Michael McCarron’s development hasn’t gone as well as anyone would have hoped for. The Habs have been guilty of bringing him up at inopportune times, a trend that has continued with his most recent recall earlier this month.
In each of the last two seasons, Montreal has brought up their top pick from 2013 and played him in a sparing role down the stretch. That played a role in him expecting to land a spot on the team in training camp the following season, something he has acknowledged in the past. As we know, he struggled in those camps and was rightfully demoted.
We all know McCarron’s strengths. He can hit…and he can hit. (He’s also a willing participant to fight but that has had a minimal bearing on the games that he has dropped the gloves.) For a first-round pick, that’s not very good. He needs to develop his overall skillset if the team wants him to be more than a run-of-the-mill fourth line tough guy.
With the nightmarish season that Laval has had, the Habs had the perfect opportunity to give him plenty of ice time in offensive situations so that he could actually develop some skills. For the most part, they haven’t done that. Instead, they’ve been content to play him on the second line with wingers that have no business being in the top six thanks to management’s mind-boggling disdain for having depth in place when the inevitable injuries and recalls strike.
And now, the decision has been made to do the exact thing that hasn’t worked for the last two years. Instead of leaving him in the minors where he belongs (especially based on his play this season), they’ve chosen to bring him back up. Continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result is basically the definition of insanity right there.
And what do the Habs want him to work on while he’s up this time? This is what McCarron relayed to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman last week:
“They want me to be more of a prick.”
I’m sorry, what? McCarron has already mastered the art of running around and hitting people while taking unnecessary penalties in the process. Management has now told him they want him to do that even more now? That’s ridiculous. Forget about things like working on your skating, scoring goals, or learning to become a better penalty killer, actual things that bring tangible value to the table; no, we want you to do more of what has completely devalued you as a prospect over the past several years.
The Habs already have one player capable of running around and hitting people, fighting, and scoring the odd goal in Nicolas Deslauriers, who they just signed to a contract extension last month. They don’t need two of those players in a league that is drastically shifting towards speed and skill, even on the fourth line. (And Deslauriers brings a unique intangible in that he can drop back and play defence for a shift or two if needed.) Is that really what the benchmark for McCarron is now, becoming a poor man’s version of Deslauriers? That’s a pretty lousy return on a first-round investment.
While McCarron certainly deserves a significant portion of the blame for him becoming pretty much an afterthought as a prospect, so too does management. They have basically bungled his development from the get-go since he turned professional. It’s at the point now where they should just turn around and do the exact opposite of whatever they think the right thing to do for his development is. Really, it can’t be any worse than what it is now.
It’s quite a shame that it has come to this. The days of thinking that McCarron could be an impact player seem to be coming to an end quickly. But hey, at least he can still hit people which is apparently all that seems to matter to management. In their eyes then, he must be developing well despite all the evidence to the contrary.