Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Year in Review with Pierre Gauthier Part II

10th Transaction

June 25-26th

The 2010 NHL Entry Draft

The draft is the future of any franchise and this was Gauthier's first time running the table as the GM of the Montreal Canadiens. Gauthier had draft picks in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th rounds of the draft and a few choices to make, being a bit farther back in the draft order than he would have preferred likely, sitting at 27th in each round due to the Canadiens placing in the Conference Finals. A good bit of prestige for a first-year GM, but not favourable since the Canadiens were not as well off as Conference Finalists generally are and could have used higher picks.

The first move by Gauthier was to trade up, with likely input from the Director of Player Personnel Trevor Timmins, a man who some felt should have seen the door when the Canadiens shook up their scouting department. The Canadiens traded their 1st and 2nd-round picks to move up five places in the 1st-round to 22nd overall and also received a 4th-round pick in exchange. Gauthier selected Defencemen Jarred Tinordi of the US National Team Development Program, the giant youth was the son of former NHL player Mark Tinordi and was an imposing figure, 6'6" and dwarfing all the members of the Canadiens front office that went up on stage to announce their selection. Tinordi had been the team captain of the USA Under-18 International Team when they won a Gold Medal and was favoured to be a shutdown defencemen in the NHL. Tinordi's skating and positional play show promise and while he seemed to lack the offensive skills to be a two-way defender with only 9 assists over 45 games this season, a shutdown defencemen of his size with good skating ability is a valuable commodity. If the Canadiens are fortunate enough to see him develop into a faster-skating and more aggressive version of Hal Gill, one would say it was a pick well spent.

Due to the trade, the Canadiens did not select again until the fourth round, when with their first 4th-round pick, they selected RW Mark MacMillan of the BCHL, a Junior A Hockey League. MacMillan as a 4th-round pick was a standard 'project player' selection. MacMillan stands at 6' tall but only weighing 155 pounds, he'll need time to add bulk to his frame, which he will have time to do as he is committed to play for the University of North Dakota in NCAA Hockey, which allows the Canadiens to potentially wait to sign MacMillan until 2015 while he develops his skills. and North Dakota is one of the finest college hockey programs in the United States, with players like Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise having spent time there. MacMillan was 9th overall in scoring as a rookie in the 2009-10 BCHL season with 26 goals and 54 assists.

The Canadiens still had their original 4th-round pick as well, which they used to select another defencemen, D Morgan Ellis of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Ellis was another 'character' choice by the Canadiens, he is now the captain of his junior hockey team and offers glimpses of being a two-way defender with growing offensive numbers in his past two seasons.

In the fifth round, perhaps a bit late to address this particular need of the organization, Gauthier made a choice in a potential dark horse pick, albeit it awoke a popular criticism against the team. RW Brendan Gallagher would not intimidate many standing at 5'8", but his shot has terrorized goaltenders in the WHL for two straight seasons. Gallagher scored 41 goals in 2009-2010 and has scored another 36 goals this season already and reads as a pure scorer in the system, a type of player the Canadiens are in need of. The Canadiens are oft-criticized for going too small, but Gauthier should be praised for making this choice, the Canadiens need players with goal-scoring finish in their system regardless of size and it is a mantra that you will hear many scouts say "you can't teach goal scoring", either a player can finish, or he can't. If Gallagher can score when you put the puck on his stick for a scoring chance, you need him. Gallagher's path to the NHL will not be easy, but the choice was made in the best interests of the team's future.

The final pick of the team fell to a player that no one really knows what to make of yet, albeit a broken arm at the start of the season was hardly LW John Westin's fault. Any player selected in the sixth round of the draft is the definition of a project player and a long shot, but the team adding any kind of depth on LW is an improvement as there is not much in the way of likely NHL-capable talent in Hamilton or elsewhere in the organization that could step into an effective role on the Canadiens. Westin will likely be very effective on the defensive side of the puck learning the craft in the Swedish hockey leagues, but his offensive upside as a 6th-round selection is likely going to be minimal.

11th Transaction

June 28th

C Tom Pyatt signed to 1-year, 500,000$ contract.

A very minor signing that tends to frustrate Habs fans more and more as the months go by on the 2010-11 season. Pyatt had a reasonably successful season as a checking line forward who took penalty killing shifts in the previous season, but his offensive abilities have failed to grow, or even register as existing this season. Signing him for 500,000$ for a season was not a bad idea by Gauthier, but the one-way deal was not optimal considering it hurts for the Canadiens for moving players up and down from Hamilton.

