Thursday, 5 March 2015

Game 64: Canadiens 1, Ducks 3

Notes on the Canadiens' 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, their second on this California road trip.

--Did I get this right, the Ducks have a player called Rackelle Rackelle?  Did his KHL journey take him from Milan to Minsk?

--I don't know that I ever bought in to the Disney Mighty Ducks name for the Anaheim team, but the Ducks current logo and colours are not too inspiring either.

--In the eighties, teams game-planned around Raymond Bourque and Chris Chelios when they had to face them.  Both those players had to play close to thirty minutes a game, and be a big part of their team's success, spark their breakout and offence, and limit their mistakes for their team to win.  The Canadiens would send Claude Lemieux and Dave Maley and Steve Rooney after the Bruin defenceman, to thump him any chance they got, and the common wisdom was that he wore down as a seven-game series played out, he'd get banged up and exhausted.

P.K. has to expect these tactics and learn how to deal with it.  A couple of times, one of which resulted in an Anaheim goal, he went into the corner and lost the puck battle, a Ducks player came out with it and it ended up in his net.  P.K tried to protect himself, which he has to do, I can't fault him for that, but when he does so he still has to make a play on the puck.  Maybe instead of trying to be shifty, to deke his way out of there, he just needs to make the proverbial strong play, fire it around the boards to gain time and space, as opposed to trying to fend off two guys with one arm, stickhandling with the other, mentally going over his taxes, etc...

Just simplify, P.K.  When you're pressed for time, fire it around the boards behind your net, or backhand it up off the glass to your winger, keep your shoulders socketed and your brain firing normally.  When there's a lot of room, when you have time to scan around behind you on puck retrieval, and see in the glass that there isn't a burly forechecker bearing down on you, that's when you can corral the puck and head up-ice with it, see what you can do.

--I've thought a few times this season, notably when we played against the Blues and the Islanders, that these putative league powerhouses weren't that intimidating, that we could handle them no problem.  I haven't thought that against the Sharks or tonight against the Ducks.  There's a skittishness to our team, our defencemen hurrying to get rid of the puck, our forwards not quite able to get to it, either half a step slow or not able to fight through a hold or jersey tug.  Carey Price looking mortal.  Horrors.

--The three judges scored the Jiri Sekac vs Devante Smith-Pelly bout 120-96 in favour of the Ducks forward.

--It's hard to see positives, at times the Canadiens didn't seem to be in it, but if they could have snuck one past John Gibson the game may have had a different flow.  The Ducks' goalie wasn't miraculous though, it's not as if he was stemming back the Mongol hordes.  It was more of a case that when the Canadiens did manage to mount a charge, they'd flub a shot or miss a pass.

--Having said that, the Canadiens got 38 shots on net, compared to 32 for the Ducks.  And they threw 29 hits as opposed to 27 for the Ducks, althought that stat is hard to believe.  Maybe there should be an advanced stat for 'effectiveness of hitting', measured by the amount of panic in the defenceman's eyes as he's about to get crushed by Nate Thompson or brushed upon by Lars Eller.

--The Canadiens seemed to benefit when Michel Therrien fired up his blender and came up with some new lines.  Alex Galchenyuk on the right with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais had a little bit more jump, for example, than when Brendan Gallagher was on the right side.

With his two new forwards giving him the option to play them at centre or on the wing, and the same being true for Jacob de la Rose, Michel Therrien will be able to experiment even more than before.

--I think the Lars Eller experiment on the wing has to end.  Either by sulking or being completely lost, he seems completely ineffective.  He has shown no affinity for playing on the wing, and he's not improving, he seems to be getting worse.  We're reduced to seeing one or two instances of competence and taking solace from them, "Good, he received the pass, skated the puck into the zone and got a wrist shot on net.  Nice going Lars!"

I think Lars needs to go back at centre, we've led him to water but he just plain won't drink.  So give him back third-line centre, but he has to perform or find himself on the fourth line or the pressbox, while the ex-Sabres and Jacob de la Rose also fight it out.  We need to get Darwinian in his case.

--Sportsnet...  During the first intermission, while showing video of the Dustin Byfuglien injury, Nick Kypreos barked at me that "Face value, you just don't see anything out of the ordinary..."

Face value?  Did you mean 'at first glance'?  'On first perusal'?  'Upon casual inspection'?  'On the first take'?

