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Habs' Centers: Short, Medium, And Long-term.


DA_Champion

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I noticed this has been a discussion in other hot stove threads, in the koivu thread and in the plekanec thread, and so I thought this would merit its own topic. I also made one for defensemen a few months back which generated some interest but that one has disappeared somehow.

Habs centers, status and last year of contract

Habs centers:

Saku Koivu, UFA 2008-09

Robert Lang, UFA 2008-09

Thomas Plekanec, RFA 2008-09

Maxime Lapierre, RFA 2009-2010 (cap hit: 0.688)

Glen Metropolit, UFA, 2009-10 (cap hit: 1.0)

Bulldogs centers:

Kyle Chipchura, RFA 2008-09(cap hit 0.943), 29 points in 39 games, 4th year

Ben Maxwell, RFA 2011-12 (cap hit 0.850), 46 points in 60 games, 1st season

Brock Trotter, 37 points in 64 games, played 20 games before this season

Ryan Russel, 32 points in 66 games, played 25 games last year

Ryan White, 26 points in 67 games

David Desharnais, 45 points in 65 games

Mathieu Aubin, 10 points in 19 games

Olivier Latendresse, 13 points in 20 games, 3rd partial season

Yannick Lehoux, 53 points in 67 games, AHL veteran

Other centers:

Olivier Fortier, LJMQH, drafted 65th in 2007, age 19, 34 points in 28 games this year

Patrick Johnson, NCAA, drafted 206th in 2008, age 19, 7 points in 33 games this year.

My comments

4th line center:

For 4th line centers we are safe for the next 4 or 5 years. Metropolit, Lapierre, Chipchura in the short term, Ryan White (6'0") in the medium term; Russel and Johnson are also medium to long-term candidates.

3rd line center

What I'd expect here is a competent two-way center who can step in for 5-10 games if a top 2 center gets injured. Right now we have nobody. Lapierre has a decent chance of achieving that status though right now he is not performing well on the higher-demand 3rd line. Chipchura could as well but he'll need a full year of NHL experience. If we get more offensive centers later on Thomas Plekanec will fulfill this role quite well.

When Robert Lang went down this year (I don't think three offensive centers is a viable long-term strategy) we simply went without three offensive lines, and eventually had to send Sergei Kostitsyn to Hamilton, and soon possibly Max Pacioretty.

I'll note Saku Koivu could fulfill this role quite well in 3 or 4 years.

Offensive centers

Right now it's Koivu and Plekanec. I don't see Lang coming back. I'd resign Koivu as I think we can get another 2-4 years of 60+ point production from him. If we can get Plekanec signed for 2 or 3 years this summer (his last contract before UFA), that will be good.

Maxwell is showing great promise. He is 6th in points among AHL rookies

http://stats.theahl.com/stats/statdisplay....n=&confId=0

and was higher before a recent slump. He's missed most of the previous 2 years (ages 18 and 19) of development due to fluke injuries. I wonder how many players on that list will have great NHL careers, loading the list from previous seasons (can do from the page) reveals it's not bad. Desharnais is a dark horse to become an elite offensive center in the NHL. Fortier might surprise.

I think the optimal strategy right now would be to keep going with Koivu and Pleks, and start grooming Maxwell with spot duty next year (brief callups) and a heavier role the year after that, perhaps having Maxwell as 2nd line center and Pleks as the 3rd line center (but 1st pp unit).

The big holes, I think, are on the 3rd line on the short-term, and on the 1st and 3rd line in the short and medium term.

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I don't care if the cap is going down,it will go back up.Get Lecavalier here and build from there.When the cap goes back up in 5 years or so he will still be an elite player.

Canadiens fans want reward then a risk is needed.Bottom line.No more of this being to conservative with a team that won't win a cup.

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I don't care if the cap is going down,it will go back up.Get Lecavalier here and build from there.When the cap goes back up in 5 years or so he will still be an elite player.

Canadiens fans want reward then a risk is needed.Bottom line.No more of this being to conservative with a team that won't win a cup.

