All Habs Mailbag: Doan, Leblanc, Eller, Bourque, Quailer, Top-6


By Robert Rice, Senior Writer, 

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

Then check every Wednesday 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 Canadiens.
  •  As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.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.
Let’s open the All Habs mailbag!


Lots of talk that Habs stand pat after Subban and Galchenyuk signings. Who do you feel fits the 2nd line winger role in organization?

At present, the only potential candidate to fill as a natural left-winger on a top-six line is a player most people aren’t very much fans of, Rene Bourque, and he isn’t a very strong candidate to fill in effectively. Other options would be continuing the rather irritating experiment of playing Lars Eller at the wing position, but this neutralizes him as an effective centre for the team. We’ve seen enough of Travis Moen and his fellow stone-handed bottom-six types to know they’re not viable options either. Remaining choices would sit with Brendan Gallagher or Louis Leblanc, the most NHL-ready scoring prospects in the organization. The problem with Gallagher is he’s a natural right-winger and Leblanc currently projects as a RW as well. It’s not impossible for wingers to switch, but it may not be the best transition for two young prospects to play an off-wing as they break into the NHL.

Bourque will have to be where the team starts with, who they finish with is a very tough issue due to lack of solid options and the likely need to experiment to find the right mix.



Ignoring validity of rumour of Gionta to New Jersey Devils, would Doan be a viable replacement? Any key differences in style of play?

I wouldn’t place Doan on a priority list for the Canadiens. Due to the current salary burdens of Gomez, Kaberle and arguably Bourque, the team faces a lot of salary they can’t readily shed. Doan is an over-35 contract that can’t be removed from the salary cap and he is aging whether anyone wants to believe character can overcome age or not. Given also the tax situation in Montreal, Doan would likely be asking for a very rich contract as this would likely be the last one he ever signs. While the value of veteran players can be had in itself, I don’t believe Doan would give Montreal what they need at present, even if Gionta were to leave.

As for differences, they’re pretty stark. Gionta is a scoring winger that generates his goals by volume shooting and an elite speed, while he does get dirty around the net, he’s much closer to a finesse skater. Doan is more of the in-your-face player and skates through, rather than around his opposition, but possesses scoring talent as well. Doan is a better player, but his age and demands of any contract he’d ask for make him a less attractive player for Montreal.


What would Montreal’s “All-Rookie All-Star” first and second lines be?

If I were to project based on top-end upside, proximity to the NHL and considering current achievements to date, I’d rank the All-Rookies as this, based on natural positions.

Sebastian Collberg – Alex Galchenyuk – Louis Leblanc

Jarred Tinordi- Morgan Ellis

Cedrick Desjardins


Tim Bozon – Michaël Bournival- Brendan Gallagher

Nathan Beaulieu- Dalton Thrower

Peter Delmas



What’s your take on Quailer? Can he potentially be a top-six NHL forward?

It’s very difficult to put that optimistic a projection on a player who only achieved point-per-game scoring in his final year of NCAA play. Quailer had some early power forward projections but after his struggles following a severe ACL injury that basically wrote off two years of his college hockey career, it’s become harder to project him. Until he plays at the professional level and achieves significant scoring in the AHL it’s very difficult to say he could ever hope to rise above possible 3rd-line duties. ACL injuries are still very much a razor’s edge for players, some recover and maintain old form, and some never quite recover.



Do you predict Louis Leblanc to be a top-six center in the next three years? What of Eller?

At present, I’d see Leblanc playing more of a 3rd-line winger role in the Habs organization, he has several good tools in his hockey sense, a decent shot and noted sideways agility in his skating but he also has limitations. Leblanc’s yet to show ability to physically match well against professional competition and his overall skating speed, puck skills aren’t quite what you want to see in a top-6 NHL forward. He could develop his skills further along to become that, but he doesn’t project that well presently. Scouts I have spoken to and referenced are concerned his offensive creativity isn’t high enough to warrant holding down the centre position and his faceoff skills are unremarkable as well.

Regarding Eller, his status is a bit more up in the air. He has displayed some incredible skill at times, such as his four-goal game against the Winnipeg Jets. Eller’s issues have been argued around what his true skill level is and his consistency. It should be noted Eller has rarely been given the opportunity to play a scorer’s role, often playing on the 3rd line with lesser skilled players or being used as a plug on the team’s often-troubled top-6 winger positions. Given his development in the NHL over the past two seasons, he could be poised for a breakout this coming year, but it’s too early to tell. I’ve read projections of Eller being a No. 2 centre, but until he gains opportunity to work with better wingers or has an opportunity for power play time it’s going to be hard to accurately read his top potential.



