All Habs Mailbag: Defencemen, Bell, Markov, Gionta, Goaltending, Realignment,Trades


By Robert Rice, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

TORONTO, ON — The All Habs Mailbag is as popular as ever! This is the place to send in your questions about all things Montreal Canadiens.

Then check every Thursday to read the answers to the most popular or poignant questions about the Habs. Keep in mind that we will discuss the entire Canadiens organization so questions about prospects and roster players are equally welcome!

Submissions can be mailed directly to [email protected]

Three Guidelines for Submissions:

  • This is not for hate mail or complaints. If you have an issue with what you read on these pages, this is not the place to bring it up. The mailbag is for questions about the Montreal Canadiens organization and the NHL.
  • As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.  Therefore I will not engage in discussion of the validity of rumours — frankly I consider them a waste of time anyway.  For every rumour that was close to accurate, there have been about a thousand duds.
  • Nothing of essay-length please. There will be other people who will have questions and it is a bit unfair if I have to dedicate the Mailbag to answering one very large question or someone who’s asking five questions at once.
So, let’s open the All Habs mailbag!

All Habs Mailbag (week ending March 7th, 2013)



If Jarred Tinordi, Morgan Ellis or Nathan Beaulieu are deemed ready next year, who are the odd guys out? Is there trade value for Raphael Diaz?

 One would estimate that given the age of Francis Bouillon, who would be 38 next October that he would likely be the odd man out if one of Hamilton’s young defencemen were ready to step up next season. This is no disrespect to Bouillon who can probably provide 3rd-pairing minutes well enough but the Canadiens do need to look ahead and reform their blueline. As per Raphael Diaz, I ca not imagine him departing the Canadiens in the foreseeable future, unless he is exchanged for another offensive defencemen. Given that the Canadiens have to hold internal concerns about Andrei Markov’s health, it is a very dicey consideration to leave the team so thin on able puck-moving defencemen by dealing away Diaz. I imagine he would bring interest, but the Canadiens are not currently in a strong position to lose any of their offensive defencemen except in exchange for a similar player.



Would it not be of interest for the Habs to take a chance on Myles Bell? I know he’s overage and has a bad history but it cost nothing right?

I would not expect Montreal to take an interest in Myles Bell based on the philosophy and attitudes of the team’s scouting and player development personnel. With the Canadiens placing such a high value on a player’s character and maturity, I doubt they would be interested in adding a player with such a questionable incident on their record as dangerous driving incident that resulted in a death.


Marc B

The more I watch, the more I think that Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta have lost half a step. Do you see the Habs re-signing one or both after next season?

I think it would depend on what kind of contract Andrei Markov would agree to signing. He will be 35 years old when he is due for his next contract, meaning that any deal he signs will fall under the Over-35 rule that has vexed NHL teams in the past. The rule states that if a player that signs a contract at age 35 retires while the contract is still running, the cap hit for that contract remains on the books. Given that consideration, one would expect Marc Bergevin would ask Markov to sign a short-term deal, likely at two years at a notably lower cap hit than his last contract. Markov still shows his great intelligence and hands, but his injury history and declining speed would argue the Canadiens can not afford to invest heavily in him.

As per Brian Gionta, I would expect the team will let him go when his contract is up. He seems to be slowing down and such a decline in speed is not good for a player who has spent his career thriving on it. While he is the Captain, the team is not without able leaders to take over in his stead and a team should always be looking to make itself better, either by signing a better free agent or by promoting a prospect to fill the spot.


The Habs have almost zero goaltending depth in the system. I’ve seen that you think they should take a goaltender with one of their 2nd round picks in the draft this year. If it were up to you, which one would you take?

Looking at the draft rankings, I would look at Spencer Martin of the Mississauga Steelheads in the Ontario Hockey League, he is the top-ranked draft-eligible goaltender in the league and has been considered a very strong candidate for the 2nd round of the upcoming NHL Draft. Alternatively I would look at Philippe Desrosiers of the Rimouski Oceanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Desrosiers is only behind Zachary Fucale among draft-eligible QMHJL goaltenders in statistics, but he does not enjoy playing on the incredibly dominant Halifax Mooseheads as Fucale does.


Travis N

That ridiculous realignment proposal can’t seriously happen, can it?

One would think NHL Player’s Association will do everything they can to block it, as the members of the 16 teams that will be consigned to 8-team divisions will take issue with the 7-team divisions easier road to the playoffs. There will of course likely be teams that don’t agree with their new division, their new travel schedule or other details. Other teams will find themselves jealous of the competitive balance of other divisions if they are considered ‘weak’ while a team finds itself in a ‘strong’ division.

An ongoing discussion of course is that this new realignment plan is the precursor to the NHL planning further expansion to 32 teams, allowing for four equal 8-team Divisions in the future. If such a plan is underway, one would expect the NHLPA might go along with it, if they received guarantees that the expansion will come very quickly. The PA would not likely oppose further guaranteed employment, as many of them would have two more teams to bargain with during free agency period or have as a last chance position with a new expansion franchise if they were to have a hard turn in their careers. I would expect the realignment would be accepted by the PA under these grounds.

The other consideration is the team owners who might be involved in adjusting these alignments, as some might not want the new division for their team to be too powerful as it would risk their opportunity to make the playoffs. Internal politics in the league could potentially throw off the realignment plan as well.



What do you think is the most likely trade we will see Habs make before trade deadline?

I would say the Canadiens will likely bid farewell to Yannick Weber. Given Michel Therrien’s hesitance to use him at all this season, despite his stated intentions that everyone should get to play with the team, it speaks to how the team feels about Weber at this point as a long-term member of the club. Aside from Weber, I would imagine that Tomas Kaberle might be on the block if the Canadiens feel they can sufficiently pump his value on the trade market to at least garner any kind of draft pick and avoid having to use a compliance buyout on him in the summer.



What are your ideal Habs lines when they are healthy (Rene Bourque / Raphael Diaz back)

If I had to project, I would look at the following units.

At forward:

Bourque-Plekanec-Gionta  This unit saw success to start the season and did well in defensive matchups. They could score, but if necessary sacrifice scoring to keep the opposition’s top line at bay.

Pacioretty-Desharnais-Ryder  At present one would be pretty loathe to break up the chemistry that Pacioretty and Desharnais are enjoying and adding Ryder would give Desharnais a skilled finisher to set up.

Galchenyuk-Eller-Gallagher  Eller and Galchenyuk have shown good chemistry together this season and Gallagher has worked well with Galchenyuk as well. Eller would give the line a measure of defensive responsibility as well. While it is not ideal to take Galchenyuk out of the centre position, he is still a rookie and has had a little trouble of late. Easing his responsibilities by going to the wing may help him at present.

Moen-White-Prust   Armstrong being the most superfluous of the 13 forwards on the team, he finds himself ruled out in favour of three superior defensive players here as each brings more value to the penalty kill unit.

At defence:

Gorges-Subban  The team’s best defensive pairing last season has been reunited of late and it should stay that way, they are the team’s most able minute-crunching defencemen and Subban is their best producer of offence at even strength among defenders.

Markov-Emelin  While these two have been a venerable pairing to begin the season, the strain of top matchups is beginning to wear on them. They’re still a very capable duo but would benefit from fewer minutes played against secondary opposition.

Bouillon-Diaz  Diaz has been very good this season, but he is not on the level of Subban or Markov and has had troubles with facing tough matchups this season. At the 3rd pairing, Diaz can create offence while facing less pressure while paired with Bouillon who isn’t really at the level of a top-4 defencemen at this point in his career.

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