Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A philosophical change?

It's hard to know for sure, but with the last two Canadiens first round draft picks foregoing the colege route in favour of junior hockey over the past couple of weeks, one has to wonder whether or not Pierre Gauthier and the organization as a whole has decided to push its prospects in this direction.

We'll never know to what extent Gauthier pressured Louis Leblanc to leave Harvard for the Montreal Juniors or Jarred Tinordi to do the same to Notre-Dame in favour of the London Knights, but I would find it difficult to believe the Canadiens did not at least slightly nudge the two of them towards junior hockey.

That would be a pretty major philosophical shift, one that may have began when Max Pacioretty left the University of Michigan after his freshman year to sign with the Habs. Ironically enough, that's a case where leaving the player in school may have ultimately been the right call.

From an organizational viewpoint, the collegiate option looks like it has the best of both worlds. You have four years to evaluate a player before signing him to a professional contract, thereby slowing the free agency clock, but also delaying that player's arrival in Montreal. The case of David Fischer shows how a team can sometimes benefit from this, because the Canadiens didn't have to pay a dime to determine he is not NHL material (though he still may make it with another team).

Since the 2007 draft, or the year after Trevor Timmins went completely off the board to nab Fischer with the 20th overall pick, the Canadiens have used 13 of their 27 draft picks on players who were either in or heading to college. Of those, eight were selected in the third round or later. Of the remaining five who were selected in the top two rounds, Ryan McDonagh (12th overall, 2007) was traded and just signed his first pro contract with the Rangers, Pacioretty (22nd overall, 2007) is entering his third year in the pros, Danny Kristo (56th overall, 2008) is playing his second and possibly final season at North Dakota, Leblanc (18th overall, 2009) is playing with the Juniors and Tinordi (22nd overall, 2010) is heading to London.

So basically, three of the four first round picks since 2007 played two seasons of college hockey combined, and the other was traded.

Previously, both Mike Komisarek and Christopher Higgins played two years apiece in college before making the jump, while Ryan O'Byrne played three years at Cornell.

Again, I can't say for sure whether or not this is true, but it appears to me the Canadiens no longer want their top end prospects learning the game at the collegiate level. Which begs the question, why do they keep using their best picks on players they know are planning on attending college?

8 comments:

Kamal Panesar said...

"Which begs the question, why do they keep using their best picks on players they know are planning on attending college?"

Sigh...

I still believe that this organization is in transition mode, from a process that Gainey started last summer.

While they seem to have mostly purged the dressing room of floaters and cliques, they now seem to have the same problem at the administrative level.

Many aspect of the administration—drafting included—seem like moving targets and the philosophy of this team seems to be in transition as a result.

Part of that is new GM Gauthier, but part of it is also Molson pushing Boivin out as President.

I think that the philosophical changes will continue until Molson has his new regime in place—which I do not believe consists of Gauthier et al.

K

B B said...

The only concern I have regarding Leblanc's move is the quality of the QMJHL. Play is below the levels of the OHL and WHL. Tinordi will gain more from his junior experience.

Sliver24 said...

The Habs might be on to something. It seems to me that, among NHL insiders, being in the NCAA is considered a knock against a player.

Theo Fleury, for example, said in his book that if he were building an NHL team he'd only take players from junior because, in his estimation, they 'get it.'

If the Habs can draft players out of college at a lower pick than they would otherwise be evaluated at, and then get them to continue their development in the CHL, they may have found a bit of an edge on their competition.

Then again, based on most stories I've read, I may be giving them a little too much credit...

pfhabs said...

@Kamal:

-one can only hope, although it's methodical, that the 'sweep' will continue and that Gauthier, Martin & Pearn will soon be but footnotes in the history of the CH.

-cannot imagine how Gauthier explained to Molson- a self-admitted fan- who watched the glory years of the 70s how one chooses Pearn over Robinson to be the D coach

Kamal Panesar said...

@pfhabs well said. There is a litany of head scratchers by this administration including letting Boucher go, and thumbing their nose at Yzerman.

You can tell how much Yzerman wanted to be in MTL by the fact that he is hiring a lot of the MTL assests out from under them: Boucher, Brisebois, Moore, and he tried for Pascal Vincent too.

I think that things will continue to be up and down until—IF it even happens—Molson decides to clean house.

Fingers crossed!

Milos Coko said...

It all comes down to work ethic. Anyone that's ever felt the blunt anger of a junior coach will tell you about the type of motivation you're gonna have in practice the next day. Licking your wounds over dinner while counting the days til you get to leave the crummy town you're living in is slightly different than the college experience.
Take a look at the most successful players to come out of the NCAA - they tend to be guys that have always been reknowned for their work ethic. NCAA tries to teach it, while Juniors expects it.

Hobie Hansen said...

Playing in the OHL is exactly what Mark Tinordi needs. The league is rough and tough and can often turn into a circus like atmosphere with great goals, huge hits and lots of tussles. If I’m not mistaken, the NCAA doesn’t allow fighting and all players are required to wear a full shield?
I’m confident that Tinordi will be a huge and aggressive defenseman in the OHL and he will get plenty of time to develop into the big and nasty player Montreal wants him to be. That wouldn’t come to fruition as easily in the NCAA where there’s much less violence.
If you’re looking for offensive production than the NCAA is comparable to the OHL but the NCAA doesn’t match up in terms of hitting and hardnosed play.

Myron Selby said...

Kamal - usually your comments are insightful and based somewhat in reality, but I really wonder where you get the idea that Yzerman had any interest in working for the Habs. The fact that he hired Guy Boucher and the rest of the Hamilton staff indicates that he knows talent when he sees it. It doesn't show in any way that he wanted to work for Montreal.
Unless you're privy to information beyond what you're sharing this just doesn't add up.

Milos - if you really believe that coaches ranting at players teach them a work ethic then you must be pushing hard for the Habs to hire Mike Keenan. I don't think any player at any level was ever inspired by a coach shrieking at them. All that happens is that the players stop listening after a little while.