All Habs Mailbag: Galchenyuk, Lefebvre, Armstrong, Gionta, Defencemen, Hybrid Icing


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  • As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.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



Hybrid icing this year, do you like it? Think we’ll see it in the NHL?

I’m in favour of any move to reach no-touch icing, the injuries we’ve seen from chases for the puck in icing situations are unacceptable for the relevance of the action that is drawn from it. We have already seen no-touch icing in the International level and one can hardly complain it is hurting the play of the World Juniors or Olympic Hockey.

Hybrid icing in the AHL isn’t harming the action as far as I can tell and I haven’t read people complaining it’s a problem for them watching. I believe it actually helps improve the flow of the game. Perhaps the NHL will consider it and we’ll have an improvement whenever the league does resume play.



What are your thoughts about Lefebvre after seeing the decisions he took for the Bulldogs lines?

I’m on record as not being a fan of Sylvain Lefebvre as I find his methods are out of date for modern professional coaching and I find his lineups are evidence of that.

In a recent game, we were unfortunately witness to Kyle Hagel, he of two assists over 21 games assigned to a 3rd-line role, which is unfortunately for anyone who remembers the ill-fated 2011-12 season of the Montreal Canadiens, is reminiscent of Mike Blunden with Tomas Plekanec. One can appreciate the need for a 4th-line group of ‘grinders’ but on any team interested in playing to win, the 3rd line should be a checking line with some scoring ability. I’m of the opinion that Lefebvre is too hung up on ‘team toughness’ over exploring a less physical configuration of the team that would aim to compete with more skill. This much is evidenced by his use of Zach Stortini as well in my view, who himself is about the most useless player I’ve ever seen in a Hamilton Bulldogs uniform.

I would give praise to Lefebvre for the development curve of the young defencemen Nathan Beaulieu, Morgan Ellis and Jarred Tinordi, who have all had good rookie showings so far with Hamilton.



What happens if no amnesty buyouts in new CBA & Gomez can’t be sent to AHL? Who gets moved to clear cap space? Gionta? Cole?

The Canadiens will be forced to move at least one big salary to clear space for the 2013-14 season, if and/or when a $60M cap would come into effect. At first, one imagines the Habs try to move a dead-weight contract such as Tomas Kaberle for a song, or even considers offering a sweetener in a draft pick to make an unpleasant contract go away. If there is no acceptable move in that direction, one would expect that Brian Gionta would be on the block due to his $5M per year contract as he could also return value in a trade, or not alternatively since many teams would be looking to stay under the 60M cap as well and would essentially be doing Montreal a favour by taking Gionta’s contract.

We still do not know if the league will revert to a $60M cap, but I can’t imagine an easy solution for Montreal if that occurs. Spending on a cap that has been over this limit for three consecutive years has trapped them, much as it has trapped about a dozen other teams if that scenario occurs.



Do you think it helps or stifles Galchenyuk’s development by having him play as a Hab this season?

A loaded question if there ever was one, as we have the usual considerations in the question of player development. Galchenyuk is enjoying an exemplary season in the Ontario Hockey League, where he can experiment and adjust at will while having guaranteed ice time. You could argue that is where he belongs, as it frees him to continue along that path and play an MVP-type role in Sarnia while aiming to make noise in the OHL playoffs, as there’s no guarantee the 2012-13 Canadiens could make the playoffs even with the help of Galchenyuk.

The other consideration is of course, that Galchenyuk has proven all he needs to in the OHL and with his rising profile, he’s best suited playing against a higher level of competition and adjusting to the NHL level. If Galchenyuk doesn’t get the opportunity, he could stagnate in the OHL and stop developing as he becomes simply too good for the opposition he’s facing. At the very least, he deserves the 9-game tryout and see what he does. I’m not an overall fan of burning an entry-level year of his contract in a shortened season, but if that is what is best for Galchenyuk, it is the right move to make.

