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SLBAM: The Canadiens have no choice but to look for other young defenders

What’s up gang. How are your vacations going? For me, the vacations have started. We’re off to the four corners of Quebec to enjoy Cime Aventure and the beautiful region. We’re more than excited.

This weekend was my introduction to paddle boarding. The kids and my wife have been doing it for over a year, but I wasn’t attracted to it. After my first experience, I’ll give it another go and see what happens. Now for your questions of the week.

Yes, it’s important, just to get away from it all, do other things and make new friends. Being in a non-hockey context is also important, because at some point, the youngster may be fed up and want to do something else.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with taking part in summer practices or improvement courses, or even playing in a friendly league.

There are many other sports that young people do to avoid playing the same sport 12 months a year, and nobody talks about them. I don’t think people who dance in the winter are going to play tennis in the summer.

I don’t think the vast majority of people who play tennis are going to play field hockey in the winter. You get my point.

In my day, I always wanted a stick in my hands. When we’d go to our friends’ houses, we’d open the skillet and heat up our mini-stick paddles. We’d do a curve that would make Ovechkin jealous and play field hockey on our knees.

In the summer, we’d gather in the street and continue playing field hockey. Even with my soccer gang, once we got back to my friend Raphaël Doucet’s place, we’d play field hockey.

The problem now is that parents often want more than their child, so the child gets fed up and loses the passion. So moderation tastes much better.

Being able to play other sports (and there’s plenty of science to back this up) can improve a player’s athleticism, something that’s lacking now. So moderation tastes much better.

Excellent question, in October 2025, that gives us time. Samuel will obviously have the maximum chance to be seen and to prove himself. Will he be a #1 or a #2? Time will tell.

I’m often asked this question in my column, and every time, I never know which way to turn. Eventually, Fowler will be there, but not for a long time.

I don’t think Primeau will make it to the NHL, or at least not as a backup.

For the rest of the goalies, there won’t be anyone. As far as I’m concerned, if Montembeault does well and is a true #1, I think they’ll keep Allen as a “mentor” and let him go after his contract and bring in a youngster.

Montembeault will be 27 in October, and 28 next year. You don’t need someone to support him at a big salary if he’s #1 and at that age.

So here’s my double answer. If Montembeault is a true #1. We’ll see Montembeault and Allen as a duo. If Montembeault is not a #1. I have a feeling that the CH will trade for a #1 goalie and keep Montembeault.

This famous phrase always comes up after every draft.

Why does the league say that the team that has won the Memorial Cup in the last four championships is the league that drafts the fewest players? Yet the QMJHL has been winning for four years.

The reality is that for those of you who tuned in to TVA Sports in French, as you all saw, there are far more 19-year-old players on QMJHL teams than the other two leagues. At times, it was almost double.

So from that point on, an older team against a younger team, it makes a difference. It goes from there.

It also doesn’t mean that because you win the big trophy at the end, that normally you should have every player drafted in the NHL or have the 20 best players in the league.

There’s a big part that goes to the coaches in the last four wins too. The adjustments they’ve been able to make have been phenomenal, and they’ve relied on a lot of rigor, which has paid off.

Now it’s clear that we need to find solutions for Quebec, which is unfortunately releasing fewer and fewer players for the draft. The Legault plan is completely useless and we need to let real field hockey people get involved and give them carte blanche.

At some point, it just doesn’t seem to work anymore, so change couldn’t be worse.

Dominic Ricard makes some good points here in his article. It also takes people who are proactive at the top and are going to make a difference. In short, it takes field hockey heads who get together and, after putting a plan on the table, execute it.

Even Marc Denis is beginning to lose patience with all this, as he attests in thearticle.

As far as I’m concerned, there are far too many 16-year-olds in the QMJHL. They don’t have the right coaching or the right ice time. There have even been years when we’ve asked for a waiver to dress more than the limit, but at Christmas, 16-year-old players are traded?

Why not go back to the Midget Espoir system? The majority of 15-year-old players are in Midget Espoir. Then, the gifted 15-year-olds in midget AAA. We’re not talking about 40 players here.

That way, a lot more 16- and 17-year-olds will be able to play in midget AAA and arrive even more ready for their first year at junior level.

The other option would be to give 16-year-old players the opportunity to play in Junior B or Junior A, as is the case in other provinces.

But unfortunately, Junior AAA here in Quebec is in no way designed for this. Alternatively, 16-year-olds could alternate between midget AAA and major junior to get a taste of both. A bit like the way European soccer works with academies.

So, a lot of work ahead for the people who make the decisions.

Oh good question, once again. It’s a question that’s very hard to answer in reality, since many are still young and only time will tell.

If we’re talking about top-4 defense, I sincerely believe that on the left, we’ll have Guhle and Hutson with no problem. I think we need to watch Engstrom’s progress carefully, because he was good in the SHL last year. The fact that he’s a good skater helps a lot.

A long shot, I think William Trudeau could cause a surprise.

Harris could complete the picture, but I’m not high on him, I’m not sure why. But don’t forget Xhekaj, his presence will be much more important in the years to come than we think. Especially if he can stay healthy and keep the same style of play.

On the right, it’s not as if there’s much to choose from. When you look at the CH defense, you know they’ll be good. But when you break it down by position, you quickly understand Reinbacher’s selection.

Guy Boucher talked about it, but many European leagues are stronger than the AHL, and Reinbacher was an excellent player in the Swiss league, a league as good as, if not better than, the AHL, even if the style is different.

The top-3 on the right will be Reinbacher, Barron, Mailloux. There’s no one else in the short term either. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see a trade eventually, or even another selection in the next draft of a right-handed defenseman in the first or second round.

But I’m going to ask you again: do you think all the players named can be top-4? Reinbacher and Guhle no problem. But in the long term, could the others become so too?

I can’t end this week’s article without mentioning two excellent pieces of news. Two players I was lucky enough to coach during their midget espoir years.

Olivier, who was outclassed, and Rafaël, who just wanted a year to develop. Both signed professional contracts in the same week. Rafaël at one level and Olivier at 2 levels.

For a coach, seeing this kind of news reminds us why we play field hockey and how much we love it.

I’m lucky enough to still be in contact with both of them, and I sincerely believe I was happier than they were. Even my wife shed a tear, which says a lot. Both have completely different backgrounds, but the same goal. Funnily enough, I’m not at all surprised by their success.


On that note, I’ll see you next week and thanks again. Follow me on social networks @Mitch_Giguere.

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