So Nick, instead of using cutesy phrases you don't understand, why not just use plain language?

He barked some more though that "...something happened, that triggered, uh, that effect."

His clowny sidekick Doug MacLean, tasked with discussing the Dave Clarkson injury, was also stumped, saying that "you think, talk about Byfuglien, strange one, this is in a scrum, where there's no body contact, other than pushing and shoving, ..."

Eleven and a half more years of this.  And the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Thank you Gary Bettman.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Game 63: Canadiens 0, Sharks 4

I have to say it was hard to enjoy last night’s game. I mostly blame circumstances though.

I was “HIO’ed” out by a full day of watching Darren Dreger harangue me about nothing, like Abe Simpson’s verbal battles with the clouds.

For some reason I thought I’d read that the game started at 19:30 hr my time, so I missed a lot of the first period, and the first goal.

Also, the stream I was watching was of very poor quality, very unreliable, so I couldn’t really observe the play very well, my attention was more focused on the Liveblog and the way the Canadiens were subjected to the ridicule of the community.

Still, a 4-0 loss to a team that’s been struggling, rudderless. “Phooey” was my contribution to the post-game discussion.

But as I pointed out during the online discussion/internecine sniping, the Canadiens specifically, but also East Coast teams generally, usually do poorly in their initial game of a West Coast road trip, especially if they don’t acclimate, get a game/day or two in the Mountain Time Zone prior to that. So we can rationalize it somewhat.

Dave Pratt of TSN 1040 Vancouver just did an opinion piece setting up the Sharks’ game against the Canucks tonight. He barely touched on the fact that they just beat the Canadiens.

All he did was lambaste them for their poor record, their dysfunction, their on-and-off love affair with Joe Thornton and his recent struggles on the scoresheet.

He talked about how they had a players’ only meeting on Sunday night. Co-hosts brought up the fact that their problem has been more about their spotty goaltending.

They also mentioned that the most positive development isn’t the way they beat the Canadiens, but the fact that the Flames’ Mark Giordano is now out for the season, and should sink in the standings without their best player.

On to Los Angeles.  I expect that Carey starts the next game, and then Tikker gets a shot since we have a back-to-back situation.

Pierre-Alexandre can settle in little better and try to generate some creativity, some offence, on a team that needs it beyond the first line.

Devo’s also a player who can start settling in after getting bounced around and dropped into the lineup.

The ex-Sabres can show their gratitude after receiving a call from the Governor, give the team a jump.

Jeff Petry and Tom Gilbert can work hard and disprove my hunch that they’re mimeographs of each other, ballyhooed right-handed puck-movers who are darlings of the statisticians and toil in obscurity on poor, losing teams. Guys who have a reputation as good ‘first-pass’ guys but get a little shy around contact.

Another hunch/wish was that Michaël Bournival would get sent down to Hamilton, get on track after a tough start to a season due to injury and roster machinations. Let’s hope that he plays a tonne, gets lots of minutes on special teams, shows leadership, and drags the Bulldogs to the playoffs. We’ll need him in the playoffs, especially the version we had in training camp last year that had the Midas touch.

So yeah, let’s have a palate-cleanser, quickly, don’t want to have this aftertaste lingering.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Marc Bergevin on the tradeline, and the attendant rumours.

RDS has two really good interviews by François Gagnon with Marc Bergevin this morning.  You can use Google translate if you don't read French, there's some good stuff in there.

In this article, Marc Bergevin says that last seasons he was talking to Garth Snow for a while about Thomas Vanek, but that he wanted too much.  On the trade deadline morning, he says he offered Sebastian Collberg and a second-rounder very early on, in part because he was attending his mother-in-law's funeral in Chicago and would be somewhat detained throughout the day.  He also says that the trade was accepted at around 10:00 hrs, and doesn't know why it took so long for league headquarters to make it official, which I wonder if it isn't a bit of a smokescreen.  Is he trying to protect Garth Snow's reputation?

He talks about how in meetings before the draft they make up a grid of Top 10 draftees, then 11-15, 16-20, and so on, and then evaluate what trade-up or trade-down opportunities will exist at the draft.

He also says the prospects in the organization are constantly being evaluated, and that's what allowed him to offer up Sebastian Collberg last year.  So we now know it wasn't so much an Islander demand that he be included in the trade, but a decision by the Canadiens that they could spare him.

