Since his hiring, newly appointed Habs GM, Marc Bergevin, has made more than a few changes behind the scenes of a franchise in clear need of improvement. Michel Therrien has been granted a second chance behind the bench and Gerard Gallant has been brought aboard as an assistant. Among the other hires are Rick Dudley as an assistant GM, Scott Mellanby is the new director of player personnel, Martin Lapointe will take over as director of player development and former Canadiens defenseman Patrice Brisebois will be a player development coach.
For the most part, these changes have been welcomed by the majority of Habs fans with Michel Therrien being the exception. Not many Montrealers are ready to forget his failures behind the Habs bench a decade ago or his meltdown as the Penguins bench boss, when he threw his players under the bus before being fired and watching that very same team win the Stanley Cup a few months later.
What Therrien does have working for him is one very important quality, he is not Jacques Martin. Therrien has already spoken to the media more than Martin did during his entire tenure as the Canadiens coach. Therrien will also show more passion behind the bench, something that Habs fans have been screaming for since Martin was hired in June of 2009. These attributes may settle some of the rage that followed his re-hiring, but knowing Montreal fans, a slow start will have any support for the new coach thrown out of the window. And that is not entirely fair.
On ice changes also needed
For anybody who is optimistic about this hiring due to Therrien bringing the Penguins to the Stanley Cup finals in 2008, there are two main things to remember. First, Sidney Crosby. Second, Evgeni Malkin. I guess you may as well throw in Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang as well as a number of other players on that roster that provided Therrien with a much better team than the one he has just inherited.
The Canadiens will head into the 2012-13 season with a healthy Andrei Markov. That alone should bump them up a spot or two from the bottom of the Eastern standings. But unless they can add some depth by signing some UFA’s to bolster their third and fourth lines, as well as add a top six forward, it will be hard for them to move more than those one or two spots.
Keep in mind that this years free agency pool is quite shallow and unless Bergevin trades up in the draft and manages to acquire Nail Yakupov, the draft will not provide the Canadiens with an NHL ready player.
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
This is not meant to be a pessimistic piece on the Habs and their upcoming season. In fact, another low finish for the Canadiens will help them more than it will hurt them. The 2013 draft class will be deeper in talent lead by projected number one pick, Nathan Mackinnon, and another high pick will speed up the Canadiens road to recovery.
While this Friday’s draft is the most exciting for Habs fans in at least seven years due to their high pick, it’s the overhaul of the team’s developmental system that should have the fans excited. For years Trevor Timmins has been doing a good job of drafting (get over Giroux already) for the Canadiens, but the team’s inability to develop those picks properly has hurt the franchise. Some notable players drafted by Timmins whose development was mishandled include Ryan O’Byrne (2003), Mikhail Grabovski (2004) and three out his four picks in 2005, Guillaume Latendresse, Sergei Kostitsyn and Matt D’Agostini. Carey Price was the Habs first draft pick that year and even his development has been questioned by many.
Max Pacioretty was also in danger of being mishandled until he made it clear that if he wasn’t going to be used as a top six forward in the NHL, then he would rather stay in the AHL and play top six minutes. We all know how that worked out.
Some other Timmins picks include Jaroslav Halak, Alexei Emelin, Mark Streit, Ryan White, Ryan McDonaugh and P.K. Subban as well. That being said, with Timmins track record and a staff more concentrated on properly developing their young talent it’s fair to say that within a few years the Canadiens will be