Skip to content
Habs mid-season: Drafting early is more important than playing Montembeault

It’s a good thing that some of the hosts, commentators and columnists – you know them as well as I do, and there are a LOT of them – aren’t in charge of the Montreal Canadiens.

I understand the need to feed the beast and keep the daily grind going with easy, emotional, accessible topics.

It’s a business.

But to tell you the truth, I’m simply no longer able to listen to the same refrain day after day about “series still possible” and the obsession with getting Samuel Montembeault to play.

Like, “Another important game tomorrow night against the Flyers/Sharks/Oilers, Montembeault has to play if we want to give ourselves a chance of making the playoffs this year,” etc.

Let’s be serious for two f... minutes.

(Credit: screenshot)

As of today, the Flanelle are playing for .488, are 7 points out of a playoff spot, have a collective differential of -28, the second worst in their conference behind the lousy “Blue Jackets”!


We’re not going anywhere with that! We’re even staying inside, nice and warm!

Add to that the fact that the Red Wings, Caps, Penguins and Devils, with records of four to six games above .500, are all ahead of the Tricolore in the race, and that gives you a superb 2.7% probability of making the playoffs, according to software that has run 100,000 simulations of possible season-ends!


That’s about the same chance a CEGEP student has of passing his course when he shows a “scintillating” 45% before his final dissertation!

You can also look at the ranking from the bottom to make it even clearer!

(Credit: screenshot)

We’re willing to believe that “it’s played out on the ice” and other such clichés, but at some point, as Elvis Gratton would say, “you’ve got to be realistic cal…”!

If you think about it, 6th place in the next draft is a lot more realistic than the playoffs!

Do we really have to do everything to stay in ” no man’ s land” by playing more Montembeault, whose advanced statistics are far superior to those of his acolytes Allen and Primeau?

To me, this is ab-so-lu nonsense!

And for those worried about team culture and the risk of wallowing in defeat, like the Sabres and Sens, forget it!

Every player in the organization understands the Habs’ rebuilding plan, and Martin St-Louis is doing an extraordinary job with his players to keep them motivated and make them better players. The proof is that the Habs have rarely lost a game and have yet to have a long losing streak.

It may not have been pretty this week – a bit of a slump after a big, emotional game against the Rangers – but as a rule, you see a club that plays with pride.

“Yes, but the fans and families who pay $800 to see the Habs deserve to see the best possible product on the ice!

We sympathize with you, but it’s not by not systematically playing the best goalie and trading 2-3 veterans between now and the end of the season that you’ll necessarily lose out. They’re not the ones running the show!

Soon, you’ll be able to appreciate the talents of Joshua Roy, Logan Mailloux and Lane Hutson, and that’ll more than make up for it!

In short, there are only 41 games left, just a few months away from this necessary initial phase of rebuilding, when we need to accumulate top young prospects.

So, please, let’s keep Montembeault playing no more than 50% of the games between now and the end of the calendar.

He’ ll score 60 out of 82 next year. You bet!

Or, like Réjean in La P’tite vie, “let him take all his breaks this year, so he can work in peace next year”!

A proven formula

As we understood between the lines during his recent visit to l’Antichambre – hats off to Denis Gauthier for asking the right questions – let’s let Kent Hughes negotiate with Martin St-Louis the optimal management of the goalkeepers with a view to this season’s real objective and the organization’s best long-term interests.

And what is this season’s real goal, and whose best interests are we talking about, you ask?

In 12 words, as in 1,000: lose more today to improve your chances of winning in the long term.

Of course, with a Kirby Dach, the Habs would probably be in the thick of the playoff race.

Maybe they’d even be in the playoffs, at which point we’d all say, “Well, while we’re at it, let ‘s go Montembeault!” and we’d be right to do so.

But that’s not the case.

Dach, perhaps the club’s true #1 center, has been finished for the year since the2nd game of the season!


Fact that?

When life sends you lemons, you have to make lemonade…

This year, the “lemonade” is to give yourself a legitimate chance of winning the “Celebrini lottery” or, at worst, to draft as high as possible in the top-10 and get your hands on a talented player who will quickly join the young core already in place.

Looking at it from this angle, a3rd top-10 pick, including two top-5 picks in three years, would not be a bad idea!

The Tricolore would be borrowing a tried-and-tested formula from the Caps, Kings, Penguins, Hawks, Lightning and Avalanche, who have all drafted very high at least twice in a very short space of time to unearth the stalwarts who have enabled them to become the annual contenders they’ve all become over the past 15-20 years.

Of course, unless they win the lottery, even if they were still drafting “high” in 2024, the Canadiens’ model would differ somewhat from that of those powers that have been lucky enough to get their hands on generational players and/or superstars.

While we shouldn’t underestimate Slafkovsky and a few others, it’s far from certain that this kind of player is in the organization right now, or that he’ll be available to it in 2024.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact that, when they won, all these clubs identified above also had great depth, a depth that, until proven otherwise, is still lacking in the Oilers and Leafs, often cited as counter-examples.

Let’s just say that the Habs’ model is more likely to resemble that of the Blues in 2019…

A forward at any price in the draft? No, but…

So, selecting a prospect very early in the draft is all well and good, but which one?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the Habs should absolutely avoid drafting a defenseman next June. But I would say that such a defenseman would clearly have to be the best player available for them to deign to draft him.

The Habs are so deep on defense and still so weak up front, that to pass up a golden opportunity to acquire a top-6 forward so easily would almost be heresy.

And while it’s clear that such a forward should be available in the top-10, outside it, it’s far less certain.

After missing out on the top-4 forwards last year and deciding to turn up their noses at Michkov by selecting Reinbacher (an old debate!), would Hughes and Gorton want to miss out on one of the top 5-6 forwards available this year (among whom I’d personally include Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, Simon “Snake” Boisvert is talking about Trevor Connelly, to be continued…)?

Wouldn’t think so.

For that, they need to avoid finishing between positions 10 and 16 in the next draft.

And then, as in renovation, let’s go for a nice “while we’re at it”: aiming for the top-5 to give themselves a better chance of selecting Celebrini – already a teammate of Hutson’s – would be even smarter!

More Content