We have another peek behind the curtain in this article.  Marc Bergevin says he's constantly speaking with other GM's, and a lot of it is staying current, taking a pulse, and not necessarily 'goal-oriented'.

Which is why he says he laughs at the rumours that crop up because some team's GM/scouts are at another team's game.  For that, and also because a lot of these scouts are where they are because of travel plans, and teams trying to minimize their costs.  Like he says, if a team is playing two games in two nights, and their farm team is nearby, it's cost-effective to be there.

He says that every GM in the league knew that Evander Kane was headed to the Sabres the week before that trade, all that needed to conclude was the specifics of the trade.  So score one for the Insiders!  They tweeted about it after it happened.

He also says that he had some interest in Jaromir Jagr, but doesn't discuss it beyond that.  Another smokescreen?

He says that he sometimes wants to single out certain rumours and expose them as the ridiculous, nonsensical inventions they are.  He understands that fans and journalists get caught up in the buzz of the trade deadline and want to read entrails based on which GM is seen talking to who, but he hates how unfounded rumours cause turmoil within a team, and how a ten-year old might hear a rumour about his dad being traded in the schoolyard.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Game 62: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 0

Tonight's win over the Leafs by the Canadiens should shush those bothersome 'Leafs rivalry' stories.  The Leafs are rivals for the Canadiens in the same way that roadkill is a rival for a crow.

Another good thing about this listless Toronto outing is I didn't have to hear about what a great pickup Leo Komarov was, how he was going to allow the Leafs to have more balance, roll four lines, be a deeper lineup, blah blah blah...

I wasn't subjected to another Brandon Kozun lovefest like I was during the first matchup, how he was reminiscent of Martin St-Louis, another slight undrafted free agent, how the Flames may have Johnny Gaudreau, but for my money, the Leaf youngster had just as much skill, yadda yadda yadda...

And thankfully, they didn't try to reanimate the corpse of Korbinian Holzer, the way they were hyping him and Mike Kostka as diamonds in the rough, prescient finds by a shrewd Toronto front office, defencemen who would be an integral part of a resurgent Toronto blue line, barf retch barf...

Good on Manny for finally potting a goal, a nice wrister in on a feeble Jonathan Bernier, who may be playing like a guy who wants to ride in this clown car anymore?  Manny picked up a nice drop pass from Dale Weise, on a partial breakaway.  This line, with Michaël Bournival, had good jump all night, and was noticed by the HNIC broadcast crew.

David Desharnais scored two goals, but these were unjustly amassed, due to icetime unfairly allotted to him.  Realistically, Mon Oncle Arthur could have scored those goals, one standing by the side of the net and just potting a rebound, and the other deposited into an empty net.  If Michel Therrien wasn't so bent on ruining Mon Oncle Arthur, he'd have put him on the ice in the waning minutes of the game and he would have, rightfully, scored that goal.  Indubitably, that should have been Mon Oncle Arthur's tally.

Carey Price had a couple of adventures with his puck handling, but nothing Drydenesque, and picked up another shutout, to help pad his already stellar stats.  Ho hum.

Max Pacioretty was a force, he played like he cared contrary to the Leafs, and he seemed too much for them to handle.  Just ask Dirty Nazem down there on the ice on his keister.  Max was fast, on the puck all night, protecting the puck, attacking the net, great stuff.  I don't think Max has played this well since the season with Erik Cole.

P.K. had a strong but not flawless game.  Again his decision making can be questioned, it's like he tries too hard sometimes, trying to do it all himself.  Maybe he was trying to put on a show because he was facing the Leafs, but he snuffed out a few attacks, a couple of powerplays, all by himself.

It's like if you're doing a patrol against the German lines P.K.  You go out and you probe and you find out that there are significant forces with machine guns and armor.  So now you pull back and report to headquarters, you don't keep probing.  You didn't find a weak spot, an opportunity, you know what you need to know, live to fight another day, go on another patrol somewhere else later on.  You dump the puck behind the net and let your forward see if he can do something with it.

Or it's like you're at the pub and after a scan of the room, you and your wingman go and chat up the three cute girls standing by the pool table.  But you find they're not very receptive, they listen patiently and give you one-word answers and forced smiles, and try to resume their conversation.  So you tell them you'll catch them later, genially excuse yourself, and head back to your bros.  The night is still young.  You saw quite a few young ladies looking in your direction when you walked in, there's interest somewhere.  You don't insist with the pool girls, offer them a drink, then another, drag them to the bar to show them your cool coaster trick, tell them about your wheels, your cool job,...  You don't waste your time, there will be other, more sympathetic audiences.  Save it for then.