He’s a mystery to a lot of Habs fans. From what I saw of Bourque he played like someone who didn’t want to be in Montreal. He got lots of ice time and his stats speak for themselves. He coasted when backchecking and didn’t get into the flow of the game. He didn’t work hard enough—–He knew Cunneyworth was a lame duck coach—-did this influence his insipid play?

Bourque is not a very popular player from the discussions I’ve had, nor do many think that he can right himself to being a valuable contributor to the Canadiens. Bourque has in the past displayed enough skill to hold down a Top-6 position with a team, but has had descriptions of either inconsistency or laziness in his game for most of his career. It’s not encouraging either when a player decides to ‘throw’ his season knowing his coach isn’t long with the team and decides he doesn’t need to give the effort. It also couldn’t be described as encouraging that he may have decided that in Montreal’s dead-end season, he didn’t need to give it his all either.

The mitigating factors that may see a rise in Bourque’s play is his desire for a truly fresh start in Montreal and coaching. Some players take a bit of time to adjust to a new location and he may choose to take his game more seriously from now on with a whole season ahead of him. The other thought is coaching, while many are cool to the idea of Therrien returning as the head coach, sometimes a particular coach has a talent for motivating a player to perform to their potential. Whether Therrien is that coach remains to be seen but it is something to consider.


  1. Bourque is a solid player and will do fine on 2nd line.
    Doan will never sign with 28th place team to end career, so moot.
    Gallagher/Kristo are more #1 line wingers than Leblanc is.

    And Pateryn and Bennettn are both more “NHL-ready” than others and are under-rated by most.

    Leblanc should be a solid 2nd liner in 3 years.

    Bourque will be fine and s a relatively cheap 20+ goal scorer.

    • I know Gallagher, Kristo project better potentially as scorers, but Leblanc’s shown ability to play in the NHL and neither Gallagher or Kristo have played a pro game yet so IMO it’s hard to put them ahead.

      As per Pateryn and Bennett, I’m not very big on Pateryn as I think Tinordi is a younger, better version and Ellis has moved ahead of him as well. Bennett, I like him but he’s not bringing any particular skill right now that ranks him over other D prospects.

  2. I don’t mean to be rude, but unfortunately I’m going to be. I disagree with about 90 percent of your commentary in this article.

    Perhaps my disdain for your commentary is based largely on the fact that you became a fan in 2008 (yes, I read your bio) and I was born a Habs fan. This may be completely irrelevant to you, but I believe that since you’ve been following the team for 4 years, and I have been religiously following since I could talk makes me more qualified to comment.

    If my clear devotion to the team is not enough,I also believe that I am far more hockey savvy. I’ve been playing hockey for nearly 20 years, officiating for 9, and have studied the game to an extent that I doubt anyone my age has, unless they’re playing in the show.

    I’d like to know what I have to do to become a contributor. No offense, but I believe that if a fan of a mere 4 years can contribute, there is no reason why a dedicated, lifelong, university educated fan should not be able to contribute as well.

    Your writing skills are excellent, there’s no doubting that, its the content that I find lacking. I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, that you are a writer first and a hockey fan second. I’d love a chance to contribute because I firmly believe that intense fans like me would appreciate my commentary.

    • Thanks for your comment, Matt. You mentioned that you disagreed “with about 90 percent” of Robert’s responses to the All Habs mailbag questions. That’s okay, we encourage healthy debate here.

      What we don’t allow is petty bickering or rude comments — and by your own admission, you intended your comments to be rude.

      What I find most puzzling is that while you claim to have disagreed with 90 percent of what was written, and you claim to have a superior background to my esteemed colleague, you were not confident enough in your hockey opinions to share any of them with us.

      Robert is one of our Senior writers, and while he and I have been known to have a few lively debates, I find him to be an impressive keeper of knowledge and have a keen eye for hockey analysis, particularly when it comes to prospects. From my view, readers certainly enjoy his articles and weekly series and he is a very valuable member of the All Habs family.

      As far as receiving consideration as a contributor, you are welcome to submit your professional resume, several samples of your writing and a list of referees.

      But if you are truly interested in a position with All Habs, perhaps it wasn’t a wise first move to personally attack a potentially future colleague. Perhaps a lesson in tact and being a good team member is in order before you submit your application.