You can't assume the cap will go up like that. Also, what is this love affair with Vinney? I hate to be a 'what have you done for me lately' type of guy, but.....well, when he's not surreounded by top end talents, he's not exactly worth his salary ( though, I'm assuming his contract is between 8 and 9 M, if I'm wrong, and its between 6 or 7, then I'm thinking differently). What about Camalliri (sp)? wasn't he a center at one time? Or try for one of Phillys big three ( not Briere please, he's over-priced and under-sized). Maybe looka t teams that need defensive youth, and trade that way, as we have a tonne of solid prospects on the Blue line.

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I don't care if the cap is going down,it will go back up.Get Lecavalier here and build from there.When the cap goes back up in 5 years or so he will still be an elite player.

Canadiens fans want reward then a risk is needed.Bottom line.No more of this being to conservative with a team that won't win a cup.

Are you an economist? lol We're most likely heading into something just as worse if not worse than the Great Depression, caps not going up anytime soon.

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You can't assume the cap will go up like that. Also, what is this love affair with Vinney? I hate to be a 'what have you done for me lately' type of guy, but.....well, when he's not surreounded by top end talents, he's not exactly worth his salary ( though, I'm assuming his contract is between 8 and 9 M, if I'm wrong, and its between 6 or 7, then I'm thinking differently). What about Camalliri (sp)? wasn't he a center at one time? Or try for one of Phillys big three ( not Briere please, he's over-priced and under-sized). Maybe looka t teams that need defensive youth, and trade that way, as we have a tonne of solid prospects on the Blue line.

I would take a risk on Vinny,and if Gainey or whoever is here does that when this season is finished and it fails I will respect that for once they tried.Plus it is possible to retain Tanguay and Kovalev after that trade then at least we have a real first line.

Are you an economist? lol We're most likely heading into something just as worse if not worse than the Great Depression, caps not going up anytime soon.

I don't know why people are afraid of something that will actually help this team win?They won't win with a bunch of 3rd liners.

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How does having a guy who takes up 1/7th of your cap helping you win?
Ask other teams Freak...

IMO this season is the end of the road with Saku... if he's thinking Lord Stanley, he will have to try elsewhere and he knows it.

Pleks is a Left-winger (where he should be playing) converted to center...

Higgins is a center converted to left-wing... Habs never believed in him at the center position

Lapierre is a start... could be a defensive center 3rd or 4th line

The Habs had no patience with Chips... will that change?

Lang, near the end of his career, was the best BG could do (not good enough)... but it looks as though it may be over in any case.

Metropolit is a waste of 1 million bucks and just filler... has to be better out there somewhere.

There is nothing of true "Star" quality on the farm that is forthcoming in terms of NHL caliber centermen... barring a miracle

We are in dire straits when it comes to the center position IMO. Trades and/or UFA's are the only way to go it would seem... and we all know how good the Habs have been at that the last five years.

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I would love to see Jeff Carter but doubt that would ever happen. In my mind we have career AHLers, Lapierre - 4th line, Metro - depth, Plekanec - 2nd line at best. Where is the impact line one centre and where is that checking line centre that goes out for every important draw (because he is a high 50% face-off guy). We are in big trouble at centre. The wing position, IMHO, is fine just the way it is. Defence has a lot of number 6 an 7 defencemen.

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How does having a guy who takes up 1/7th of your cap helping you win?

Well to be honest with you there are no guarantees.The way I see this team is there is a lot of depth of potential 2nd and 3rd line players.The one who are due for the big raises like Higgins,Plekanec just for an example and maybe Komisarek.Higgins can be replaced by either Dagostini or Pacioretty easily.1 of those 2 will do his job at a cheaper cost.Plekanec,well I don't like to lose him but for Lecavalier you do it for sure.Then Komisarek is the hardest of the 3 to replace but is a bit over-rated IMO so I would take the chance that one of the many defense prospects will replace him or make a trade the Islanders can't refuse for Brandon Witt.Same type of Defenseman and a bit tougher.So then you look at getting rid of maybe 1 more big contract of someone underacheiving and you have basically the same team plus Lecavalier under the cap.

there are way to many depth players on this team that can easily be replaced by cheaper versions of pretty much the same player.

I ask you this.How is the current team going to win?It's a serious question.I have been watching them stuck in mediocrity for years and am curious to how they can possibly suddenly turn it around and win the cup?

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Are you an economist? lol We're most likely heading into something just as worse if not worse than the Great Depression, caps not going up anytime soon.