P.K., pass the puck to a teammate, see if he has better luck.  Maybe the pool girls like their beaus dancier, less behemothy.

The young defencemen had a light night, with Greg Patery playing 11 minutes, and Nathan Beaulieu playing 15, while Sergei Gonchar, Tom Gilbert, P.K. and Andrei Markov all played around 25 minutes.  Nate had a doozy of a giveaway in his own zone early in the first, which elicited an audible groan from the New Forum crowd.  Nate had the puck under control, had 'time and space', but made a blind backhand pass behind the net to the other corner where he thought his defence partner should be, but his assumption was unfounded.  A Leaf gobbled up the free puck and this caused a few anxious moments.

Still, Nate played confidently the rest of the game, and Greg Pateryn tried to make an impact by hitting everything in white, so good night for both.  They'll both get to play more games if they continue to play to their strengths.

At the end of the game, the Leafs' coaches pulled kind of a jerk move by pulling their goalie and throwing on an extra attacker, and I could only wonder to what end?  What was the strategy?  To harm their draft standing?

I could understand trying to win a game, throwing up a Hail Mary when in a playoff chase, but that's not the case.  I could understand trying to come back from a one or even a two-goal deficit, but they were down 3-0.  Were they trying to ruin Carey Price's shutout?  Did Peter Horachek think he'd impress future employers with his daring strategery?

They got what they deserved, the Canadiens, after whiffing many times as is their custom when trying to seal a win, finally made it 4-0, and all that remained was the ceremonial Leaf jersey toss, the Toronto answer to Detroit's octopus.

Good win against a weak sister, they've given us a lot of problems lately, in the form of the Sabres, the Devils, the Coyotes, the Sabres again.

And good for us that we've got a steady diet of Sharks and Ducks and Kings and Lightning coming in March.  If we play badly against poor teams, we should do great this month.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Darren Dreger, putative 'Insider', is dumbfounded, crestfallen at Dave Clarkson trade.

Darren Dreger is so awful, I can’t believe he has a job. I’m watching a PVR’ed edition of “TSN Drive with Dave Naylor”, and at the 15 minute mark he does his “Leafs at 6″ segment, which he does every day. Except that today the Dave Clarkson trade news broke at the same time.

And he doesn’t understand it, visibly. On HockeyInsideOut, we right away understood the pros and cons, what each team would gain from the trade. The Blue Jackets get a player for their real dollars they’d have to spend on an injured Nathan Horton, and the Leafs get to place him on LTIR, and use the cap relief to spend another 5 mill in real dollars on other players, which for them isn’t a hurdle, but is a huge issue for cash-strapped Columbus. The Leafs get a mulligan, the five mill they were sinking on Dave Clarkson, they’re now sinking on Nathan Horton, with the bonus now that on LTIR they’re allowed to spend another five mill past the cap if they so wish.

We had that worked out in five minutes on social media. But Darren Dreger is on camera, with a ‘deer in the headlights’ expression, almost despondently saying there was no scuttlebutt on this, and re-hashes that there is a lot though on Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak, like Bob Cole nowadays when he backtracks and explains why he thought there was a penalty, but the stoppage in play was actually because of the end of the period, that’s why that siren was making all that racket, but it looked like a Leaf had tripped Henrik Sundin on that play, everything was happening, …

Steve Simmons is obviously going through this mental calculus, and is aquiver, his headphones askew, in a positive lather and asks, directly: “Can the Leafs put Horton on long-term injury, and not have the same cap ramifications?”

There it is. The setter has put up the ball perfectly, all the Insider has to do is spike it.

His response: “Uuuuuuhhhh, I would assume so…”

Simmons: “So this might be a great deal for the Leafs?” (Which it is.)

Dreger: “Uhhh-it’s a salary dump by the Toronto Maple Leafs. You have to assume that, you know, they’re… they’re going to place Nathan Horton on long term injury, and insurance kicks in. Right? If he never plays again, you know, Horton still gets paid, the money that is owed to him. Contractually.”

Brilliant analysis. Darren is pretty sure NHL contracts are guaranteed, almost certain.

