Those who have been following me for a while, under the pseudo Habsterix or this new account, will tell you that I like the cake analogy when referring to a hockey team. Having coached, I feel like the best hockey teams have all of the proper ingredients in a good balance. Trying to replace an ingredient with another because you don’t have any will ruin the success of the cake… or of the team. You can’t just say: “I don’t have enough baking powder so I’ll add sugar”. Your cake won’t rise.
To complete that analogy in reference with the Canadiens, here’s what I mean. In the past, the Habs were trying to get all skills and little to no grit. Whether it was at the coach’s request or the GM doing it, they were guilty of tunnel vision in trying to find the same type of players everywhere: versatile, defensively responsible, good skating. No second thoughts was given to size and grit. They were trying to load up on all-purpose type players and – somewhat limited – skills. It seems like they were looking for finesse on all four lines. Basically, very heavy on all-purpose flour, sugar and vanilla extract, lacking on baking powder. After the work by GM Marc Bergevin in this off-season, here’s what the mix looks like:
|CAKE INGREDIENTS||CANADIENS EQUIVALENT INGREDIENTS|
|I cup of sugar||Jonathan Drouin, Tomas Tatar|
|½ cup of butter||Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jake Evans|
|2 large eggs||Carey Price, Shea Weber|
|2 teaspoon of vanilla extract||Victor Mete, Brett Kulak|
|1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour||Artturi Lehkonen, Joel Armia, Paul Byron, Jordan Weal, Jake Allen|
|1 ¾ teaspoons of baking powder||Josh Anderson, Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Alexander Romanov, Jeff Petry|
|½ cup of milk||Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault, Tyler Toffoli|
This is likely be best and most balanced line-up we’ve seen in Montreal for the last couple of decades. While it may not be using the top brand name ingredients (top end offensive players), it has every ingredient necessary to make a successful cake. Put it in the oven at training camp and it will be good for the next regular season, whenever that might be.
At the risk of sounding demanding though, wouldn’t it be nice to add a bit of icing?
In my humble opinion, the icing on the cake would be done by adding some size and pure grit and toughness on the fourth line. As in baking, there are multitudes of possibilities when it comes to the type of icing. Some are rather plain, others are fancier. But all will put a nice finish or the cake.
I took the time to look at what I would consider to be a good mix of different “icings”, or gritty players that the Canadiens should consider for their bottom line. You will notice that I have purposely left out UFA Matt Martin, who apparently, at his wife’s request, would like to stay in New York. But you will also notice that I have included a rather wide range of players in there: young, older, limited skills, more skillful, cheap, a bit pricier, pending UFAs, RFAs, under contract with term… Have a look.
EDIT: As a measure of comparison, here are the hits/60 for all Canadiens’ players with more than 35 games played this past season:
|Brandon Tanev||PIT||LW||28||6'0||180||14.58||$3.5M, 2024-25|
|Lawson Crouse||ARI||LW||23||6'4"||220||13:45||$1.53M, 2021-22|
|Marcus Foligno||MIN||LW||29||6'3"||224||12.82||$2.875M, 2020-21|
|Carter Rowney||ANA||C/RW||31||6'1"||208||12:45||$1.333M, 2020-21|
|Adam Lowry||WIN||C/LW||27||6'5"||210||11:21||$2.9M, 2020-21|
|Jujhar Khaira||EDM||LW||26||6'4"||212||10.17||$1.2M, 2020-21|
|Sam Bennett||CGY||C/LW||24||6'1"||195||9.31||$2.55M, 2020-21|
My personal favourites, accounting for potential price and availability are, in no particular order:
- Lawson Crouse
- Adam Lowry
- Brendan Lemieux
- Christian Fisher
- Sam Bennett
What are yours? Or do you have some that aren’t on the list I’ve provided? Or are you simply happy to stay with Lehkonen, Byron, Armia and/or Weal on the fourth line? Go Habs Go!