You know, given the situation the NHL could be forced into, I somehow foresee them attempting to force a league wide balance for lack of a better term. This would result in those high end contracts being reduced to match the cap, increasing situationally based upon the cap in the following years. Do not hold me to this as I am merely fishing however it is a possibility because if not numerous players will be without a job.

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I would love to see Jeff Carter but doubt that would ever happen. In my mind we have career AHLers, Lapierre - 4th line, Metro - depth, Plekanec - 2nd line at best. Where is the impact line one centre and where is that checking line centre that goes out for every important draw (because he is a high 50% face-off guy). We are in big trouble at centre. The wing position, IMHO, is fine just the way it is. Defence has a lot of number 6 an 7 defencemen.

imho our future #1 center is not in our system yet. i could see bob make a prospects for prospects deal, giving up some of our defensive prospects to get that center we lack given the opportunity.

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You know, given the situation the NHL could be forced into, I somehow foresee them attempting to force a league wide balance for lack of a better term. This would result in those high end contracts being reduced to match the cap, increasing situationally based upon the cap in the following years. Do not hold me to this as I am merely fishing however it is a possibility because if not numerous players will be without a job.

You mean like a bailout?

:lol:

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You know, given the situation the NHL could be forced into, I somehow foresee them attempting to force a league wide balance for lack of a better term. This would result in those high end contracts being reduced to match the cap, increasing situationally based upon the cap in the following years. Do not hold me to this as I am merely fishing however it is a possibility because if not numerous players will be without a job.

I have thought of that, but if they do it that year, they have to do it every year. Because otherwise whenever the cap goes back up the players will complain that their salaries got scaled back but not scaled up.

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I do not want Saku Signed! I think that we have given him enough of a chance to win here in MTL....sorry Koivu, I love you but it's time to go!

I am tired of small centers that have no real authority in the faceoff circle!

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Great idea for a thread. ;) I, too, have noticed how this conversation has come up in about a billion other board threads ranging from, "Lecavlier needs to be our #1 center," to, "Koivu won't be back nex year," to, "Plekanec isn't a top-line calibre center." I think a thread where we can talk about our needs at center, and what we currently have, is an excellent idea. And like some members have mentioned, we are really thin down the middle on a top-6 capacity.

Whether or not Saku comes back next season would have a huge impact on this team. I simply cannot see Plekanec being able to take the reigns as a #1 guy. He's too small, too inconsistent in his physical play... Plekanec would one (if not THE) of the best 3rd line centers in the league. As it stands now he is simply an average 2nd line center. He excels in a defensive role, but his fore-checking and offensive zone decisions have been subject this season and in last year's play-offs. Where does he go from here? Who knows? I know we need Pkekanec back next year, but for how much, I am not sure... If Koivu goes, he's going to be forced into a #1 role. Which, in my opinion, would be horrible. We would probably resemble a team rebuilding, looking for a good draft choice, rather than a team looking to make the play-offs.

I feel entirely comfortable at the 3rd/4th line position. We actually have depth there. Lapierre will probably maintain his spot on the 3rd line position for a few years. He's cheap, and plays a sound game, chipping in offense every now and then. Our 4th line could be any number of players for years to come... Chipchura, White, Maxwell, etc. etc. etc. Hopefully Maxwell eventually realizes his potential as a top-6 forward, too. :)

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I don't care if the cap is going down,it will go back up.Get Lecavalier here and build from there.When the cap goes back up in 5 years or so he will still be an elite player.

Canadiens fans want reward then a risk is needed.Bottom line.No more of this being to conservative with a team that won't win a cup.

I agree with bring Vinny in...we need him desperately, and would be the future captain after koivu is gone. We would finally have that superstar, big center we are looking for.

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You mean like a bailout?

:lol:

Pretty much :P

I have thought of that, but if they do it that year, they have to do it every year. Because otherwise whenever the cap goes back up the players will complain that their salaries got scaled back but not scaled up.

I imagine they would do precisely that for that very reason. It would be something of a gamble on the NHL's part considering if the cap recovered more rapidly than they have predicted, player's salaries would increase with it. I suppose they could keep it to a yearly renewal to avoid that. It is quite a difficult situation that is for certain. I just cannot imagine the league leaving high profile teams like Detroit, New York, San Jose and so forth to drop out.

