All Habs Mailbag: Galchenyuk, Bournival, Lockout, Leblanc, Bozon, Vail


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  • As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.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



With Galchenyuk’s recent success as a winger and the Habs center depth, should they consider using him as a winger instead?

I would say Alex Galchenyuk’s future still sits as a centre at the professional level. With his creativity, puck skills, vision and physical attributes he is arguably the most naturally talented centre the Canadiens have seen since Vincent Damphousse, or a pre-injury Saku Koivu. As for the Canadiens centre depth, I would interpret it shifting to make room for Galchenyuk in the near future, he might play the wing as a rookie but I imagine it wouldn’t take long for him to bump David Desharnais out of his Top-6 spot, leaving Tomas Plekanec to handle top-line matchups while Galchenyuk develops as a centre. Given that, Lars Eller would retain his post on the third line, due to him being a far more complete player than Desharnais and able to handle defensive showdowns as well.

Galchenyuk’s position on the wing can be interpreted in several ways right now I would say according to analysis I’ve read. First, it is part of an easing-in strategy as he’s missed a season and it’s an easier position for him to work from. Second, he and his linemate Charles Sarault both play centre, but due to Galchenyuk’s dynamic talents, he is able to work from the wing and still be highly effective while Sarault would likely not be from an off-position, so his coach shifted Galchenyuk to help the top line be more effective. Third, the coach believes Galchenyuk plays better on the wing and while it was initially an ‘easing-in’ move, he’s keeping it now because the coach believes Galchenyuk is playing better there.



 Where would you rank Michael Bournival in two years in the Habs line-up and who is the best Hab comparison?

Michael Bournival has a potential to first work his way in as a replacement when injuries occur in the next two years and if he does well enough, he can begin making a case for at least, a 4th-line position and potentially a 3rd if he were ‘top out’ on his potential. There are some concerns with his injuries over the past two years in junior hockey that he might not be able to stay healthy in the physically tougher NHL. I’m not a fan of comparisons and to be honest, I don’t think there is anyone of his particular style amongst the Habs right now, he’s a bottom-six type but I wouldn’t say he’s similar to any of our current bottom-six forwards. If I were to talk about his style, it’s that of a bottom-six player with strong defensive presence and some scoring talent but not an overly strong physical presence.



Do you think the lockout will end soon?

With the NHL and the NHLPA now into a third day of marathon negotiating sessions, I’d like to believe ground is being covered and they are edging closer to an agreement. With the players having essentially drawn their line in the sand with the full value of their contracts having to be honoured, the NHL looks to be willing to give on the issue given that they’re three days in to closed-door negotiations without comments to the media. Both sides I believe now see the true need to get a deal done and are willing to negotiate in earnest to save the remainder of the 2012-13 season. I don’t think they’d be taking three straight days of long meetings dancing around the core economic issues they’ve bickered over, I believe progress is made and we are moving closer to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The final details of it, I can’t begin to guess besides that the players will likely get nearly, if not all of their current contracts honoured by the league.



What do you see the offensive potential of Leblanc as in the NHL? Will he be a top line guy?

I think Louis Louis Leblanc can top out as a 2nd-line forward in the NHL given projections I’ve read and what his junior and AHL production has been to date. He can likely score 20 goal seasons as a full-time player and perhaps 50 points in his top years. Leblanc is held back by not having either great speed, notable creativity or an overly imposing physique to give him that ‘edge’ for 1st-line work. He has good hands, strong vision and notable two-way ability but 1st-line talent is a pretty hard thing to nail down and unfortunately Leblanc isn’t quite that good to have that potential from reports I’ve read and what I have seen.



What’s the deal with Bozon and Vail. Both have put up impressive numbers. Are they long-term projects to make the NHL, or are they likely to make it?

In regards to Tim Bozon, he’s a very talented player with promising scoring talent but he and his linemates had been riding a hot streak that seems to have cooled, or as my colleagues who favour analytics term it, regressing to the mean. Bozon is good, maintaining himself a top-3 scorer in the WHL is just not likely although I do believe he ended up being significantly underrated on draft day and the Habs managed a steal when he was picked up at 64th overall. If I were to project his season, I would imagine it is around 40+ goals and 40+ assists, something like what Brendan Gallagher did in his junior career. He’s likely to spend this year and next in the WHL refining his skills, than I would imagine he will begin playing in the AHL for at least one season. Realistically I’d project him to be trying out for a roster spot with Montreal no sooner than the 2015-2016 season.

Brady Vail is presently a bit harder to nail down, while one could expect Bozon to likely improve on his rookie output of 71 points with Kamloops, Vail’s jump in offensive production was a bit more unexpected. With Vail having been drafted as a two-way player and now contributing to the point of being a top-20 scorer in the OHL as an 18-year old at the quarter season mark, it could be possible the Canadiens spotted hidden offensive talent that others disregarded. Granted, with Windsor also being short on strong forward talents this season, Vail could also be considered to be the beneficiary of top-line ice time that’s letting him pad his production as compared to where he might be playing on other teams. With Vail, I’m a bit more cautious and would say he’ll spend the next two seasons in juniors and complete his commitment, and than play 1-2 years in the AHL after that. With Vail’s increased competition among the two-way forwards ahead of him in the Canadiens farm system, it’s likely he has a longer road to walk to the NHL than Bozon who being a scoring forward is among less competition to make the team.