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In this edition of the HW Mailbag, we take a look back while forecasting the future at the same time. Was the decision to send Michael McCarron to the OHL the right one? Is Jarred Tinordi ready to be a full-time NHL'er? Should Marc Bergevin be prioritizing an extension for Norris winner P.K. Subban over the next few weeks? Our writers offer up their thoughts on each of these questions.
1) Did the Habs make the right decision sending 1st round pick Michael McCarron to the OHL or would he have been better suited playing in the NCAA?
Matt Dilworth: Only time will tell if it was the right decision to have Michael McCarron play in the NHL this year, but in terms of his development, I am in favour of the OHL route. Since both options feature great coaches, we have to see what is more likely to prepare McCarron for the NHL; as the OHL’s schedule features more games, it should better facilitate the transition to pro hockey. Although this means that McCarron’s schedule will be more gruelling and that he will likely miss out on some gym time, I think McCarron’s physical readiness will suit him well, and he will develop nonetheless. Finally, the London Knights are a well-respected and successful club, so McCarron should see his fair share of important games, something that won’t be likely to occur in the NCAA.
Brian La Rose: Having the luxury of compiling all the responses, I'm going to change my original one just to provide a different point of view (but London was my preference).
The college route has a reputation of being more of a developmental league when it comes to individual skill and conditioning. In terms of the latter, McCarron doesn't need to put on much more weight (compared to Mark MacMillan, a fellow prospect going the NCAA way) but there is still some work to be done there. His potential coach in Andy Murray (a longtime NHL bench boss, one more than comparable to Dale Hunter) figures his ideal playing weight is about 10-15 lbs above where he is now. A short-term stint at Western Michigan would give him a better shot of getting to that target compared to London. As for skill development, the Knights are loaded for next year. GM Mark Hunter can say all he wants during the offseason that he could be a front liner but there's a decent chance that he falls in the bottom six as well. At WMU, McCarron would have seen a lot of top six ice time on a not-as-deep team, which would have ensured ample time to work on his offensive game. He may still get that with the Knights, but it's not as guaranteed as it would have been in college.
Norm Szcyrek: While the Habs technically didn't make the decision where McCarron would play this fall, I'm sure their preference was for him to go to London, since Canadian major junior leagues have helped the majority of prospects develop quicker to become NHL players. There were many factors in McCarron's decision. The Knights have had an excellent hockey program in recent years due to brothers Mark and Dale Hunter who coach, GM, and own the franchise. Both are former NHL players who've helped several players get to the NHL, including the Habs' own Jarred Tinordi. London is close to McCarron's home, less than a 2 1/2 hour drive for the Michigan native, which is a big incentive; although a car trip to WMU would be nearly as close. London is the host for the Memorial Cup in 2014, and with top Knights forwards Max Domi and Bo Horvat also first round picks this year, McCarron stands a great chance to become their linemate.
Moshé Weizman: A definitive yes; I do think playing in Canada as opposed to the U.S., no matter the context, simply gives you a better feel of what being a professional hockey player would mean, especially when you're a 1st round draft pick with a club like Montreal. Second, the Knights have a history of doing a great job with numerous talents in recent years, Jarred Tinordi is one example of a player going from the Knights to the NHL. In the OHL, McCarron will play more games and will get much more exposure (the Knights host the 2014 Memorial Cup).
2) In your opinion, is Jarred Tinordi ready to be a full-time NHL'er?
Matt Dilworth: Tinordi has acquitted himself at the NHL level quite well thus far, so it’s not too much of a stretch to consider him ready to be a full-time NHL'er. Despite what he has shown, I don’t believe that he’s ready to be a factor at the NHL level at the time of this writing, so I wouldn’t be opposed to Tinordi playing some more tough minutes for Hamilton this season. That being said, with the injury to Emelin and Bergevin’s seeming reluctance to bring in a replacement, it seems that Tinordi will pull on a Habs jersey this fall. I predict that he will be able to play capable minutes, but I think that anyone hoping for Tinordi to play a legit top-4 role is being overly optimistic.
Brian La Rose: Tinordi has played all of 13 career NHL games, or the equivalent of one month. I can't sit here and say that based on that sample size that he's ready to be a full-timer. I think another half a year in the AHL would be ideal. Look back to his junior career, he took big steps forward in terms of his physical play and his overall skill in his second season. The two biggest concerns about his rookie campaign in Hamilton were that his overall skills were still quite raw and he wasn't as tough as many would have liked. If he gets to spend regular time back there this year, I have no doubts that recent history can repeat itself and that it will make him more ready to be an impact NHL'er moving forward instead of a third pairing player, the role he'll most likely hold down while stepping in for Alexei Emelin at the beginning of the year.
Norm Szcyrek: I believe Jarred Tinordi is right on the bubble of becoming an NHL regular this season. He may start the season as the team's #7 defenceman since the injury to Alexei Emelin's knee will not be recovered by the start of the season in October.
Moshé Weizman: Yes and he already proved it in his last stretch with the Habs last year, being by far, the most effective prospect brought on for a test run by the team during the season. He's big, strong, physical, changes opponents' play and presence around the net and most importantly, an addition the Habs can't simply overlook. He also made a maturity mark last year making him an important part of the future of this franchise and these parts are hard to find.
3) Should Marc Bergevin pursue a contract extension with P.K. Subban prior to the beginning of the 2013-14 season?
Matt Dilworth: I would hope that talks between the two parties begin as soon as possible. With a Norris trophy under his belt, I think Subban’s value is quite evident, and I see no sense in delaying the inevitable. P.K. is going to cost a pretty penny no matter when he signs, and it’d be nice to avoid any potential drama that contract negotiations will likely bring. As I don’t anticipate that P.K.’s play will change for the worse once he signs his big contract, I look forward to the day that he signs a long-term deal with the Canadiens.
Brian La Rose: If the Habs look to sign him now, Subban has all of the leverage coming off of a Norris season and a perceived likely Olympic berth. If they wait, there's a risk he signs an offer sheet but he demonstrated last time he wasn't willing to sign one and even if he did, it would have to be excessively high for management to ponder not matching as he's likely to surpass Andrei Markov as the highest paid d-man in franchise history already. I don't think that's all that great of a risk to take. The Habs aren't going to get much, if any more, of a discount if they sign him next week or a year from now so they may as well wait unless they get a deal too good to pass up. That's not to say that Marc Bergevin shouldn't investigate what it would take but it's not a must-sign now situation.
Norm Szcyrek: It would be in the Canadiens' best interest for Marc Bergevin to negotiate an extension as soon as possible. Subban has proven he is now a franchise player, so it's time to treat him like one. Even though Subban will still be an RFA after this season's contract expires, it would be to everyone's advantage to keep Subban happy and in the Habs fold for many years to come.
Moshé Weizman: Not necessarily.., although i wouldn't take it
further than next year's Olympic break.
P.K. has shown signs of impressive maturity during last season, regardless of his play on the ice which rewarded him with the franchises' first Norris trophy in more than 20 years. The issue with waiting too much is simply the focus that this will get as times goes by, possibly in a playoff run or bad/good stretches the team may be living at that specific moment in time. P.K. is just too big and too important to even give him the time to think about 'what if...?' which will possibly take his mind off hockey at a time the team will need him the most. So I say - no risk, sign him ASAP, but no later than midseason.