farm team as well?
One playoff appearance by Montreal’s AHL farm clubs in the past decade is unacceptable. Frankly; it’s embarrassing. A team that used to boast of having an AHL team in Nova Scotia that could beat many NHL teams has had a farm club the past decade that would have had its hands full facing good ECHL teams.
There is no consolation prize for missing the playoffs in the AHL – Laval won’t be picking in a draft lottery. The kids needs to start being part of a winning atmosphere.
Convincing the Pelicans to loan Jesse Ylonen to Laval for the remainder of the season is an encouraging start, but Bergevin has to pull out all of the stops.
I was originally against the idea of Cole Caufield turning pro in March; then Wisconsin kept losing hockey games. They can load up all they want on NHL-calibre propsects, but if their goaltending is NAHL level, the Badgers won’t be making any noise next season either even if all of the highly-regarded players return.
And where is the guarantee that they will? Knowing Montreal’s luck, Caufield would commit to playing his sophomore season, and the next day K’Andre Miller and Alex Turcotte would turn pro.
Even more importantly, the reality is that Caufield can play and help at the AHL level right now, and with Ylonen and him joining the club and reinforcements hopefully added from Montreal as players like Ouellet/Drouin get healthy, it’s not out of the question that Laval can then win a bunch of games and squeak into the playoffs.
Wins and playing with top players wouldn’t hurt Caufield or Ylonen’s confidence after playing on below-average teams this season.
Bergevin should sign center Cam Hillis after Guelph is eliminated; likely in the first round of the OHL playoffs, and explore whether Jordan Harris has an interest in turning pro – he can play in Laval right now if it comes down to him or Lamarche/Culkin.
Northeastern has been getting walloped in recent games, and may have a quick exit in the NCAA playoffs – Harris would be a nice mid-March add for a team that could use his mobility and smarts.
Let the young core play, bond and win together, and start that process now. It is important for them to get pro playoff experience; let it be now.