All Habs Mailbag: Eller, Subban, Armstrong, Bulldogs, Fighting, Draft


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  • As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.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!



If the season is wiped out, what does that mean for guys like Colby Armstrong? Is his one-year burned, and if so, expect him back?

That will depend upon the final agreement struck between the NHL and the NHLPA. Both sides could agree that the previous year ‘counts’ and therefore every player has a contract year burned, but they could also agree to go forward as if it did not count, and things go on as if there was no lockout to count against the players and their contracts. Armstrong’s status would likely rest upon the strength of Hamilton and which players looked good for an NHL position. With players like Brandon Prust, Ryan White and Travis Moen already on the team, Colby Armstrong could be edged by younger, cheaper talent in Hamilton that has more scoring upside and a safer injury history.



Who do you think gets more points next year : Lars Eller or P.K. Subban?

Given the team’s lack of scoring depth, it would likely be difficult to equip Lars Eller with the kind of linemates that would allow him to increase his scoring contributions enough to edge P.K. Subban. It should be noted that Subban will be on first-wave power play duty and likely be the team’s leading defenceman for time on ice.  With those factors alone, Subban will likely have more points on the board. Subban will simply be working with more skilled teammates on a more consistent basis, which is usually how scoring races on a team are determined.



With lots of depth in system and four picks in first two rounds, will the Habs take more chances for home runs or go safe at the draft?

The best approach for a team to go for in any draft is “best player available.” However, that term in itself is not always direct as each team will have a different idea of who the best players are in a draft, even in the high lottery picks area. While a team may find itself overloaded with certain players via this method, it also allows them to deal from a position of strength to teams that require what they have. While some players who are the best available may be considered a risk for one reason or another, teams that play it safe may find themselves a bit short on the talent they need to win.


Do you trade some veterans for picks this year and hope to add first rounder in June?

The saying “if the price is right” is all that needs to be considered here I think. While a team should never just look to make a trade just to make one, if they can strike a deal that overwhelmingly favours them, than they ought to do it. However, one must consider the uncertainties of any Entry Draft at the same time. It’s generally acceptable to consider that one of the first five picks in the draft will bust or significantly underwhelm, and likely at least one of the next five picks will do so as well. If the Habs are confident they can get a great price for a veteran and draft the player they believe can be integral to the team, they should do it. However, they’ll have to weigh the time it will take for that prospect to be a contributing NHL player, if they will become one, against the contributions the veteran player was giving to Montreal at present. Given the Canadiens efficiency at the draft table in the last six years, I am personally biased to saying if they deal a veteran to add additional talent via the draft, it will probably be a good long-term benefit for the team.



What’s your take on non-fighter-types fighting? High-risk (à-la Leblanc)? Team solidarity?

I find fighting in hockey games to be as useful as the members of the crowd doing ‘the wave’ to help the team along. A skilled player fighting sets his team back at best by being absent for five minutes when they are needed on the ice to score or simply counter the opposing team’s skilled players. At worst, a skill player can be injured in a fight and could cost the team dearly in scoring for a protracted period and this severely outweighs any benefit the player may have generated from a nod of solidarity with the team’s grinders. The costs of a team’s skill players fighting simply do not come within a mile of matching the benefits.


Frank S.

You are familiar with the OHL fight ruling of 10 fights then a suspension.  Do you think the NHL & AHL should adopt this?

It is my belief, there should be a ban on fighting but as we are all painfully aware, the NHL must generally be dragged kicking and screaming into any matter that improves player safety. I think this is an okay rule, as it will help out edge the truly useless one-dimensional fighters from juniors but it simply doesn’t go far enough. I’d welcome its introduction into the pro ranks, but preferably as part of a multi-stage plan to finally eliminate fighting in hockey.

Simply allowing fighting in a league that doesn’t offer proper medical supervision and coverage (not that any hockey league does give proper medical coverage to its fighters) is a terrible idea. It is a far worse idea considering the vast majority of these young men in junior hockey are never going on to a professional career and must go on to other pursuits after their days in the OHL are over. I do not believe it to be an ethical practice to endorse this type of violence, and the injuries that can result from it, including neurological damage simply for people’s entertainment.




Who has impressed you the most on the Hamilton Bulldogs so far?     

I would tip my hat to Patrick Holland, who generally flew under many radars, including my own as suspicions about his skill level were ongoing last season. Having played with the No.1 and No.4 scorers in the WHL last year, both dominant overage players it was hard to say how much of Holland’s scoring should be credited to him. While it is still early to speculate with only four games played, Holland’s ability to earn a top-six position with Hamilton and have three points in his first four professional games is a potential sign that Montreal may have received a real benefit out of the trade that sent Mike Cammalleri to Calgary in exchange for Rene Bourque.


  1. question;

    what happens to the draft if this season is cancelled? what will be the order of drafting…how is it determined?

  2. Robert,

    I don’t think fighting should be allowed and the argument that it is somehow integral to a violent game to allow players to “resolve their differences” in that way is significantly refuted by the fact that fighting is not tolerated in the NFL.

    I think that it will take a gradual bottoms up approach and have several generations of kids come up through midget and bantam and junior with an increasing intolerance of fighting. David Branch and the OHL are taking an important step. Hearing him speak on the subject leaves me no doubt that their plan is to introduce this regime and then ratchet up the penalties and crank down the thresholds.

    It will take at least 15 years but I think we will eventually get an NHL full of players who have grown up with the assumption that fighting will get you ejected and suspended.

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