All Habs Mailbag: Pacioretty, Gomez, Lockout, Rookies, Lottery, Prospects


By Robert Rice, Senior Writer, 

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 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  •  As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.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.
This week we have a jam-packed double edition with loads of good questions to answer.
So, let’s open the All Habs mailbag!


Which player(s) will make or break the Habs season come 2012/2013?

In my personal opinion, it starts with Carey Price. I have no doubt in my mind Price is the franchise at present — he will define the team’s success for years to come but just how good he is next year will determine much of their team’s fortunes. Let us take examples from last season: Jonathan Quick, Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne all powered relatively low-scoring teams through the season with Quick ultimately collecting a Conn Smythe trophy with L.A.’s Stanley Cup victory.

After Price, it will be more or less the P.K. Subban show. No one defined the success of the first five years of the post-lockout Canadiens like Andrei Markov. While they are different players, Subban has displayed the talent to change games the way Markov so often did. With the right strides in his development and the proper deployment by new head coach Michel Therrien, he could define a good part of the team’s success in his role as a No. 1 puck-moving defenceman. There will also be  need for Markov to play at something approaching 80 percent or better of his old self for overall success as the Habs lack many defencemen who can reliably play 20 minutes a night.

My third most concerning factor is the goal scoring talent, expectations must be that Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole can mirror close to what they accomplished last season for the team. The team is very much facing an ‘all hands on deck’ approach with a dearth in overall scoring talent and uncertainty to how Brian Gionta will come back and the utility of Rene Bourque, the team’s only other left wing who can be considered a Top-6 talent.



Does a full year lockout take a year off of current contracts? Or are we on the hook for Gomez for two years after the lockout?

That will depend upon the agreement that comes out of the lockout. Both the NHL and the Players Association would have to agree to let the lockout year count as a burned contract year, as occurred during the 2004-05 lockout when that particular agreement was finally reached. The results of the final CBA could determine if both sides favour this as well, as details of the final agreement may make a burned year more or less favourable.


Which rookie/prospect do you see having a good camp and making the team this year?

With NHL experience already under his belt and a good summer training program, I’d give the nod to Louis Leblanc. He was displaying an ability to work inside the NHL last year and with added upper body strength he will be much more in being able to hold and battle for the puck, a weakness for him in both peer-level and pro competition in the past.

Second in line is Brendan Gallagher, the WHL fireplug has in my opinion, the most natural scoring ability of any Habs draft pick from 2008 to 2011. Gallagher’s noted tenacity will serve him well and I believe the adjustments he made to his game over the course of the 2011-12 WHL season have him much better prepared to play at the professional level.

The dark horse candidate is Morgan Ellis, he is at present the most complete of the defencemen leaving the junior/NCAA level and over the past two years has made incredible strides in his development to rise not far behind the potentials of Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu, the team’s star defensive prospects.


If there is a full season lockout this year, how does the draft lottery work?

In the previous lockout year of 2004-2005, a weighted lottery system was introduced by measuring overall regular-season success, teams who had finished out of the playoffs were given additional lottery balls compared to teams that were perennial playoff squads. Using this method, the entire order of the draft was determined by drawing lottery balls. An additional adjustment was made because of the way the draft order had been determined and the 2005 Draft was made a “Snake Draft”. Under a snake draft the team picking first overall also not picking again until the 60th overall pick. The team that picked 30th would pick 31st as well.



Is there room for Max Patch to improve or have we seen his best hockey even though he’s really young?

It is incredibly rare a 23-year old player hits their peak and then regresses. Likely we are seeing Max Pacioretty’s rise in the NHL and can expect him to produce at a similar, or better level than what we have seen for the length of his new contract extension. Pacioretty also has room to grow as a physical presence, as he has stated he would like to model himself after Erik Cole, who plays a more classic style of the power forward.

The other side to consider is Pacioretty still has to adjust facing top-line competition and tougher matchups with him being a more prominent player now, teams will work that much harder to keep him away from the puck. Pacioretty is not going to always do better than he did the year before, but it’s not hard to project his scoring average over the next seven to ten years will be 30-goal seasons.


How many of the Habs prospects are looking legit and not bustable?

Determining upside in prospects is not always the easiest thing to do, I’ve been wrong in a few cases and I haven’t been following the prospect core long enough to point to any insights I had that others didn’t talk about well before me. If I had to name a ‘safe to play in the NHL list’ I’d give my nod to Alex Galchenyuk, Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu, Morgan Ellis, Brendan Gallagher and Louis Leblanc. If I were to extend to ‘odds are favourable for the NHL’ I’d also name Sebastian Collberg, Tim Bozon, Darren Dietz, Joonas Nättinen, Dalton Thrower, Michaël Bournival and Danny Kristo.



 It’s appearing more and more that Gomez will start the season with the Habs…. How does the bottom six fill out with him there?