Steve Simmons then references Pat Gillick, who once said that every GM makes mistakes, lots of them, but the good ones recognize them and fix them.

Simmons: “Today has to be a good day for Dave Nonis.”

Dreger: “I would think so and obviously we’re going to hear from Dave Nonis at some point in the foreseeable future…”

Still with that look, that expression of loss of control, that the world doesn’t make sense anymore. How could his own brother-in-law do that to him, not call him and give him the scoop? ‘I’m supposed to be an Insider, dammit’, he exudes with every beaten puppy look he casts about. You can tell he’s making a mental note to reduce the budgeted amount for Dave’s birthday gift coming up.

Dreger: “…This one was NOT on the radar.”

More Dreger, after repeating all the Leafs he was sure were more likely to move: “So… it’s a dump! It’s getting out from under a contract that was going to be problematic for the future.” Still not getting it, not understanding the quid pro quo, our Insider, who likes to tell us how “complex and complicated” the CBA is.

Naylor: “How much do we know about he likelihood that Nathan Horton may ever be able to play again in the NHL?”

Dreger: “Well not a lot of late. But it wasn’t that long ago that we on ‘Insider Trading’ were speculating that this probably wasn’t going to be a good thing for the long term future of Nathan Horton.” (?)

“But maybe something has changed, obviously we have to do some work here to figure out if that’s the case, or if the Toronto Maple Leafs are, as we already suggested, are simply taking on what can be minimized down to an insurance case. But we’ll have to wait and see. I mean, quite frankly, because of the information coming out as abruptly as it did, we’re kind of speculating here.” Still, still not getting it, Darren is.

As Dave Naylor and Steve Simmons carry the conversation, Darren Dreger stands up and walks away. The host explains that their Insider has to excuse himself to take some calls. I dearly hope it’s a manager calling him, telling him “Stop talking! Stop talking now, you nincompoop!”

Steve Simmons says “He (Dreger) may not want to be with us anymore.” And I’m not sure if he doesn’t realize what he’s saying, or if it’s a fully intentioned swipe at him, for not being any help, and not answering any questions, and not providing any insight.

When Dave Nonis gets fired, does Darren Dreger keep his job?

Jarred Tinordi sent down to Hamilton Bulldogs, again.

I’m not too worried about Jarred Tinordi, even after being sent down to Hamilton again on Thursday, after a rough outing against the Blue Jackets. Sure, it would be great if his learning curve had been steeper, instead of the gradual progress we’re seeing now. It would be great if something had clicked for him this season, like it did for Nathan, and he took a quantum leap.

But he is where he is, a big tall player the likes of which generally take a long time to mature. And as we’ve pointed out recently, it’s not like he’s the laggard and everyone else who was drafted at the same time is now killing it in the NHL. In fact, Jarred is doing as well as a ‘project’ 6’6 defenceman drafted 22nd overall in 2010 could be expected to.

So again, taking time to reflect on the slow development of physically-similar players like Victor Hedman, Hal Gill and Zdeno Chara among others, let’s take a deep breath and temper our expectations. He’ll come around, he hasn’t topped out.

Next season, he’ll be waiver-eligible, so we won’t be able to play him in Hamilton while he gets his game polished. This season is our last chance to do that. It makes sense that, with Alexei Emelin and Sergei Gonchar nearing a return to active duty that both those lefties will bump him down to Hamilton again.

And this isn’t optimal, it would be better if he was already a fixture on our roster, but it’s also not a bad thing. He’s going to get big minutes for another twenty games, and he’s going to be expected to lead his teammates to a playoff berth, and then have some playoff experience. This isn’t a bad situation, he needs to play.

Next season, it gets tricky, he’d have to pass through waivers to go to Hamilton, so that won’t happen, he’ll have to remain in Montréal. So unless he takes that big step over the summer, he’ll be the #7 defenceman, playing a few games, sitting out quite a few more, and expected to work hard in practice, as he matures some more. It won’t be the first time this happens, although it’s not ideal. Maybe we bend the rules a bit and send him down to the Bulldogs for a couple of conditioning assignments (which are waiver exempt) to keep him game-ready.

