Since the NHL salary cap was first introduced back in 2005, only one team, the Detroit Red Wings, have managed to win a Stanley Cup without having to build their club on very high draft picks. Every Cup winner except for the Wings has had to suffer for a few years – for some that were terribly managed, decades. The odds of hoisting a Cup without high draft picks are slim to none. This is reality.
This year, the Montreal Canadiens find themselves with the third overall draft pick plus a bounty of second rounders. This is good but if the Habs are serious about doing what needs to be done to contest for Lord Stanley’s mug and experience a decade or more of quality play, then they need to tank for at least one more year.
Fans of the Montreal Canadiens have to decide – do you want more mediocrity, one or two playoff round victories here and there or do you want a Stanley Cup parade down Rue de St. Catherine?
This summer, Montreal has a great opportunity to restock its roster. The right thing to do is not squander any draft picks for the next Andrew Shaw that comes available. General Manager Marc Bergevin must let Trevor Timmins do his job without any interference. Timmins needs full reign to stockpile this organization with promising young talent.
His track record shows that he has done a good job at finding NHL talent even though the Habs rarely have this high of a top draft pick to work with let alone as many extra second rounders as they do. With that in mind, just let him and his staff work their magic next month.
I’m personally willing to wait it out just one more additional lousy season in exchange for 10-12 increasingly better ones. I’m also open to hear any offers on the core players – including Shea Weber and Carey Price – if and only if high draft picks and young players are involved. The same goes for whoever/what Max Pacioretty is ultimately exchanged for.
By all accounts, next year’s draft is supposedly another bumper crop year. The beauty of 2019 picks is that they will be at their lowest market value just prior to the 2018 draft. Given the frantic pace of things prior to the draft, teams are more susceptible to part with them then and there rather than afterwards. This then is a perfect opportunity to buy low.
Now having lots of draft picks is one thing. Developing them is another. Timmins’ picks must not be allowed to wither away. His job is to find the best-looking trees at a garden centre and the development staff are tasked to feed and water them. The Canadiens must, therefore, hire the best development people that money can buy.
Why not, for example, hire the services of former figure skater Barbara Underhill – who has done incredible things with both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning? She has made some weak skaters into quality ones. Wouldn’t this help the Michael McCarron’s in Montreal’s system? The Habs also need to invest in acquiring a team (not just one or two) of top rate sports psychologists. The Canadiens certainly have the coin. This is what rich, well-managed teams do.
I realize that it might take three-to-four years before the Habs become serious contenders if they go into complete rebuild mode. But as we can clearly see with Toronto, after it went through radical surgery, this team continues to improve. Leaf fans have patiently watched this progression. They now have hope for at least another eight-to-ten years – assuming new GM Kyle Dubas does not drop the ball.
Sadly, what I’m suggesting here will likely not happen. Bergevin will do whatever he can to save his job. Geoff Molson seems willing to get himself a B-level team with no real Stanley Cup aspirations. Meanwhile, we’ll likely be seeing teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrating a Cup victory along Yonge Street while us Hab fans will be drinking the Kool-Aid through more useless first, maybe second round “victories.” Yippee.
There are no shortcuts in this salary cap era. Yes, this process is initially painful but when things begin to turn around, the fan base will totally forget the misery that it endured. In fact, it will be quite tankful.