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McLean’s Pub Call Of The Wilde: Three Strikes, You’re Out.
January 16, 2018
By Brian Wilde
Now that the Montreal Canadiens have apparently given up on yet another attempt to find a top-flight center by moving Jonathan Drouin to the wing after only a half season’s apprenticeship, now what?
What exactly is the plan here?
They have a gold-medal goalie opposition players say is the best in the world. They have a gold-medal defenceman with a booming shot. They have strength on the wings. They have a Stanley Cup-winning coach. They have just about every piece there is.
It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter.
It just doesn’t matter because you’re not going far without top-flight centers. In a good year, you’re not going far in the playoffs. In a bad year, you’re not even making the playoffs. Win the middle. Win the game.
It is as if this organization has a blind spot at center just like the Philadelphia Flyers have a blind spot in net. It’s over two decades now and the same problem can not be solved.
Is this really that hard? In some ways, yes, it is.
There are fewer than 31 first-line centres in the NHL, so that means not all teams have one. The Pittsburgh Penguins have two. The Washington Capitals have two. There are about five teams that don’t have one at all. The Montreal Canadiens are arguably the only team in the NHL that doesn’t even have a second-line center.
Phillip Danault is a hard-working three with a 40-point maximum. Tomas Plekanec is a three with a 30-point maximum. Jacob De La Rose has more upside than most think but even if he finds his upside, he’s still likely a third-line or fourth-line center with a 40-point maximum.
So let’s check the farm….barren.
Let’s check the prospect pool. One real hope.
Ryan Poehling is expected to have strong two-way skills but again no one is talking about a player with outstanding hands and finish. He projects out to be a second-line center if it all goes well. Not many project a first-line center. If he got to a first-line plateau, it would be quite surprising.
So where are we on a problem that has existed for the Habs since Pierre Turgeon’s skills diminished in 1997? The answer is the Habs are still in a horrible place. From an outsider’s point of view on national radio, national TV, and even NHL scouts on the catwalk at the Bell Centre, there is derision for this organization on a daily basis. It has become a laughing matter to outsiders who watch the daily carousel – 20 years of revolving ineptitude.
The near future has two options left to find a solution. Max Pacioretty is approaching his unrestricted free agency. With the sting of Alex Radulov and Andrei Markov leaving, the GM may be gun shy to hold this asset to unrestricted freedom. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me a third time…
For Pacioretty, Bergevin has a chance to get a potential 1C in someone like outstanding prospect Robert Thomas of the St. Louis Blues. Thomas has big numbers and is still improving but the Blues have to want to trade to make a playoff run looking for their first Cup since they joined the league in 1967.
Bergevin also will possibly have a top-five draft pick this June in the draft. There are not projected to be any centers in the top five of this entry draft, so Bergevin could opt to trade the first-round pick to a team who needs a winger or defender and get a 1C that way. Again though, it’s not a gimme. The other clubs have to want Pacioretty or want that top pick. That’s all that’s left for Bergevin. After that, the well is dry.
The general manager created for himself a tricky spot that keeps getting trickier.
Bergevin struck one by not getting a 1C for PK Subban. He struck two by not getting a 1C for Mikhail Sergachev. If he can’t execute a 1C this summer with his final chance, then Marc…that is strike three, and you are out.
If you can’t get it done after all these chances, then you just simply cannot get it done. Not getting a center will be your legacy. Sorry to say but Marc, the count is full, get this done, or get ready to pack your shit.
Great article Brian. When they finally drafted a center they didn’t let him develop. Very hard to see what their plan is.