Scotty Bowman told the story of how disappointed he was when Bill Nyrop announced his retirement at a young age. He’d developed as a dependable #4-5 defencemen supporting the Big Three, and playing in front of enforcers like Pierre Bouchard and Gilles Lupien. As Scotty bellyached about losing Mr. Nyrop, I think he said it was Dick Irvin who was nearby and after listening patiently, asked him if having to play Rod Langway was so bad an option, that he’d looked really good when he’d had a chance to play lately. Rod Langway had been the routine healthy scratch, but working with Claude Ruel for the whole season, he’d slowly improved his game, almost imperceptibly, unbeknownst to the head coach, as it were.

So that’s what we can hope for, should be patient for, to let the big kid grow some more, get his game ready next season, and slowly ease him into the lineup. It won’t be ideal, you prefer not to have a spot on your 23-man roster eaten up by a developmental player, but it’s the situation that’s best for us right now.

Jarred Tinordi compared to his 2010 draft classmates.

HockeyInsideOut poster ‘Chris’ made a great point a few months ago about the slow and steady progress of Jarred Tinordi, comparing him to other defencemen drafted in the same cohort. I’d asked him to save a copy and re-post as needed, but here’s my book report on his post.

Only Cam Fowler, picked 12th overall, has played 320 games and has turned into a strong regular defenceman with the Ducks, and a proto-star.

Erik Gudbranson, the 3rd overall pick by the Panthers, has played 220 games, with the benefit of a weak roster and no playoff races to consider. He’s been getting games, but also had his icetime managed to protect him for a couple seasons at least.

Aside from those two, Jarred is comparable to anyone in the first round. Picked 22nd overall, he’s gotten 39 games.

Dylan McIlrath, picked 10th, has three games under his belt. Brandon Gormley at #13 has 20 for the Coyotes. Derek Forbort, #15, has yet to play a game with the Kings. Mark Pysyk, #22, has played 67 for the woeful, out of contention Sabres, but only four this season.

Early in the second, the Hurricanes did well drafting Justin Faulk, who has 234 games under his belt already, but aside from that, everyone else in the second round is in the same ballpark, slowly being eased into rosters, if at all.

So if we look at things in perspective, Jarred isn’t early, but is arriving on time. Next season, he’ll be eligible for waivers, so he’ll need to contribute then or we’ll have to make a decision, but for now there’s no reason to write him off.

We also need to remember that Jarred wasn’t drafted to be a ‘star’, to pick up lots of points, to be on the top pairing. If he did, great, but the reasonable trajectory for him was that he was a project, as all big defencemen tend to be, and that he’d be a defensively-oriented defenceman on the lower pairings who’d bring a lot of toughness and leadership. That assessment isn’t out of whack with how he’s shaping up in Hamilton.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Ducks defenceman François Beauchemin comments on the Sekac for Smith-Pelly trade.

François Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks on L’Antichambre, is asked for his thoughts on Devante Smith-Pelly:
“Very good teammate, everyone got along with him, he has a very good attitude, he was ‘up and down’ this year, going to Norfolk of the AHL, lately had been in the NHL. He’s the kind of guy who can play on all four lines, depending on the situation. He has offensive talent, he played a few games with Getzlaf and Perry and it went well. Like every young player he isn’t consistent, he spent some time on the second, third and fourth lines. He’s able to score goals, play aggressively, deal out hits, and skates well.”

Vincent Damphousse asks him about his greatest quality and his biggest area for improvement:
“When he skates and involves himself physically, as I said he played on the top line, when does that, play physically, skate, shoot, go to the net, he’s a guy at his size, he’s hard to stop. What he needs to work on is his consistency. Young players like him sometimes struggle with their consistency and work ethic, they need a pat on the back and examples to follow, the way to work and be ready for every game. That’s what he needs to work on.”
Denis Gauthier asks what awaits Jiri Sekac with the Ducks:
“I think they’ll try him with Perry and Getzlaf right away, since the start of the year we’ve been searching for a left winger for those two. Almost the whole team has had a shot at that spot and it hasn’t worked out for more than a couple of games, and then a change would be made. A tall LW like him with speed, able to score goals, I think he can complement them well.
Gaston Therrien asks a meandering question about opinions and critiques on social media, and whether the Ducks are a better team with Devante Smith-Pelly (!):
“I think we have other players who can do the same job, so that’s why we could spare him, really we have a lack of speed, we have other players who have large size, play physical like him, what we needed was a leftie with speed to play with Perry and Getzlaf and I think we filled that need today.”

