THW Montreal Canadiens Fan Mailbag

The Montreal Canadiens have given fans a magical run to the Stanley Cup Final that they can be proud of. With the beginning of the shortest offseason the Canadiens have had in 28 years just days away, I decided to open up the inbox to answer questions in my first mailbag.

Before we get to some great questions, the Canadiens have built an identity this season. Looking ahead, fans are wondering what is to come from this scrappy group next season. Over the last few seasons, it has almost become a running joke amongst Canadiens fans about character and attitude. 

Yet, those characteristics helped the Habs during this playoff run. Head coach Dominique Ducharme addressed this in his press conference after Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final: 

“We faced a lot of adversity and I said we have a great group. That group has grown stronger together…. They’re going to put it on the ice tomorrow.”

Dominique Ducharme

Offseason Moves?

Now the focus on the team’s future is the focus of the fans. Amanda Jeanson asks:

Hi Amanda, thank you for this question.

This isn’t an easy one to answer as there are several holes to fill, especially after the expansion draft takes another player from the roster. Obviously, if they lose Jake Allen, a focus on replacing him to provide Carey Price a quality backup will be the top priority yet again this offseason. Otherwise, a focus on improving the blue line should be the focal point. While I agree that the top four for the Canadiens has been very solid, they lack enough puck-moving ability to take advantage of the team’s forward group’s strongest asset, transitional play. If general manager Marc Bergevin can find himself a top-four, puck-moving defenceman that fits in the team’s salary cap structure, he must pull the trigger on that move, either via trade or free agency.

Team Identity

Hi Kevin, that’s a tough question.

These Canadiens are a team on the rise. The struggle to make the playoffs this season had a lot to do with two issues, the string of long-term injuries to players like Price and Brendan Gallagher, among several others, that put a strain on the team’s depth. Also, the Covid-19 pause caused the team’s entire season to be compressed to play 25 games in 42 days. Six weeks of four or five games per week far exceeds any schedule an NHL team has ever faced. 

Brendan Gallagher Montreal Canadiens
Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While backing into the playoffs seemed like a poor way to make it, they made it, and the adversity they faced helped them in the long term. But so did the week off prior to the start of the playoffs. Having a team built to withstand a playoff run was also helpful, especially once the playoffs began and the officiating changed to playoff style.

As for Ducharme, it is very likely the interim tag will be removed, and we will see exactly what system he will put into place. With no time to make wholesale changes or build his own system, it goes without saying that he will rely heavily on his veterans as Claude Julien did. However, we did see increases in time on ice and larger roles for young players in the regular season and playoffs.

Draft Targets

Great question. 

The Canadiens’ prospect pool is full of solid prospects across all positions, but one area of need is gritty scoring forwards. Last season they added Luke Tuch. In this draft, they may look to someone like Tyler Boucher or Red Savage, the son of former Canadiens forward Brian Savage. Look to players that have NCAA commitments, which allow the Habs four years to sign a prospect, giving them flexibility and time in committing to some of the other 29 prospects they selected in the three previous drafts.

Will Jordan Harris sign?

Hello Caroline, good question.

Firstly, I am not concerned Jordan Harris will pass on the Habs. He sees the team’s need for a solid, puck-moving defenseman and likely sees a path to winning a roster spot even though the blue line seems crowded at the moment. As to your question on his value, he’s debatably their most talented unsigned prospect defenceman. However, for an immediate infusion of talent, Mattias Norlinder is closer to the NHL; he is signed to a contract and has professional experience. With that said, I don’t expect either to be on the Habs’ roster this coming season, and possibly even the next. 

Jordan Harris, Northeastern University
Jordan Harris, Northeastern University (Jim Pierce of Northeastern Athletics)

But if you have watched the Laval Rocket this past season, you will have seen defensemen like Cale Fleury, Josh Brook and Kaiden Guhle show flashes of NHL-level abilities. The Canadiens have no shortage of young players coming up, and now the focus will need to be on development. That means that the Habs will need to find a way to retain a coach like Joel Bouchard, who has shown himself capable of getting the best from the Habs’ young talent. This will be especially important as the salary cap remains flat, leaving players on affordable entry-level contracts or affordable bridge deals as key depth for the Canadiens to progress into a Stanley Cup contending franchise.

Sign up for our regular 'Habs Newsletter' for all the latest.