Pyatt to this writer is almost a cruel joke by nature, he has blinding speed and excellent hockey sense in the defensive zone, but the offensive skills of Derek Boogaard. It's not his fault but I suspect he's likely going to drop into the AHL next season, he doesn't appear to have any kind of NHL-class offensive talent and an NHL 4th-liner who doesn't fight needs to be able to contribute at least three to five goals a season.

12th Transaction

June 28th

LW Benoit Pouliot signed to 1 year, 1.35 million $ contract.

The Pouliot signing was met with neither much derision or delight, he had failed to appear to be effective following a shoulder injury after his initial hot streak upon arriving with Montreal and failed to perform in the post season, with a mere two assists in 18 games while averaging 11:45 TOI per game. However, Pouliot did have a pedigree of a former fourth overall pick in the draft and would turn 24 just before the 2010-11 season began.

The choice to retain Pouliot in order to keep some value out of the Latendresse trade could be argued as a reasonable move, 1.35 million of cap space is hardly a massive expense and Pouliot had tempted the team with hints of quick skating, good size and smooth hands. Pouliot's weakness at the moment is he is not a self-starter, often requiring his center to inspire him to get really moving and it will then take him a couple of games to find his hands. Given Pouliot's rocky development with the Minnesota Wild, retaining Pouliot to see if his talent can be coached into consistency is not a bad move, especially at the current length and cost of his contract.

13th Transaction

June 29th

RW Sergei Kostitsyn traded to Nashville for negotiating rights with pending free agents C Dustin Boyd, G Dan Ellis and future considerations.

Considering the output from this trade, this is what fans and a GM might want to file under the 'forget it' column in order to not have too many painful memories of what Sergei Kostitsyn is now doing in Nashville.

This seemed to be an example of a player dump, a player sent out of town in order to rid the team of a negative influence player who had never got along with Head Coach Jacques Martin and didn't seem interested in putting in the extra time or getting along with his teammates. At first this seemed to be an even more positive move as Andrei Kostitsyn seemed out of a funk of sorts by not having to deal with the friction between his brother and the rest of the team and management. However with Andrei's outstanding October performance having mostly faded away, it's harder than ever to like anything about the trade unless you accept the premise that Sergei was bad for the locker room, not an impossible assumption considering reports but this is the latest trade to sting a team that has dealt away talent for essentially nothing in return.

14th Transaction

July 1st

G Alex Auld signed to 1-year, 1 million $ contract.

On July 1st, Gauthier made a single move that was not wholly endorsed by many, Auld was not a well-respected backup of the class of a Ty Conklin or Johan Hedberg, he had played on seven different teams since the end of the 2004-2005 NHL lockout and had not exactly distinguished himself along the way, posting a career record of 77-77-29 in his last five NHL seasons.

The intention of the signing of Auld by Gauthier appears to have been the one that many felt had been missing all along for Carey Price since his arrival with the Montreal Canadiens and the departure of Christobal Huet, a veteran goaltender who would give him sound counsel and not actively compete with him for starts, but would instead fill as needed when Price needed a night off.

15th Transaction:

July 1st

C Dustin Boyd signed to 1-year, 650,000 $ contract.

To make sure the Canadiens made something out of the Sergei Kostitsyn trade, Pierre Gauthier signed newly-acquired Dustin Boyd to a 1-year contract, aware of his difficulties in sticking with a team so far in his professional career but was required to see if the Canadiens could get anything out of the young player. With Boyd now cooling his heels in Hamilton after failing to stick with the team out of training camp, it appears to have come to nothing but one can hardly blame Gauthier for signing the player to a bare-bones contract. Boyd had a chance and has done little to nothing with it. The trade itself appearing to have done nothing for the organization is where the blame truly falls.

16th Transaction:

July 13th

C Maxim Lapierre signed to 1-year, 900,000$ contract.

After an underwhelming regular season that Lapierre redeemed with an excellent playoff performance, Gauthier rewarded the agitator with a 1-year deal. At the time, a smart deal considering the edge that Lapierre brought to the playoffs, a relentless agitator that drove many a player mad with his antics and scored some key goals in the Pittsburgh series.

Lapierre at his most effective, is a player who can enrage the entire opposing bench and put them off their game, while at the same time scoring a strangely brilliant goal that you'd never expect him to manage 19 games out of 20. At under a million, signing an agitator to put the other team's star players off their games can hardly be called a bad move.