The Devante Smith-Pelly trade, Day 3

Offhand, the Jiri Sekac for Smith-Pelly trade reminds me of the Pierre Turgeon for Shayne Corson trade. In both cases, we gave up a player at a position in which we had a surplus, in order to get another we were short of.

Also in both cases, I was happy to receive the player we got, I always loved Shayne Corson, and have had a man-crush on Devante Smith-Pelly, but man is the cost of acquisition ever high. That smarts.

I really liked Jiri, wanted him to succeed, wasn’t worried about his slump, this was his first season, it’s not like everyone else around him was tearing it up. I figured he’d come around, it’s his first NHL season, he’s 22. I thought he’d be around for a while, he wasn’t going to be Andreas Engqvist.

I chuckled at the few mentions on social media that we ‘should have given them Pateryn and Hudon instead’, as if we set the price, as if the Ducks wouldn’t have had a say in this. As if Marc Bergevin opened the bidding with Max Pacioretty, and Bob Murray talked him down to Jiri Sekac, told him that’d be sufficient.

One point which was made yesterday is that the Ducks GM is Bob Murray, who was actually Marc Bergevin’s first roommate in their playing days. So they go way back, there’s some mutual respect.

They’ve already dealt with each other, scratched each other’s back with the Louis Leblanc trade, and the René Bourque for Bryan Allen deal. I have to think that the trade talks were done quickly, with no B.S., no initial demand of a Corey Perry or Alex Galchenyuk.

And I don’t think this was the climate when Pierre Gauthier was the GM.

All the reports out of Anaheim, from the ‘insiders’, talk about how Jiri was exactly what they were looking for, size with a little more speed and skill at forward, something they need for this playoff run, and that they don’t have in their system, full of Nick Ritchies, thumpers to compete against L.A. Sven Andrighetto, as intriguing a prospect as he is, wouldn’t have fit the bill.

So Jiri would be the guy they were targeting, not Charles Hudon or Christian Thomas.  They wanted to speed up, but not necessarily size down.

The trade confirms what we’ve repeated to ourselves since June, that Jiri Sekac was much in demand. That the Ducks took him in return for a player they drafted high in the second round, who is well-regarded, a player who got some NHL action at 19, says a lot. If someone had floated this rumour two days ago, I would have laughed, and thought the Canadiens would have had to throw in sweeteners, and more than the trusty fifth-rounder.

And I’ll repeat that the Canucks, who have roughly the same profile we do, a smaller skilled team that can skate and which opponents often try to physically dominate or outright goon, and consequently has been trying to add size with the Zack Kassians and the Shawn Matthiases and Bo Horvats, were asking for Devante Smith-Pelly in the Ryan Kesler trade. They were rebuffed, apparently told he was an untouchable.

We got a good one. We got a big young player with skill, something we’ve been whining we needed, except we’d dream of Wayne Simmonds or Brian Bickell, usually.

Alain Chainey, an analyst on TVA Sports and a former scout on the Ducks’ staff who was closely involved in the decision to pick him, is quite clear that Devante Smith-Pelly isn’t just a thumper and a grinder. He says that when he hits someone, you notice it, but he’s much more skilled than a third or fourth-liner. He says they scouted him and loved his goals and his energy, and were unanimous that they’d pick him if he were available in the second round.

They did okay in that draft, they got Cam Fowler at 12th overall, and Emerson Etem at 29th.

He also made the point that Trevor Timmins and his staff scouted the kid heavily in junior, and the Canadiens pro-scouting staff did the same, and they know exactly who they’re getting in this trade, it’s not a shot at the dartboard.

It’s a perfect fit for now, and for the future. A big strong winger who can play in the corners, in front of the net, plays right wing, shoots right. He plugs the hole that we hoped would be addressed in two years with Michael McCarron/Nikita Scherbak. He’s a great puzzle piece. He won’t be a UFA for five years, so he’ll be affordable, we have him for his ‘prime’ years.

We now have, in no particular order, Brendan Gallagher, P.A. Parenteau, Devante Smith-Pelly and Dale Weise on right wing, and that’s really good. All are true-blue RW’s, they shoot right, none is a displaced leftie. It’s not crystal clear who plays first or second or third line, and Dale may seem destined for the fourth, except that the coaches love him and he’s shown this season that he can play on the first line in spurts. That will be healthy competition. Pierre-Alexandre loves playing with David and Max, he’ll have to put up points, put out 100% effort to do so.

