There was no good reason for the Montreal Canadiens to select defenseman Logan Mailloux with the 31st overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Of course, there’s how the Canadiens were able to select an arguable first-round talent heading into Round 2. However, in terms of legitimate reasons, that’s not nearly good enough, especially when the reason every other team that passed on Mailloux before the Canadiens had was so much better… and more justifiable to put it frankly.
Consequences of Mailloux’s Actions
Mailloux had been convicted of sharing a photo taken during a consensual sexual encounter without the other party’s permission while playing in Sweden this past season. The consequences of his decision were myriad in number. He was fined for both offensive photography and defamation. Multiple teams placed Mailloux on their “Do Not Draft” lists. Mailloux himself asked teams not to draft him as he “reassessed his character” in preparation for the 2022 NHL Draft instead. However, he was still available to be picked.
“The player cannot remove yourself from the Draft,” said Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin talking to the media after the first round. “Even if you say so, you are eligible to be drafted. That was clear with the league.”
That brings us to arguably the most shocking consequence of all: that the Canadiens drafted him, in spite of everything, which is, in effect, no consequence at all, unless you count the scrutiny Mailloux will receive and already has in one of the NHL’s most punishing markets to players… a fact that makes this selection even more questionable on the part of the Canadiens.
In addition to the fines Mailloux paid, the one year of reflection between drafts was to be part of his penance for his actions. The message the Canadiens are sending with the pick is that as long as the talent is there all sins can be forgiven. In spite of what Bergevin said in a prepared statement ahead of his media-availability session, there are few other ways to look at this other than the Habs minimizing the severity of his actions.
“His recent public statement is a genuine acknowledgement of his poor behaviour and the first step on his personal journey,” Bergevin read further. “We are making a commitment to accompany Logan on his journey by providing him with the tools to mature and the necessary support to guide him in his development.”
Canadiens Pick Mailloux Against His Wishes
While the support the Canadiens are committing to Mailloux is critical, the necessary support of the victim is to such a greater degree. The Canadiens’ decision effectively flies in the face of her ability to move on from the incident, whether or not she’s capable of so doing in spite of it.
The fact that Bergevin had a prepared statement to read prior to answering questions from the media speaks to the gravity of the situation. It also gives an indication that the Canadiens understood their decision would be severely criticized, but there is still a tone-deafness here that cannot be denied.
They effectively made a mockery of the pre-draft interview process. Mailloux’s behaviour is by most accounts one of the most egregious, disqualifying factors that can possibly come up in such a situation. However remorseful or not he is, what else can a hopeful do in the lead-up to a draft to prevent teams from selecting him?
Granted, there’s probably always something worse, but also taking into account how Mailloux asked teams not to draft him? If ever a candidate asks not to be hired in an actual job interview, rest assured: That person’s not getting hired. Furthermore, they’re likely getting admonished for wasting that company’s time in the process. Of course, they’re probably not getting hired anyway for having been convicted of anything either, let alone offensive photography.
Bergevin Hypocritically Wastes Stanley Cup Final Goodwill
It’s hard to call this a waste of a first-round pick at this stage on the part of the Canadiens, because a lot can happen in the future. However, for Bergevin, it does waste a lot if not all of the goodwill he’s built up over the last little while, after successfully building a Stanley Cup finalist.
Remember, Bergevin has long espoused the need for character in the locker room, including with regard to Zack Kassian back in 2015, when the forward was involved in a car accident. Kassian was subsequently placed in the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Upon being reinstated, Kassian never so much as played a game for the Habs though. Bergevin shipped him off to the Edmonton Oilers for goalie Ben Scrivens, arguably trading him for 50 cents on the dollar.
Kassian is proof players can make good on second chances and that people deserve them. He turned his career around, earning a semblance of stability as a member of the Oilers since the trade, even signing a four-year, $12.8 million deal last season. Maybe the Mailloux selection is a sign Bergevin has learned his lesson, to give players more of a second chance. However, this following season in which Mailloux was to work on himself was to be his. The Canadiens effectively bypassed all of that to pick a talented player in the here and now.
Ultimately, the Canadiens made a conscious decision to draft a deeply flawed player. In a draft such as the 2021 edition, which arguably became a crapshoot after the first few selections due to the pandemic and in which there wasn’t a clear-cut player to be taken at No. 3 (or 31), the Canadiens indisputably could have taken someone, anyone else but Mailloux with their first-round pick.
With 11 total picks in the draft, even if Mailoux doesn’t pan out, there’s a good chance the Canadiens recoup the losses on their gamble with someone else. However, why make a specific first-round selection when that same selection would open yourself up to such severe scrutiny even if it were to be made in Round 7 instead? There is no legitimate answer, good or otherwise, there either.