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I imagine they would do precisely that for that very reason. It would be something of a gamble on the NHL's part considering if the cap recovered more rapidly than they have predicted, player's salaries would increase with it. I suppose they could keep it to a yearly renewal to avoid that. It is quite a difficult situation that is for certain. I just cannot imagine the league leaving high profile teams like Detroit, New York, San Jose and so forth to drop out.

They won't drop out, their teams will just get worse. Theres no way that 90% of the players all take pay cuts so the 10% or whatever that are UFA's can get nice contracts. It will be like it is in MLB, a free-for-all and whoever can find the team with cap space first wins.

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Unless we draft a top-end center, there doesn't seem to be a viable solution to our woes down the middle. Maxwell has potential but is still years away from being a go-to scoring center on an NHL team. Plekanec is a good 1B scoring center, nothing more. Lapierre is a checker. Saku, God love him, is unfortunately on the downside of his career. Lang was a second-line center at best and now his career may be over. And there are really no top-line centers available on the open market.

Unless we want to trade away the farm for a center, which is not advisable at this point in time IMO, I don't think we have much choice but to re-sign Saku and Pleks and try to develop Maxwell. One semi-solution is to increase the size and skill of the wingers flanking our scoring centers so that the centers have more room to maneuver. Kind of like Naslund-Morrison-Bertuzzi at their peak. Nobody laid a finger on Naslund for fear of getting pummeled by Bertuzzi. This is why I'm kind of gung-ho on getting Lats and Pacioretty developed to the point where they can be effective and consistent top-six contributors. If we had bigger, more rugged centers, we could afford to use smaller wingers, but right now, we get pushed around down low.

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Trade for Marleau (sp?). NTC be darned, he's a home town kid and MAY want to play for the Canadiens. I say go after him. Especially is SJ takes it all this year.

Marleau isn't a home town kid. He's a western-born kid who doesn't utter a word of french. Don't base your love of a player on his mere name 'cause it ain't doing it.

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Trade for Marleau (sp?). NTC be darned, he's a home town kid and MAY want to play for the Canadiens. I say go after him. Especially is SJ takes it all this year.

He is from western Canada as you probably know by now and last season was the time to trade for him when he was underacheiving at about the mid point of the season.

I wanted the Canadiens to get him when he was struggling last year,he wouldn't have cost as much.

I would make a serious pitch for Lecavalier by or on draft day.The draft is in Montreal this year imagine that trade announced there.

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Ben Maxwell is having a very strong season in Hamilton. He just had a hat trick. He is 2nd in the rookie scoring race and may end up coming in first now that Pacioretty is down in Hamilton adding offensive punch. He now has 20 goals and 52 points in 66 games. He is a 6 foot tall, 190 lbs (he was 177 lbs at the start of the year) 21 year old center. It should be noted that Maxwell's strong campaign is doubly surprising, as he has missed most of the previous 2 seasons of development due to freak injuries. He should be behind rather than ahead, but, he is in fact ahead.

When Maxwell came up he had no points in 7 games, but imho it was stronger than that. He seemed effective at generating chances and I guess he got discouraged in game 4 or so. I've been tracking him and he has been producing at a higher clip since he went back down, so I guess he learned a few things. He had 8 goals and 20 points in 26 games before being sent down. Actually, only a slightly better pace.

Kyle Chipchura has a much better +/- (+25 vs +7) but he now has a lower ppg which was not true earlier in the season. In 45 games played, he has 14 goals and 32 points. He's 6"2, 205 lbs and he's 23.

Right now the top 3 in montreal is Koivu-Pleks-Lapierre. Earlier in the year I was advocating Chipchura come in at number 4; though now it might be preferable to have Maxwell come in at number 2 and have Plekanec be a 2-way center at number 3. It's hard to tell.

There's a youth scenario of Koivu not coming back and the top-4 being Plekanec-Maxwell-Lapierre-Chipchura, with Metropolit as a backup. I'm for a youth movement next season and I'd prefer that scenario. I doubt this will be the case. Most likely Koivu will come back, and we'll keep Glen Metropolit, and both Maxwell and Chipchura will spend all of next season in Hamilton. We could also see Gainey sign another aging veteran to replace Koivu.

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