I’m more cautious so I would favour Galchenyuk finishing out his OHL season, but I do understand the call for Galchenyuk to play in the NHL if it resumes this season. I’m just not convinced that is where he belongs given his need to gain back lost development time.



Do you think the Habs should resign Armstrong next season (assuming the lockout lasts the full season)? Or should they give Gallagher/Leblanc a shot?

I think between Ryan White, Brandon Prust and Travis Moen the Canadiens have the ‘grind’ aspect of the bottom-6 filled out, without need to bring in a name like Colby Armstrong to add to that. I would favour dressing Louis Leblanc or Brendan Gallagher as a depth scorer next season to give the 3rd line some scoring bite and keep opposing teams from too easily suppressing top-6 offence and ignoring Montreal’s bottom-6 members. A Moen-Eller-Leblanc/Gallagher line could give Montreal a good mix of checking and a bit of scoring upside next season.


Of all the Habs defense prospects who do you think has the best chance in making ‘the show’, and how long do you think we will have to wait to see them suit up?

I would give weight to Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu at present. Tinordi is shaping into a solid shutdown defender with a physical edge to his game, with quality leadership aspects. Montreal will likely call him up if they have a physical gap in their lineup and need someone with size rather than puck skills. Tinordi I would say will take until at least some point in the 13-14 season to gain a regular spot in the NHL as he still needs to adapt to the pro level and add another 15-20 pounds to physically match against men.

Nathan Beaulieu, I have become more of a fan of his since being able to watch his development in Hamilton this season and the rapid ascent he’s taken in the month of December. While he does need to adjust his decision-making and passing, Beaulieu is easily the best puck-moving defencemen on Hamilton and his skating ability matched with his puck skills offer a promising offensive defencemen in the future. It is as little more difficult to project Beaulieu’s entry to the NHL, as technical issues like decision-making can be tricky to develop on a timetable and like Tinordi, Beaulieu will need to add some weight for the NHL level. He may get called up if offensive help is needed by Montreal, but I would say he plays at least a year and perhaps two before becoming an NHL regular.


  1. Thanks for answering my Q, Robert.

    I was thinking the exact same thing, I do find it improves the flow of the game.

    I’m mostly wondering why the league hasn’t already adopted this. We see it everywhere else. This NHL is so set in their ways.. !

    • They still believe the puck races are good for TV sadly.

      But it’s the NHL, took 12 years after Bill Masterton died from his head hitting the ice (no helmet) for the league to grandfather-rule the bucket.

  2. RR, it seems way too early to rate Lefebvre i think? i would say i like him tossing a bunch of rookies into important roles early on.
    Hagel-Stortini are a necessary evil, for a young team especially.
    Also, am not sure how much Bergevin is pulling the strings and influencing personnal decisions, especially with no NHL happening.
    But i can say the coach last year absolutely developed no one well did he?

    I am a Kaberle fan and not a chance he is “dead weight”. He is one of best puck-moving d-men in the league and his contract is not that big. Habs need all the offense they can get.

    I think Pateryn is closest to NHL ready, Tinordi and Beaulieu have much higher upside and wouldnt hurt to keep in minors a bit longer.

    • I’m not calling for Lefebvre to be fired, but I am getting pretty frustrated with his bench management. Very roll-the-lines and doesn’t seem to experiment with managing the forwards or the PP better.

      I don’t think Clement Jodoin did a great job last year either, but let’s be honest last year’s Dog roster was a pretty sad-sack group as well.

      As per Kaberle, for his salary his performance is unacceptable IMO, I don’t particularly like the ‘specialist’ when you can only skate 6Ds a night.

      • Still vetern 40-50 point puck-moving d-men dont grow on trees and he is smart defensively, albeit soft for sure, but not near the libility of a MAB, Wideman, Komisarik, Green.

        Last 3 years;
        49 points with Leafs-
        48 points with Bruins and
        on pace for mid 40s with the Habs and only a -6 on the worst team in the East?

        What is not to like? Who could fill his skates at a cheaper salary?

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