When in 1909, Ambrose O’Brien and Jimmy Gardner came out with the idea to create a powerful team of French-speaking hockey players and name it Les Canadiens, little did they know that for years to come, the debate would still be raging strong in the hearts of its immense fan base.
We will not get into the language debate at this time, but for those interested, we did look at the impact of local players on the Canadiens in this article back in August 2011.
When Serge Savard was asked by Geoff Molson to help him find the new General Manager to bring the pride back to an organisation in dire need, the underlying issue of local products on the team was evident. When he was GM in Montreal, Savard believed in having French Canadians form a core of his teams and while today’s landscape is different today, it looks as though Bergevin shares a similar understanding of the Montreal market place. During his press conference, he was clear about wanting a bilingual head coach and he also mentioned that one amateur scout was not enough for the QMJHL. This news promises to be unpopular for many, but is reassuring for many others.
But how exactly, in a time when few local talents are being drafted and making it to the NHL, could Bergevin turn the Habs’ prospect pool into one that would give the team a chance to have some of the few with a chance to make it? There is definitely no easy solution, but Bergevin comes across as the type of person who is not afraid to do what he feels is right.
Of course, better scouting and putting a conscious effort into looking long and hard in the team’s own backyard is one way, but that only works for the long term. Few local products are even on the last list of North American prospects released by Central Scouting, none of which is listed in the top 30. We are left with two other options: acquiring some through trades and/or free agency.
Looking through this year’s free agents’ list, only one name jumped out as a possibility and that is Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau , a late bloomer 29 year old right winger who stands at 6’0” and 193 lbs and who is coming out of a career high 67 points season, including 18 goals.
For the purpose of this column, I went through all other 29 NHL teams and looked at most potential targets for Marc Bergevin. It goes without saying that not all of those players would be available and that the asking price would vary greatly amongst them. Have a look for yourself:
- Jordan Caron Winger/Ailier BOS
- Anthony Stewart Winger/Ailier CAR
- Derick Brassard Centre CBJ
- Eric Bélanger Centre EDM
- Gabriel Bourque Winger/Ailier NAS
- Marc-André Bourdon Defense PHI
- Antoine Vermette Centre PHO
- Simon Després Defense PIT
- Pascal Dupuis Winger/Ailier PIT
- Dan Boyle Defense SJS
- Marc-Edouard Vlasic Defense SJS
- Jason Demers Defense SJS
- Alexandre Burrows Winger/Ailier VAN
- Marc-André Gragnani Defense VAN
- Maxim Lapierre Centre VAN
- Mathieu Perreault Centre WAS
While the top end talent is somewhat sparse, there are some players on that list which could definitely contribute something to this team. In some cases, Bergevin would have to part with equally valuable talent but in most cases, those players would come fairly cheap. For example, there is no reason why a guy like Maxim Lapierre couldn’t do what Jeff Halpern and Petteri Nokelainen provided during their stay in Montreal.
This research wouldn’t be complete without looking at the prospect pool of each one of those teams as well. Here are some of the most interesting prospects. Again, the asking price would vary greatly:
- Phillip Danault CHI
- Philippe Paradis CHI
- David Savard CBJ
- Louis-Marc Aubry DET
- Charles-Olivier Roussel NAS
- Gabriel Beaupré COL
- Alexandre Grenier VAN
- Angelo Esposito DAL
- Alex Chiasson DAL
- Jérome Gauthier-Leduc BUF
- Eric Gélinas NJD
- Samuel Noreau NYR
- Keven Veilleux PIT
- Patrice Cormier WIN
- Jonathan Huberdeau FLO
- Jonathan Racine FLO
- Danick Gauthier TBL
Could Bergevin find a package that would entice Dale Tallon in Florida to accept parting with Jonathan Huberdeau? Would the Habs take a flyer on Angelo Esposito or Patrice Cormier? There is no doubt in my mind that a trade talent for talent could be worked out for some of those players. Granted, there are no certainties that they would make it to the NHL, let alone contribute at that level, but the same can be said about some of the prospects in the Habs’ organisation.
Not an easy task ahead for Marc Bergevin and this is likely not his number one priority at this point, but heading into this draft, with the Canadiens selecting where they are, this off-season might just be the best time to start the process of bringing back some of the local pride, building on what is already an exciting and promising time for the organisation and its fans.
PS: Some might be from the Ottawa region, Ontario and/or the Maritimes. As far as I know, they are bilingual.