The 2012-13 Hamilton Bulldogs season went down as by far the worst in
franchise history. However, it wasn’t entirely unexpected as the team was
full of youngsters being thrust into tough minutes and roles and despite the
lack of success in the standings, there were some positives in player
development. With all of this in mind, here are the final grades for the
Bulldogs, beginning with the goalies and defence.
Rather than assess all of the players on AHL deals, I’m going to focus on the
ones that actually are under contract with the Canadiens. Skaters must
have played in 30 games (40%) during the season to receive a grade with the
exception of the prospects that joined late in the year; I’ll briefly touch on a
couple of those in part two of the final grades.
Robert Mayer – C: It finally took four seasons of minor pro hockey but
Mayer has finally ascended to the level of a mediocre AHL backup goaltender.
Sarcasm in that aside, he did have some positive moments this season and somehow
managed to get a win-loss record near the .500 mark despite how bad the Bulldogs
were. He was supposed to play in Switzerland next season but has had a
change of heart and appears likely to return to Hamilton, as long as he passes
through waivers…which he most certainly will.
Dustin Tokarski – B+: Aside from a pair of really bad outings
at the end of the season that bump him out of an ‘A’ grade, Tokarski was nothing
short of phenomenal after being acquired. He routinely was allowing two or
fewer goals per game; had Hamilton’s offence not been anemic in some of those
starts, he would have had a winning record for sure. Presuming he clears
waivers next year, he should provide the Bulldogs with a steadier level of
goaltending than they had this season…provided the coaching staff realizes
that he is the much better goalie between him and Mayer.
Nathan Beaulieu – B: It was a tale of two seasons for the rookie
defenceman. Early on, he struggled significantly adjusting to the pace and
seemed to tire late in games (a consequence of playing heavy minutes right
away). In the second half of the year in particular, he became a
legitimate top pairing defender and improved his offensive game significantly.
He’s not NHL ready yet (on a full-time basis) but if he can start 2013-14 the
way he ended this year, he should be before too long.
Jason DeSantis – D-: He was acquired to provide some much needed
offence after being one of the higher scoring defencemen in the league the year
before. He failed significantly in that role and wound up being a third
pairing player with limited minutes when he actually was in the lineup. A
pending UFA this summer, it’s safe to say he won’t be back.
Morgan Ellis – C: In junior hockey, slow and steady was a good way to
describe Ellis’ development and it appears his AHL career will follow a similar
pattern. He began the season as a third pairing player that found himself
in the press box periodically but as the year progressed, his role expanded and
he played better. His offensive numbers were poor but they were at the
beginning in junior as well. I expect him to take a strong step forward
Greg Pateryn – B-: He was one of the few positives early on this year.
Instead of being a third pairing player as some anticipated, he wound up being
one of the most used and dependable blueliners while playing both the PP and PK.
He cooled off during the second half of the year but there was still lots to
like about his season. I wouldn’t put him in the discussion to make
Montreal next year but if injuries arise, he should be an early recall option.
Joe Stejskal – C-: It never bodes well for a player who played full
time in the AHL the year before when he’s sent to the ECHL when the season
began. When he did get the call to Hamilton, he really struggled early on.
To his credit though, his defensive game in particular took some steps in the
right direction towards the end of the year. I’m not sure that he merits a
qualifying offer from Montreal in the offseason but he would be worth bringing
back on a minor league deal.
Frederic St-Denis – C+: After playing reasonably well with the Habs at
the end of 2011-12, expectations were high for the lone veteran defender.
Instead, he took a step back this year and found himself off the first pairing
in a hurry while his offensive game also regressed. He’s a pending UFA and
as much as he would still be a good player for Hamilton and one that Marc
Bergevin would be wise to try to keep around, I expect he’ll move on to another
organization next season.
Jarred Tinordi – B-: Like Beaulieu, he got off to a slow start and
improved as the year went on. As expected, he became a true shutdown
defenceman. One area that needs improvement though is his physical play
and if he is back with the Bulldogs to start next season, I expect he’ll take
some strides forward in that aspect.
Since he didn’t play enough with Montreal to be a part of their grades (to
come in the days ahead), I want to briefly touch on his playoff performance here
as well. Tinordi was one of the few to stand out in a positive way in the
postseason although his minutes were limited. His size and defensive
ability were both elements that the Habs needed and he put those to good use.
Playoff grade: B