Feb 20, 2011; Calgary, AB, CANADA; Montreal Canadiens forward Brian Gionta (21) during the second period of the Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE

Habs Free Agency Day Preparation: Team Needs

The biggest armchair GM day of the season is close upon us. July 1st, were many Canadians patrioticly kick back and see which team overpays for which availible players.

Going into the highest point of the silly season its a good idea to take a look at what holes Montreal has and what might they be looking for. For our purposes players are listed were they would be expect to be on the depth chart of playoff capable team. 5th ES forward and 4th ES defense indicates players that would either be bench players on a healthy NHL lineup or first callups from the AHL. For our purposes I will assume that Gomez will be discarded this summer by one method or another. As goal-tending is pretty much sewn up between Price and Budaj I will not be considering goal-tending at all.

 

Even Strength Forwards

Depth Chart
LW C RW

1

Pacioretty Plekanec Cole

2

Desharnais Gionta

3

Bourque Eller

4

White

5

Geoffrion Palushaj

UFA: Moen

Potentially NHL ready prospects: Leblanc (3rd RW?), Gallagher (3rd RW?) Galenchyuk (top nine C/LW)

When healthy this squad is fairly decent in most positions. Pacioretty and Cole are both star wingers who’d play 1st line almost everywhere. Plekanec may not have flashy scoring totals every year but his rare combination of good scoring and defense usually puts him in the top 15-30 of NHL centermen. Gionta is solid defensively and a good goal scorer and a nice top six winger.

Neither Eller or Desharnais brings a complete game at this point but their complimentary strengths allow them to be good players to slot 2 and 3. Bourque was once a solid top six winger but his recent decline puts him more in a 3rd LW scoring role. White is a nice 4th liner, Geoffrion and Palushaj are decent depth players/AHL stars.

If re-signed Moen is a good bottom-six defensive specialist. Both Leblanc and Gallagher could take the 3rd RW job out of camp next year. 3rd overall pick Galchenyuk could make the squad as well but its most likely he returns to junior to make up for development lost last year due to injury.

Outside needs: Top six winger LW, 4th line center.

Outside wants: Multiple top-nine wingers.

On even strength the squad is looking for another left winger to go along Pacioretty that will compliment Plekanec or Desharnais. They could also use additional top-six or even top nine wingers that would bring more scoring punch and/or two way play so each of the top 3 centers has good players to work with. Also, a center that could soak up some defensive zone faceoffs and garbage minutes would be ideal for the 4th line.

 

Even-Strength Defense

Depth Chart
LD RD

1

Markov Subban

2

Gorges Emelin

3

Kaberle Diaz

4

St. Denis Weber

The start of a good unit is here if the team can rely on Markov once more. Subban is a stud number 1 even strength defender and even a fraction of the old Markov should be good enough to carry a 2nd pairing behind him. Gorges is an excellent compliment which rounds out a solid top 3.

The issue is the gap between the top 3 and the rest of the squad. Emelin has top 4 potential but is a sub-optimal choice right now. Diaz had a decent rookie year but best considered a 3rd pairing option right now. Kaberle is a shadow of his former self who I would gladly be rid of.

The obvious need is for a 2nd pairing defenseman that could partner with one of Markov and Subban to provide two solid tough minutes pairings and to insulate the team from injury problems. This would also make Emelin-Diaz the everyday third pairing, a job they are well suited for and open the door to dump Kaberle when convenient.

 

Power Play

The roles played on the powerplay are more complicated than this but breaking them down into 5 archetypes allows us to visualize the depth chart here more easily.

Current Depth

Netman Playmaker Shooter Passing Defender Point Shooter
1 Cole Plekanec Pacioretty Markov Subban
2 Bourque Desharnais Gionta Kaberle Weber
3 Eller Diaz Emelin

Plekanec, Markov and Subban have played these roles on league leading powerplays before so they should be fine here. Pacioretty was an elite netman his breakout season but has become the teams top shooter after Cammalleri was traded. Cole had a good personal year as a shooter/net-prescence in 2011-12, but has been a weak PP performer throughout his career and ideally should be a 2nd unit forward.

Netman Playmaker Shooter Passing Defender Point Shooter
1 Pacioretty Plekanec ?????? Markov Subban
2 Cole Desharnais Gionta Kaberle Weber
3 Bourque Eller Diaz Emelin

In a more ideal scenario, a replacement for Cammalleri is found, Pacioretty plays in front of the net for the first unit and the rest of the depth finds secondary roles. Kaberle is a very good PP playmaker but may be redundant with Markov in the lineup, another reason he probably should be removed for space. If not he is at least a great option to lead the second power play unit and insurance for the PP if Markov is not availible.

 

Penalty Kill

C W LD RD
1 Plekanec Moen? Gorges Subban
2 Eller Gionta Emelin? Diaz?
3 ????? White Markov

The penalty kill was a bright point for the Habs last year, 3rd in the league and very near the modern NHL record for penalty kill efficiency.  The key to the penalty kill’s success is the contribution of two top penalty kill centers in Plekanec and Eller as well as the excellent top pairing of Gorges-Subban. Subban in particular has had some of the best penalty kill stats in the league two years running and has essentially the best or nearly the best penalty killing record in the league over that time. Plekanec has the best goals against rate for a penalty killing forward that has played his minutes over the past 4 years and Eller had one of the best penalty kill shot differentials in the league last year in his role as the second PK center.

As such there is very little that needs to be done here. If Moen is retained then a top unit that is as good as any in the league is preserved. Beyond that there should be enough talent to form good secondary units based around Eller and Gionta, with the potenial additions of a 4th line center a defensive defenseman included in the depth chart.

 

Summary:

Certain team needs:

– top 6 even strength LW

– 4th line defensive center

Areas to be improved:

– 2nd pairing right side defenseman.

– top nine winger depth

– power play shooting forward.

Later we will be looking at which players might be available to fill these needs this summer by free agency.

 

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Tags: Alexei Emelin Andrei Markov Brian Gionta David Desharnais Frederic St. Denis Habs Habs 2012 Off-season Josh Gorges Lars Eller Louis Leblanc Max Pacioretty Montreal Canadiens P.K. Subban Raphael Diaz Ryan White Tomas Plekanec Travis Moen Unrestricted Free Agency Yannick Weber

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