Canadiens Can Address Drafting Woes by Replacing Timmins

The Montreal Canadiens are off to the worst start in franchise history, having lost 13 of their first 17 games for the first time in their 112 seasons. With their general manager (GM) Marc Bergevin in his final year and possibly not returning, the Habs need to also look at other long-time employees who maybe have stayed a bit too long. Trevor Timmins has been with the Canadiens organization for 17 seasons and worked as a scout as well as assistant GM (AGM). He is directly involved in advising them who to draft, and his results have been average at best. Whether Bergevin walks or not, maybe it’s time the Canadiens had some new vision when it comes to drafting.

Canadiens’ Timmins Helped Draft Some of Habs Best Players

Like all of the Canadiens coaching staff and management, Timmins is feeling the heat from the fans and media. Timmins has had all eyes on him since the Habs drafted beleaguered junior player Logan Mailloux. However, many people forget in his earlier days as a scout and head of scouting, Timmins helped the Canadiens recruit some of the best players the Habs had over the past decade. He is responsible for assisting the Canadiens in drafting Carey Price (2005), Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban (2007) and Brendan Gallagher (2010). Ryan McDonagh (2007) and Mikhail Sergechev (2016) were also drafted by Timmins but never had a career with the Canadiens.

Trevor Timmins Montreal Canadiens
Trevor Timmins, Assistant General Manager, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Timmins, of course, had this success over ten seasons ago; in the past five seasons, he seems to have drafted well, but only time will tell with some players. Cole Caufield looks like a sure-fire pick, but he more fell in Timmins lap rather than being selected by him. Mattias Norlinder and Alexander Romanov should become good picks for the Canadiens, but not game-changers. Timmins did help draft some of the Canadiens’ top players in the past 15 seasons, but that doesn’t mean he is a genius or great at drafting. Price, Pacioretty, and Sergechev were no-brainers.

Canadiens’ Timmins Has More Misses Than Hits

Timmins did help draft some of the better players in the last decade for the Canadiens, but he also missed on quite a few drafts. It’s easy to look back at any year and say they should have drafted this guy or that one, but in Timmins’s defense, he didn’t reach too far to draft a player. The Canadiens also didn’t draft very high in those 17 years, with the average position being 19th with only three top-five picks. An argument could be made that the picks weren’t bad, but the development was, or the Canadiens were just unlucky. Development is a part of the issue, but so is luck for most of the Canadiens’ last 17 drafts.

Related: Canadiens Need to Clean House From the Top Down

From 2008 until 2015, a total of seven seasons, the Canadiens’ first-round picks barely amounted to anything. Alex Galcheynuk is the most successful first-rounder in the group with 335 points in 587 games, while three of the picks never played more than 50 games in the NHL — Louis Leblanc, Noah Juulsen, Nikita Scherbak. The last three picks are playing in the NHL but as bottom-line players: Michael McCarron – Nashville Predators, Jarred Tinordi – New York Rangers, and Nathan Beaulieu – Winnipeg Jets. These three have played 589 games and have amassed a total of 15 goals and 111 points — 91 of these points are from Beaulieu. When drafting first-rounders, you would expect more production than this. Timmins and company missed out on some excellent players during this time, like Chris Kreider, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Morgan Rielly, Shea Theodore, and Sebastian Aho, to name a few players drafted shortly after the Canadiens picked.

Canadiens’ Late Round Drafting Average at Best

It’s safe to say that Timmins is average at drafting first-round players, but his late-round drafting has been pretty good, depending on how you look at it. He drafted Subban (2007) in the second round and Gallagher (2010) in the fifth round. He also drafted Arturri Lehkonen and Jacob De La Rose (2013), Jake Evans (2014), Victor Mete (2016) all in the second round or later. He recently drafted Alexander Romanov in 2018 in the second round as well. Timmins has picked some excellent players for NHL talent in the later rounds.

Alexander Romanov Montreal Canadiens
Alexander Romanov, Montreal Canadiens, 2018 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In 17 seasons, Timmins only drafted two players in the second round or later that became somewhat of a star in the NHL. Subban won a Norris Trophy as top defencemen in 2013, and Gallagher is a multi-season 30 goal scorer. The rest of the picks are bottom six or bottom pairing players that are a dime a dozen in the NHL. He has drafted quality serviceable players, but none will turn the game’s tide or be a difference-maker. Romanov could end up being the best player picked after the first round since Gallagher — in other words, they have yet to find a diamond in the rough.

Canadiens Recent Drafting Has Been Better

Since the reset of 2018, the Canadiens have drafted better first-round picks like Caufield and Kaiden Ghule, who will be a massive benefit to the Canadiens’ future. If you take away all the outside noise regarding Mailloux, he could also grow into a solid two-way defenseman. The Habs’ most significant issue in past drafts was picking for need instead of best player available (BPA): Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a product of drafting for need, and once again, it didn’t work out for the team. He never grew into the player they thought he would be and is now with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Montreal Canadians Cole Caufield NHL draft
Montreal Canadians select Cole Caufield during the first-round NHL draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, June 21, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Drafting in the later rounds also improved in recent years. Since 2017, the Canadiens have drafted Cayden Primeau (2017), Jesse Ylonen, Romanov, Jordan Harris (2018), Jayden Struble, Mattias Norlinder (2019), Jan Mysak, Sean Farrell (2020), Riley Kidney, Joshua Roy, and Joe Vrbetic (2021), who are all dominating their respective minor leagues — Primeau, Ylonen and Romanov are in AHL/NHL. The Canadiens might have turned a corner when it comes to drafting, or perhaps they just stopped drafting for need and went with BPA. This is not to say all these prospects will become NHL stars, but they are playing very well in their respective minor leagues and have a chance of becoming at least regular NHL players.

Canadiens Need a New Vision

Timmins has been in charge of the Canadiens drafting or at least involved in the process for 17 drafts, and they were only able to draft one superstar player in Price. Of their three top-five picks, Price is the only one that became a star. One could argue that Sergechev is a star, but he is just a top-four defenceman on a very stacked Tampa Bay Lighting team; even if you count Sergechev, that’s still only two players in 17 seasons who became top NHL players. Including recent drafts, only Caufield projects to be a top NHL player, which still isn’t a good enough record to keep the same guy in charge.

It’s hard to determine how the picks in the last five years will work out. Primeau looks like he can be an NHL starter, Ryan Poehling is starting to show signs he’s ready for the NHL, and the Canadiens have a lot of hopefuls still playing in the minors. However, the fact remains that Timmins just has not done the job. He hasn’t gotten the star player the team needs through the draft. Bergevin keeps saying you build through the current, and the Canadiens maintain drafting subpar first-round players. If this trend keeps up, the Canadiens will spend another 20 seasons being mediocre with no star power to help them move forward.

Timmins isn’t the only one to blame here. The Canadiens are way behind when it comes to developing players. They either rush them to the NHL or put prospects in positions they are not ready for, causing them to fail. Drafting is also a double-edged sword. To get the good players, you must draft high; to draft high, you must finish lower in the standings. At this point, the Canadiens need to replace Timmins and look at the way they draft through different eyes and points of view because, with only one true star after 17 seasons, something doesn’t add up.

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