17th Transaction: July 15th RW Alexander Avtsin signed to 3-year, 1.82 million $ contract.

One of the more encouraging indications for the team's future, Gauthier's negotiations to bring Alexander Avtsin over from the KHL and join the Hamilton Bulldogs, signed to an entry-level contract was a positive step forward for the team's efforts to recruit players drafted out of Russia.

In 2009, Head of Player Personnel Trevor Timmins spoke at the draft that Alexander Avtsin was a potential steal in the draft, a 4th-round pick with 1st-round talent that was taken in the fourth round due to fears of Avtsin never leaving Russia, as the lack of a proper transfer agreement between the NHL and the KHL continues to make teams cautious about drafting Russian-born players.

At present, Alexander Avtsin is posting very respectable numbers as a 19-year old AHL player, with 4 goals and 11 assists in 34 games. The 6'3", right-handed shot winger is a boon to the organization's depth chart for potential scoring wingers and gives the Canadiens a potentially very cheap scoring forward to add to their roster after Avtsin spends a couple of seasons adapting to professional hockey in North America and developing his skills.

18th Transaction

July 16th

Larry Carriere hired to Assistant GM to fill Gauthier's now-abandoned post.

With Pierre Gauthier rising to General Manager, a replacement needed to be found for his old post as assistant General Manager and head of pro scouting. Larry Carriere had been a pro scout for the Washington Capitals since 2004 until joining the Canadiens and had previously been an assistant General Manager with the Buffalo Sabres from 1995 to 2004. He was selected to fill the position with very much likely with the advice and approval of Gauthier himself.

Carriere's had a limited time in his position but had likely input as the Canadiens acquired Jeff Halpern just before training camp and then traded for James Wisniewski later on in the season to add offensive strength and grit to their back end. So far, one can hardly complain about the pro scouting choices made by the Canadiens since Carriere has come into the Canadiens front office, an indication that pro scouting will be improved in the organization from this point forward? Very possible but far to early to know for sure. At present, it is difficult to complain about the moves Carriere was likely involved in. It's also possible with his former affiliation with the Buffalo Sabres organization he advised the Canadiens in their final decision to hire Hamilton Bulldogs Head Coach Randy Cunneyworth.

19th Transaction July 20th G Curtis Sanford signed to 1-year, 550,000$ tw0-way contracts.

Another minor move, but a key one in the needs to maintain strength for the Hamilton Bulldogs. Sanford is an experienced journeyman who can easily man the pipes for an AHL team while allowing the Canadiens to develop a goaltending prospect in the backup position in Hamilton.

With the Canadiens tapping the talents of David Desharnais, Yannick Weber and Max Pacioretty as well to fill out the ranks in Montreal, the need for a strong netminder so the Bulldogs can continue to compete in the AHL is necessary and so far retaining Sanford has paid dividends for the organization, especially in light of goaltending prospect Robert Mayer failing to grab the reigns.

20th Transaction: July 20th Randy Cunneyworth hired as Head Coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs, Randy Ladouceur as assistant.

Pierre Gauthier needed to choose a replacement for Guy Boucher as Head Coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs, which he found in former AHL Head Coach Randy Cunneyworth. Cunneyworth arrived with a career AHL coaching record of 258 wins, 214 losses, 48 ties and 40 overtime losses with the Rochester Americans and had been awarded best coach of the AHL in the 2004-2005 season. Cunneyworth had coached seven seasons in the AHL developing talent for NHL teams and served two seasons as an assistant coach in Atlanta. Ladouceur had 11 years of experience as an assistant coach in the NHL.

At present, the hiring choice appears to have been a sound choice, as the Bulldogs stood on the top of their AHL division for weeks at a certain point before falling behind as call-ups to the Canadiens cost the team needed scoring and the team still continues to vie for the lead spot in their conference and get back their division lead. One opinion about friction when players were called up from Hamilton from last season was the issue of Guy Boucher coaching one system in Hamilton and Jacques Martin coaching a very different one in Montreal, which led to confusion for any prospect from Hamilton that was called up to fill in for an injured Canadien as they had to adapt to Martin's system. It can be difficult to adapt prospects to the next level of hockey if an organization does not have its prospects developing in the same style of hockey in the AHL that they will be expected to play in the NHL.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Racist language and similar offensive messages are not tolerated.