The good thing is the right wingers will have to stay on their toes, no one’s role is assured.

So the roster has better fits on the right side, rather than last season with a Thomas Vanek who preferred left wing, except that he also wanted to play on the top line with David and Max, but not so much when the Bruins were angry and mean, and a Daniel Brière who took the money but never relished the RW assignment, instead wanting to play centre.

One caveat I’ll have is that growing up, we were forever searching for ‘un gros ailier gauche’, or ‘un gros joueur de centre’, and would look longingly at the Islanders with Clarke Gillies and John Tonelli and Bob Nystrom. So we’d keep trading for big wingers who had big rep, and would come here and disappoint or flop completely. Perry Turnbull, Lucien DeBlois, Ryan Walter, I’m probably forgetting a couple, we’d find that these big guys weren’t that great, a cure for what ailed us.

Devante Smith-Pelly is a little under the radar in Montréal, but he was one of the precocious kids in the 2010 draft. As a draft/hockeydb nerd, I noticed how he was one of the first ones out of that group to play in the NHL, aside from the guys at the very top. So I paid attention when he played against the Canucks, and he’d give them fits, they’d have no answer for his size and skating, you’d see some very skittish defencemen swiveling their heads and rushing the passes.

Maybe the Ducks lost patience a little, maybe the bloom is off the rose, and they’re looking over his shoulder at the next best thing in their system. Maybe he would have benefited from a Red Wings-style apprenticeship in the minors, rather than the shuttle he was on, back and forth between the AHL and NHL, and high expectations when he was in the Ducks lineup.

So while we’re categorizing him today on HIO as ‘less-skilled’, a grinder and thumper, I don’t think that’s accurate. He was always described as a scoring forward with size, and he’s played Top 6 regularly with the Ducks, played with Ryan Getzlaf.

Maybe he’s taken some time to develop, and lately been in a slump and been relegated to the minors/fourth line/pressbox, but that’s definitely not his ceiling. He can definitely take a few steps forward.

So yeah, Jiri Sekac is a steep price to pay, but we’re not getting the “Travis Moen who doesn’t fight” who was described earlier in this thread, Devante Smith-Pelly is much, much more than that.

I’ll take comfort in what Pierre LeBrun reported yesterday, how another GM told him you don’t get players like Devante Smith-Pelly at their peak. We got him in a trade for a significant piece, but still relatively cheap because the Ducks had a surplus and maybe thought the kid needed a change. Maybe he blossoms with us.

We’ve used Gally with Max and David Desharnais out of necessity, to work the corners and the front of the net, but groused about two small players on the same line, wished Gally was a little bigger. Devo can maybe be that bigger Gally. He does have the hands for it.

And we should all congratulate Marc Bergevin, for his patience and also for his guts, for his perseverance in trying to improve the team. He doesn’t always hit a homerun, but a baffling Christian Thomas for Danny Kristo trade aside, his moves always make sense, they have an internal logic. He sacrificed a leftie to tick off many needs on his list in one swoop, yet didn’t take on an expensive veteran to do so. He didn’t give up the younger better player, he swapped youth for youth.

Without the profusion of smoke signals that would have emanated from Toronto. We learned of this trade once Jiri was in the hotel underground waiting for his cab, not from Louis Jean or Davren Dregnoniser. Berg runs a tight, professional organization, he’s always moving forward, climbing one rung at a time.

Nice work.

Canadiens using hockey numbers again. Finally.

I’ll reiterate: I really like that the Canadiens are now making use of the lower uniform numbers, instead of doggedly handing out sweaters with numbers in the sixties and seventies.

Good on us that Devante Smith-Pelly will wear #21.  Not a great historical fit, I reflexively think ‘Doug Jarvis’, and sure, Guy Carbonneau.  Maybe #17 would have fit a little better, a winger like Murray Wilson makes more sense in my mind.  But 21 is much better than 41 or 91, I’ll take it.

Jarred is #24, Nate is thegreat28, Jacob de la Rose looks awesome in #25.  Love that Gally got #11 after the #73 purgatory, and Chucky sports a very rakish #27, I have visions of Frank Mahovlich.

17 and 26 will be available next season, along with 20 probably.  Greg Pateryn could lay claim to the #6, I don’t think Bryan Allen will be in a position to object.

Step right up, kids, step right up!…

Claim your hockey number now, before they’re gone!