      • Fair enough.

        1: Bourque is an excellent skater and I don’t think he’s as unpopular as this article paints him to be (Granted, he’s not as popular as Cammy was). I also don’t think its fair to make any projections for him based on last year when he was thrust onto a sinking ship via a mid-season trade. Therrien is going to need time to evaluate him and perhaps re-structure the lineup to set him up for success. While I don’t necessarily favour breaking up the line of Patch, Cole and Davey, I’d love to see him on a line with a pure playmaker like Desharnais. There also seems to be a suggestion that he ‘threw’ his season which I don’t think is fair to say at all. He did what he could on a ship that had long been sinking. I think that the people who criticize his effort fail to realize that he came into an entirely new system that did not set him up for success. I fully expect him to be better this coming year.

        2: I agree about Leblanc. He will probably never pass 3rd line status. Eller, however I disagree. I think he was given ample opportunity to prove himself as a scorer and did nothing more than prove himself to be utterly inconsistent. Not that I think there is much to say for judging a player based on their country of origin, but how many Danish players are legitimate top 6 forwards? He has a long way to go development-wise before I think he can achieve any sort of consistency. I think having him anywhere but the 4th line is a waste of minutes. He may even be better off spending a year or two in the Hammer.

        3: Doan should absolutely be on the priority list. While I recognize that we have enough high-priced vets at the moment. Character and leadership is something that the club sorely lacked last year. IF Gio does get moved, Doan would be an excellent replacement. Sure they have different styles but if I had to pick one, I’m picking Doan. If I could have both, well that’s just awesome. Yes he will probably eat up the last bit of cap space that the club has left but a 2 or 3 year contract on a sturdy, gritty vet like Doan is never something that should be off the priority list for the Habs.

        4: I think you copped out on Quailer. Let’s be honest, his injury and the fact that he’s just not that great means that he will probably never play for the Habs. The Habs have enough strong prospects that he is essentially an afterthought.

        Lastly, I have to agree with the rookie lines, I think they are 100% right.

        I’ll stop there as I’m sure I’ve annoyed you all enough. I apologise if my earlier comment was in any way offensive, and you are right, I should have addressed my differences of opinion.

        • 1. From the conversations I’ve had, I’d say the majority of people I talk to are taking a dim view to Bourque giving Montreal valuable contributions while he is here. I know he joined a sinking ship, but he didn’t seem to try to do much to help right it either is my concern.

          2. Eller has just turned 23, Desharnais is close to 3 years older than him and he only started showing he could be an NHL contributor at about 25 so I’d argue it is premature to say Eller can’t improve his position in the organization. As for where Eller is from, how many Slovenians are elite NHL players? Just Anze Kopitar, doesn’t matter where you’re from, if you can play.

          3. I’ve done the Doan debate ad nauseam, to me it comes down to he has no reason to come here unless Montreal throws an obscene contract at him and he’s frankly too old. Over-35 contracts, mixed with great expense are typically ones teams regret the most as they are inescapable. Better than Gionta, but Gionta’s younger and his contract can be dealt with as needed, Doan’s could never be.

          4. I can’t honestly put a yes/no to Quailer’s NHL potential when I’ve never seen him play and he’s not had a chance to show what he can do in a professional setting. Late bloomers occur and while Quailer is almost certainly never going to play a Top-6 unit, he could make 3rd line. He was looking very solid until his injury and he finally seems to be on the rebound. The Depth chart is against him, but that’s what makes things interesting, the battles to make the team.

  3. Well said AllHabs. No need for those useless comments on this site. I enjojyed reading the article and believe Mr Rice does have a good grasp on the Montreal team and its prospects.

  4. Robert,
    am a fan of LL also seems a very smart hard workng kid who i think is due to have a big breakout year as Eller’s wingman, but just dont see him as potential top line as i do for Gallagher/Kristo.

    Pateryn i also am a fan (i pull for all shot blocking defensive d-men) and as i said he is underrated and more NHL ready than Tinorid/Ellis who i also am high on, but the young guys havent played anyone but 15-20 year olds and Pateryn has already played vs mature players.
    Also Benett was Michigan’s most improved player in Red Berenson’s eye, so that is good enough and from what i have seen he is developing nicely.
    Skill set is not that of a Beaulieu for sure, but he is good with puck and a very strong skater and i also expect a big breakout year for him.


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