Indigenous. Northern. Independent.


Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens add to Coyotes’ losing streak with 4-2 win – Montreal

On Tuesday night, the Arizona Coyotes entered the game without a win in 13. The Montreal Canadiens entered the contest without a win in five.

Something had to give, and it was the Coyotes.  Their winless run is now 14 after a 4-2 defeat while the Canadiens are thrilled to put that skid behind them.

Wilde Horses

When a season is not about wins anymore, it is about development. In that aspect, there have been uplifting highlights to this losing season. The advancement of Juraj Slafkovsky is the single greatest aspect of this season for the Canadiens. In the secondary category, Jayden Struble’s surprising readiness at the NHL level has been a strong positive as well.

Recently, the club has been able to add the arrival of Joshua Roy to the positive development column. Roy continues to show that he is an NHL player. He might even have the ability to progress into a top-six role.

Story continues below advertisement

Each night, Roy makes many strong plays. In the first period, it was Roy who started the action on the Canadiens goal. Roy had a quick win in the defensive zone, and an outlet pass to Alex Newhook. Newhook then found Joel Armia who scored his 10th goal of the season with a rapid shot to the top corner.

Armia is fourth on the club in goal scoring. For Roy, it was his sixth point in 14 games. That’s a good number for a player just starting his career at almost a half a point-per-game. Roy could be the player who earns the spot on the second line next season with Kirby Dach and Alex Newhook.

With the help of a strong two-way centre like Dach who makes sure a good percentage of hockey is played in the offensive zone, Roy may find that he discovers even more opportunities than the already impressive number that he is finding now.

Another strong development this year is the offensive game of the Canadiens defencemen. Montreal is third in the league in goals from the blue line behind only Colorado and Calgary. Jordan Harris scored an absolute beauty with a ripper of a shot in the second period to add to the total.

Tanner Pearson and an empty-netter for Nick Suzuki rounded out the scoring for the Canadiens.

Wilde Goats 

Juraj Slafkovsky’s game has fallen off a bit in the last four games. It’s not anything concerning, but he is taking many bad penalties, and he isn’t moving his feet with the same intensity as he did when his play was peaking.

Story continues below advertisement

This is the rise and fall of every young player before they find a better level of consistency. This league will punish anyone who finds the season long and allows mental or physical fatigue to set in. If a player thinks a little less effort will get it done, they quickly learn that it will not.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world
sent to your email, as it happens.

The Canadiens actually played a poor game. They were outshot 38-22, and won only because of the excellence of Samuel Montembeault. The fans got a Montembeault bobblehead figurine at the Bell Centre, and the Canadiens’ number one goalie lived up to the occasion.

During the five-game losing skid, the Canadiens’ advanced metrics were quite good, but they didn’t get goaltending. This game, their metrics were horrible, but they won because of goaltending. The game could be called ‘goalie’ instead of hockey, and that would make perfect sense most of the time.

Wilde Cards

Accepting that a rebuild takes five years starts with an understanding of what makes a championship-calibre roster.

The difficult work is acquiring first-class players. The goal in a rebuild is six forwards and four defenders of top-tier talent. Third and fourth liners, and third pair defenders generally fill out easily through free agency, mid-range draft picks, or trades.

It takes time to acquire a full complement of 10 star hockey players. The reason is, historically, top-tier talent is found 70 per cent of the time in the top-10 of the draft. Stars are found in the second half of the first round only 10 per cent of the time.

Story continues below advertisement

A rebuild starts with the first year that a team is horrible, and drafts high to get a top-quality talent. As a result, year one of the Canadiens rebuild was when they were the league’s worst team. They started that rebuild with two top-six talents in Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, and top-four defender Kaiden Guhle already in place.

When they hit the draft floor in Montreal to pick first, they needed seven more to consider the rebuild complete. A miss in the entry draft with a top-10 pick sets the rebuild back an entire season.

Thankfully, it appears first pick Juraj Slafkovsky has top-six talent bringing the number to four overall. Also, at that draft, General Manager Kent Hughes pulled off a little magic trick acquiring a former third pick overall Kirby Dach, bringing the rebuild asset total to five.

The Canadiens also drafted Lane Hutson that year, who has been breaking records at the college level. That would make six players acquired with belief they have top-of-the-roster potential. The organization believes they stole a star at 62 overall in the draft.

Click to play video: 'Call of the Wilde'

Call of the Wilde

The best rebuilds have a steal in the draft in them. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point have made the Lightning rebuild with Victor Hedman and Steve Stamkos one of the best ever. Two steals and two top picks was the foundation for a championship team in Tampa Bay. Amazing drafting expedites the rebuild, and solidifies it.

Story continues below advertisement

At the end of the second poor season, the Canadiens chose right-handed defender David Reinbacher in the draft. They are trusting that this is rebuild piece number seven. If Reinbacher is not successful as a top-four defender, that pick stalls the rebuild a season.

At the end of rebuild season three, the club will draft top-10 again. Montreal is expected to add a forward to the mix as the team is 50 goals short of competitive. The club on lines two through four this season is the worst in the entire NHL, behind even San Jose. More success in Montreal starts with a significantly better second line.

Two more players to go for the Canadiens to complete their top-10.  Alex Newhook, Logan Mailloux, Justin Barron, Joshua Roy, Filip Mesar, or perhaps another top-10 pick for two more seasons may be the contribution. It’s impossible to know who will continue to push his ceiling and who will stall in development.

Five seasons for a rebuild is a long time. The GM expedites the process with clever trades to increase chances that a highly-ranked prospect can be better than he has shown, or accumulating more draft picks leads to better math a star can be found as a steal.

After that, the 10-player foundation has to play two or three seasons to develop their games, and mature into their best selves. If this all seems daunting, it shouldn’t. The Canadiens GM has done an outstanding job so far. There is a lot of potential in tow. However, Kent Hughes has a lot of work to do still.

Story continues below advertisement

Mostly, patience is required to see how all of these young assets develop. The Montreal rebuild is so nascent that we can only say with certainty that four forwards are top-six. All four defencemen in the rebuild mix have yet to even prove their top-of-the-roster worth.

It will be a fascinating time to be a Canadiens fan watching to see who can expand his ceiling, and who can not.

As a fan, bottom line, give it five years to count to 10.

Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on after each Canadiens game.

Source link