I am personally not convinced Scott Gomez starts with the Canadiens. It will be a very bitter financial pill for Geoff Molson to swallow but if he is serious with appointing Bergevin as the GM and deciding it’s a new era, he will bury Gomez in Hamilton or loan him to a European club. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe the team can begin truly fresh with Gomez still wearing the CH. If he is there, it will basically ensure no rookies start with the team to begin the year as there will be no open roster spot for them.

This could also be detrimental to the development of Lars Eller, as Gomez would potentially bump him from 3rd-line C. One would imagine if Gomez were to be kept on, it would not be so he could play 6-8 minutes a night as the 4th-line C or be in the press box, as at that level of use he might as well be in Hamilton.



Do you think an NHL lockout helps or hinders our top flight prospects?

In my opinion, it will benefit them more than any possible hindrance. To begin with, it will relieve the pressure to start the year. Top prospects will not feel under the gun to blow the doors off the Bell Centre to earn a roster spot and can focus on developing their game in a lower league. The AHL, NCAA, Major Junior and European leagues will not see interruption this fall, allowing the team prospect core to develop in their current leagues.

A lockout will take all focus and pressure off of Galchenyuk making the Habs in October, allowing him to ease into a full hockey schedule in the OHL after missing a year and get back to developing his game for the professional level. Top prospects like Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu, Morgan Ellis, Brendan Gallagher and Louis Leblanc will be able to play lighter competition in the AHL in preparation for a mid-season resumption of the NHL, or if necessary play the entire year there as I imagine at least three of them will in any case. While this view may be disagreeable to some, or distressing to others, I can’t honestly say any Habs prospect could not benefit from time in a developmental league or is a clear-cut NHL player if the NHL season were to begin tomorrow.



In case of lockout, any ideas on destinations of Habs players? Everyone junior eligible would go back? Who can play AHL?

Europe will likely be the destination for anyone with a one-way NHL contract who wants to play. You may see Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin playing in the KHL, others may join them, or try their hands in the Swedish or Finnish leagues, while others might join potential Swiss League members Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber. Other veterans may choose to simply wait the negotiations out and train. All junior players who have a standing commitment to their teams would be playing with them as would be the case if the NHL season were to start on time.

Additionally, Montreal has no current skaters with junior commitments who are arguably NHL-ready, aside from the much-debated case of Galchenyuk who in my view, isn’t ready yet for the pros due to his lost season. The AHL eligibility will not change much, any rookies still holding their two-way contracts can put in a season in the league. I’d expect recently graduated junior and collegiate players Brendan Gallagher, Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu, Michaël Bournival, Morgan Ellis, Patrick Holland, Greg Pateryn and Steve Quailer to all be on Hamilton’s roster.


  1. Right on Robert,

    great answers.
    only way Leblanc can make squad is to bump Armstrong, which is unlikely given Bergevin kind of went out on a limb to sign and will likely give him a chance to show he isnt washed up.

    I think most are annointing Pacioretty a superstar a bit early, a certain Michael Ryder had 85 goals in his first 3 year with Habs. And 1 good year might not mean much ( a great sign for sure but).
    Not sure what you mean by Gallagher changing his game in 11-12? He was the exact same player i saw in 2010-11.
    I love his game and effort, but wouldnt say he is a safe bet for NHL and still to see if he is a Cory Locke-Nigel Dawes who were great amatures but just couldnt cut it.

    A lock-out would put Galchenyuk back playing another year with Yakupov which could be a very very good deal.

    I still think Greg Pateryn is an underrated defensive d-man and more ready to play vs men than any CHL guy.

    • I think Leblanc has a chance as the roster stands at Bourque, Gionta, Pacioretty, Cole, Plekanec, Desharnais, Eller, Prust, Moen, White, Armstrong, Nokelainen and if we have to choose to skate one of Nokelainen or Leblanc, easy choice IMO.

      I wouldn’t declare Pacioretty a superstar (A term I think gets thrown around too much) but he’s projecting very well at present and has a more potent game than Ryder.

      As to Gallagher, his shooting/offensive style became more dynamic. He improved the power in his shot and adjusted where he shot from, he backed off a bit from always going to the net and became a more effective scorer on one-timers and from firing from the circles. Locke’s issue was speed and timidity RE physical contact, Dawes just never gained the gear he needed to play against NHL competition IMO.

      • re: superstar label

        I agree that it gets thrown around too much.’s soccer analyst Kristian Jack has a similar problem with ‘world class’, and his thinking is that those who are world class would make the best team. So in soccer that’s usually a 23-man squad, like at the world cup. In hockey it would be 23 as well seeing as teams dress 20 and keep 3 spares.

        So if we assembled an all-star team of 23, would Pacioretty be on it? As much as we like him it seems unlikely.

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