As we all know, the Habs have been extremely
busy this season in overhauling their roster. What most people don’t know
is that the Hamilton Bulldogs have had significant turnover as well. This
version of the HW Mailbag deals solely with the Bulldogs and looks at some of
the key questions about the team heading towards training camp next month.
Joining me to answer these questions is Ian Russell, a longtime season ticket
holder who is our new Bulldogs columnist.
What is the Bulldogs’ biggest strength at this time?
Brian La Rose: For me, it has to be scoring depth. Aside from Mike
Glumac and newly signed Mathieu Darche, there aren’t some major 30+ scorers in
there. But, when you have Ben Maxwell, David Desharnais, Brock Trotter,
and Ryan Russell who all had or were on pace for 20+ last season, as well as
newly acquired Mikael Johansson and Tom Pyatt, all lines should be able to
score. When you look at the Canadiens’ waiver situation, there’s a good
chance that one of Sergei Kostitsyn or Max Pacioretty will be in Hamilton as
well. Add in the returning Yannick Weber and Mathieu Carle to newcomers
Andre Benoit and P.K. Subban, and you’ve got a team with lots of firepower to go
Ian Russell: The Bulldogs’ biggest strength is the team’s ability to come
together. Last season during the call-ups and injuries that plagued the team,
the Hamilton Bulldogs came together as a team and took up the slack created by
these issues and still found ways to win games including one time late in the
season when they were so shorthanded that they couldn’t even field a full
bench. A second part of the Bulldogs’ biggest strength, in my opinion, is
goaltending. Cedrick Desjardins played very well last season when given the
opportunity behind Marc Denis, and with the addition of Curtis Sanford to
replace the departing Denis, the Bulldogs goaltenders are going to be hard to
What is the Bulldogs’ biggest weakness at this time?
Brian La Rose: When I look at the roster, there aren’t any glaring holes
that must be addressed. That being said, there are some deficiencies.
As I noted earlier, a lack of high end scoring could be a concern, as could the
defence. The majority of the defencemen currently on the roster are
offensive minded which is great for the powerplay, but bad for 5-on-5 play.
The success of this team will largely be affected by how Weber and Subban
develop defensively which is a lot of pressure to put on a pair of youngsters.
Though the Habs have just 2 spots left on their 50 contract list, finding a
veteran defensive defenceman for the Bulldogs may be a wise way to use one
(although an AHL only deal would be better).
Ian Russell: The defense (goaltending not included) is the biggest
weakness. Dan Jancevski, in his two stints with the Bulldogs has always been
one of the better blueliners the team has had. Since he was only on loan from
the Dallas Stars hockey club, he will be playing with the new Texas Stars AHL
franchise this coming season and the Bulldogs will suffer on defense with his
Do you agree with the decision to not bring back
either of Hamilton’s 2 coaches last year, Don Lever and Ron Wilson?
Brian La Rose: Although the team overachieved last season and won the
Calder Cup just a few years ago, it was probably the right decision. When
the Habs hired Jacques Martin, it spelled the end of Lever’s chance of getting
the head coach job in Montreal. If the decision is made that your stable
of AHL coaches aren’t in the future plans, cut them loose. It gives them a
chance to find a new home and allows the parent team (Montreal) to try and find
another coach that could be part of the plans down the road. Wilson
surprises me a little, but when you consider that a new coach often likes to
bring in his own staff (as Guy Boucher recently did with Martin Raymond and
Daniel Lacroix), I can see why he was let go as well.
Ian Russell: Don Lever and Ron Wilson being let go came as a huge
surprise. Both of these coaches led the Hamilton Bulldogs to their first-ever
Calder Cup Championship in 2007. Sure, the hockey team suffered the following
season, missing the playoffs, but rebounded last year, clinching a playoff spot
under Ron Wilson who had a great winning record as the interim head coach after
Don Lever (who was the Hamilton Bulldogs longest-serving head coach) was called
up to Montreal to be an assistant to Bob Gainey.
Name a player from Hamilton that you feel has some legitimate upside that
doesn’t receive enough recognition from the fans.
Brian La Rose: I’m going to go off the board a little bit and pick a
player who has yet to play for the Bulldogs but will this upcoming season.
Tom Pyatt, acquired as part of the Scott Gomez deal, had a strong AHL campaign
last season, picking up 15 goals and 22 assists while playing on the checking
line. A key member of Canada’s World Junior winners in 2006 and 2007, many
seem to think he’s merely a minor league throw-in with little upside. I
expect that after this season, many of those same fans will be signing a
Ian Russell: Ryan Russell is a good young hockey player. He has proven
that he can play at the AHL level; he scores a lot of goals and does not take a
lot of minutes in penalties, but at the moment he appears to be overshadowed by
players such as Mike Glumac and David Desharnais.
By contrast, name a player from the ‘Dogs that
gets too much hype based on what they’ve shown at the AHL level thus far.
Brian La Rose: I’m always amazed at the amount of hype that Alex Henry
receives because he’s capable of throwing a couple of punches. It’s simply
ridiculous to me that some people actually think he should be an NHL
regular this season. He is merely adequate at best defensively and this is
at the AHL level. It’s nice to have some bulk around to stand up
for your teammates, but he simply can’t be a shutdown defenceman.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, because of all of the offensive defenders set to
start the season down there, that’s exactly the role he’ll be trying to fill.
Ian Russell: I am still trying to understand why the Bulldogs picked up
Shawn Belle in a trade for Corey Locke. Belle’s numbers over his career have not
been very good. He takes a huge number of penalty minutes, and his +/- has
mostly been terrible.
With the roster mostly set, we thought it would
be worthwhile offering up our predictions for next season. Joining Ian and
I for this segment is Derek Wills, the play-by-play voice of the Bulldogs.
Brian La Rose
|Leading goal-getter:||Mathieu Darche||Mike Glumac||Mike Glumac|
|David Desharnais||Ryan Russell||Mathieu Darche|
|Most points:||Mathieu Darche||David
|Top +/-:||Ryan Russell||Ryan Russell||Ryan Russell|
If you have a question you’d like to see
answered in a future edition of the mailbag, please e-mail me at