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"I hate Plekanec. I can't stand him."
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- If the cases get to arbitration, it will be Montreal's decision as to whether or not the arbitrator will award one or two year deals to Lars Eller and P.K. Subban.
We appear to be heading towards the drop dead date for CBA negotiations. Either a deal is going to be done in the next few weeks or we're likely looking at a second lost season in less than a decade. As fans, it's simple; we just want NHL hockey back but let's look at this from another perspective. Could a full season lockout actually benefit the Habs? It sounds crazy but there would be some positives mixed with the drawbacks of a lost year.
Obviously this wouldn't be beneficial from an off-ice (ownership) perspective. The Habs, as we all know, are one of the biggest revenue generators in the league. That means owner Geoff Molson will be losing a substantial amount of profit. Because of this, the focus for this article will focus on player and off-ice personnel. Here are some of the pros and cons that would be associated with the lockout wiping out the entire 2012-13 campaign.
Full Season Lockout Pros
Contracts: The consensus seems to be that once again a full season lockout will roll a full year off of players' contracts (this is not guaranteed though but probable). Although there are some bargain deals Montreal has, it also has contracts that aren't so great (such as Scott Gomez, Tomas Kaberle, and Andrei Markov whose injury woes sadly place him in this category). A full lockout would eliminate one year off of these 'bad' agreements. This would also put the Canadiens one year closer to the next big retooling phase. Gomez, Kaberle, Markov, plus captain Brian Gionta (and a few others with cheaper salaries) all have their contracts expiring after the 2013-14 season. A season ending lockout would put the Habs just one year away from being able to undergo quite possibly another change like the summer of 2009 (ideally, adding the final pieces to the puzzle).
Galchenyuk: I know there are some that would wholeheartedly disagree with me regarding this point but the season being cancelled would allow Alex Galchenyuk to get the full junior season that he needs. I still expect his play to drop off in the new year simply because he basically missed all of last year with his knee injury. I'd much rather have that happen in Sarnia than in the pressure cooker that is Montreal. It would also ensure that the first year of his ELC won't be wasted on a partial season. Heck, not having the inevitable hot-headed debate of whether to keep him down or bring him up (which I can see being another Price vs Halak-type discussion) would be another positive.
Scouting: Even though the NHL isn't ongoing, scouts are still busy. Those that would normally be covering the NHL can and have been re-assigned to either scout the minor pro ranks (AHL or ECHL) or to the junior ranks. This will provide the opportunity to view prospects extra times and provide more detailed scouting reports and analysis on these players. Although GM Marc Bergevin hasn't been on the job very long, it has quickly become clear that he is a fan of allowing lots of input and that there is no such thing as too much information. The extra information that can be provided by the scouts would be invaluable for Bergevin and Habs' management.
Full Season Lockout Cons
Bulldogs: The sooner the lockout ends, the better the Bulldogs will be. Hamilton has unfortunately been outclassed on a number of occasions this year by teams who have a lot more NHL ready talent than they do. If/when we get back to NHL hockey this season, the competition level will be much more suitable for the Bulldogs, who are one of the youngest teams in the league. That should also allow them to develop better and at a more normal pace.
Draft: Assuming the lottery rules from 2004-05 would be used again, Montreal wouldn't exactly be in good shape. Having made the postseason in two of the last three seasons will mean the Habs would be a team whose odds of winning the lottery would be in the middle of the pack despite their terrible year in 2011-12. If you're of the mindset that the Canadiens are still not a playoff team (and there is a case to be made for that), there is a decent chance that they could have a better draft pick by playing and losing compared to what the lottery would yield.
The Players: Simply put, it's not a good thing to have players either sitting and not playing (just training and skating a bit) or playing in lower levels. As an example, Max Pacioretty had a terrific comeback year in 2011-12. Playing just a handful of games in the NLA certainly will not help his continued development as a player. Carey Price isn't going to have a full season - it doesn't seem like he has a lot of interest going overseas. P.K. Subban has already said he won't go overseas as well. Having a franchise goalie and top defenceman sit an entire season can't be good.
With this all said, it's still clearly best to get a deal done. There are some potential benefits to ponder if the season gets cancelled but in the grand scheme of things, dropping the puck far outweighs any of those. It's time to get a deal done (although the news from Thursday has made it difficult to be enthusiastic that the lockout will be over soon). Let's hope both sides realize this sooner than later and get back to the table.