After getting burned on our predictions last year due to a disastrous 2012-13
campaign, we thought we’d wait a little bit before making our early assessments
on the Hamilton Bulldogs with our annual mailbag. Although we believe the
team is considerably improved this season, will that be enough to vault the
Bulldogs into the postseason or will they miss the playoffs for the second
Of the Bulldogs’ departures this offseason, who will be the biggest loss?
Brian La Rose: Frederic St. Denis. Although the Bulldogs
have added some veteran depth on the back end (Chouinard, McIver, and Schiestel),
they still lack a top-four blueliner that has been there before that can also
play in all special teams situations. As players get injured (or shuttled
back-and-forth to Montreal on a seemingly daily basis), not having a player like
St. Denis around is a loss that is really going to be felt, not to mention his
contributions in the room.
Becca Luden: Nathan Beaulieu jumped back and forth between the
Habs and Dogs last year and he’s currently up with Montreal right now. If he
continues to play for the Habs, he could be Hamilton’s biggest loss. He was
definitely a large asset for the Dogs last year and was key on the offensive
side. His stick handling is fantastic and he’s able to set up and make smart
plays when it’s needed.
Of the newcomers, who are you most excited about?
Brian La Rose: There’s a need for impact defencemen on this
team and Magnus Nygren has a chance to be that for Hamilton. His offensive
skills should provide some significant improvement to the powerplay while from a
Montreal fan perspective, it will be interesting to follow how the 23-year-old
does as he adjusts to playing on the North American sized ice surface. So
far, so good, as he has logged heavy minutes in all situations. If that
continues, he could be a real option to be called up as the year goes on.
Becca Luden: Sven Andrighetto. Throughout the preseason he
played really well and scored in the last exhibition matchup against the Comets.
Not only did he play well in the preseason, he has made smart plays and been a
key asset in the first few regular season games as well. He already is
among the team leaders in goals and points; I think this is just the beginning
of what he’s capable of and I’m excited to see what else he has to offer as the
From the players returning, which Bulldog is the most underrated?
Brian La Rose: Dustin Tokarski. He isn’t underrated by
much of the fan base but he seems to be underrated by the organization. He
not only has been one of Hamilton’s top goalies in recent years but his career
numbers also stack up well with many of the long-term AHL netminders.
Despite that, he seems to get the second rate treatment from the Habs and to a
lesser degree, the Bulldogs. Tokarski finds himself in a platoon to start
the season despite being a much more proven goalie than Mayer. It just
doesn’t make sense.
Becca Luden: Greg Pateryn, he’s a key asset to the Bulldogs’
defence that gets overlooked regularly. Last season he was leading Hamilton’s
defencemen in goals with seven. Although the season has just started and they’re
only a few weeks in, he’s managed to put in two goals already and two assists to
tie for the team lead in scoring through the first few games. I think that he’s a player that shouldn’t be
overlooked and that he’ll continue to play well and lead the Dogs defence…as
long as he stays in Hamilton, that is.
Who among the returning Bulldogs is the most overrated?
Brian La Rose: This should come to the surprise of absolutely
no one, but Robert Mayer. In four full minor pro seasons (one at the ECHL
level, three in the AHL), he has ascended to the level of a mediocre minor
league backup. That’s not worth keeping around but if you have to, you at
least don’t give him two years and a nearly doubled salary…the Habs did both
here while making Tokarski scrounge for every penny. To his credit, Mayer
is off to a decent start but he did that last year as well before returning to
his typical level.
Becca Luden: This was a tough call for me, but Gabriel Dumont.
He’s in his fourth season with the Dogs, and has had two playoff runs but he
hasn’t stood out to me all that much. Within his time with Hamilton he has put
in 34 goals which averages just over eight a season; as for assists he averages
ten a year. This season so far he’s put in three assists, but no goals. Other
younger players have stood out quite a bit more even though they are new to the
team; if they continue to play well, Dumont’s role could lessen as the year goes
Which Bulldog is most primed for a breakout season?
Brian La Rose: Michael Bournival would have been my pick at the
beginning of the year but it’s not looking like he’s coming back (at least not
for quite a while) so I’ll go to my second choice, Patrick Holland (who should
be back in Hamilton relatively soon). Holland had a productive junior
career and was finding his comfort zone down the stretch last season. I
think he’s capable of playing at a similar pace in the early going this year
before picking it up just in time for the stretch run.
Becca Luden: After watching the first few games, two names come
to a mind for a breakout season, Greg Pateryn and Patrick Holland. Pateryn has
been a strong player so far this season, and I have a good feeling that it’s
going to continue and only go up from here. It’s his second professional year,
and he’s already on the right track to having a breakout campaign. Holland had
quite a bit of ice time last year as a rookie and is also poised to take a step
Looking at the roster as it stands today, what is Hamilton’s biggest
strength? What is their biggest weakness?
Brian La Rose: Although there is better offensive depth
(particularly thanks to newcomers Christian Thomas (when he gets back) and
Martin St. Pierre), this is still a team that is going to have their issues
scoring on quite a few nights. They’re relying too much on the youngsters
to shoulder the load and as we saw last year, that’s not going to work. In
terms of strengths, I like the organization-wide goaltending depth. I
think Tokarski is one of the top starters in the AHL while having minor league
veteran Peter Delmas and promising newcomer Mike Condon in the wings should
someone get hurt/recalled is a nice luxury to have.
Becca Luden: Their biggest weakness is penalties (discipline,
or a lack of it). There have been way too many penalties in the early going this
year and it has killed them. The Bulldogs are allowing an average of around six powerplays per game
through their first few games, that’s not a good recipe for success in any league. As for
their best strength, the Bulldogs have a strong goaltending duo in Robert Mayer
and Dustin Tokarski. They tend to make big saves when it’s needed in order to
keep the Dogs going or to keep them in the game. If Hamilton can figure
out their penalty situation and find a way to stay out of the box and keep their
goaltending up I don’t see why they wouldn’t be able to do well this season.
Brian La Rose
|Most Goals||Martin St. Pierre||Nick Tarnasky|
|Most Assists||Martin St.
|Most Points||Martin St. Pierre||Louis Leblanc|