Monday, 20 October 2014

Depth up the middle, or, should the Canadiens trade Tomas Plekanec so that Alex Galchenyuk can play centre?

One general point that occurs to me, inspired by others' comments on social media, is how we're debating whether to trade away Tomas Plekanec while his value is high, in exchange for a substantial return and assets we can use somewhere else in the lineup, and to precipitate the installation of Alex Galchenyuk as a fulltime centre.

Compare that to the Oilers who dealt away Sam Gagner because... because why again?  I remember the media prognosticators treating this as a fait accompli last spring, that he had to go, and I took it in stride, accepted that bit of logic and figured it must be a cap hit or 'fit' problem.  Except he was their #2 centre, and they didn't really have a #3, and Matt Hendricks used to be a decent #4 but is aging rapidly and is no longer a nice option, more of a patchjob now.

So they pulled the trigger on that trade, received little return, and then didn't find their #2 or #3 centres on the trade or UFA market, and stuck with Matt Hendricks.  And they're terrible, and have no depth.  Their #2 centre Leon Draisaitl really should go back to junior and progress, he's now in a sink-or-swim situation in a toxic atmosphere during a perfect storm, to roil metaphors.  The brittle Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has already missed games with injury after a fight with Dan Hamhuis.  They're naked at centre.

Compare again to the Canucks, who received an ultimatum and had to trade Ryan Kesler, but insisted on getting another NHL centre in return and landed Nick Bonino and other pieces.  They also got Linden Vey in a separate deal, a decent prospect who is thought to have completed his AHL apprenticeship and to be ready.  With Brad Richardson as a stopgap, and Henrik Sedin as the #1, they retooled, they're not naked.  Bo Horvat will undoubtedly get sent back to Junior since he's not quite ready yet, and since they have that option with their roster, enough depth at centre to not be desperate.

Back to the Canadiens, there are two schools of thought on L'Antichambre, articulated by Vincent Damphousse and Guy Carbonneau.  Mr. Damphousse two weeks ago reassured everyone that there was no rush to put Alex at centre, that he's still got lots of developing and learning to do on the wing, that he won't waste his time there, he can contribute to a high degree on the wing, and used himself as an example, explaining that he played nine seasons at wing before coach Mario Tremblay made him a centre permanently, and he responded with his best season and over 100 points.

Guy Carbonneau meanwhile shows less patience, and referring to the salary cap and early UFA status for players (in his career you became a UFA at 30 or 31), as well as the slow indoctrination of Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu, thinks that the time for Alex "to be good at centre is now", stated as a response to the slow and steady faction.  He pointed to Nathan McKinnon and other high draft picks, and said that these kids are counted on by other teams to take a lot of responsibility, so why should we insulate Alex and use a lesser player in his stead?

It's an interesting debate, and I think we'll all feel pretty smart when one of our centres goes down to injury with a groin pull for ten games or so, and we have a great fallback solution.  Last season we might have had Daniel Brière as our plan B, this year we're a good step beyond that.

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