We've spent a lot of virtual ink on Jarred Tinordi, who's spent the entire season in the pressbox as a healthy scratch and the apparent "#8 defenceman". This isn't quite a surprise, since at the start of training camp, looking at the Canadiens roster, you could see this shaping up.
He wasn't going to break into the Top 6, that nucleus having been solidified with the Jeff Petry contract, Nathan Beaulieu turning the corner in his progression, and Alexei Emelin's return to form. So Jarred would have to be patient and be ready in case injuries struck.
Greg Pateryn was in the same boat, also competing for ice time, a spot in the lineup. Both these gentlemen couldn't be sent down to the AHL though, since they've used up their waiver-exempt status.
There was a lot of noise, a lot of chaff on social media about Mark Barberio, a former Lightning and July UFA signing, how the Canadiens should simply choose the best players to stick with le Grand Club and let the chips fall where they may, but in the end, things shaped up exactly how we figured they would. Greg and Jarred were kept off waivers, the brain trust rightfully fearful that they'd be snapped up by other teams, and slotted in the roster as the numbers 7 and 8.
Mark Barberio, who it can be argued had a better camp than Jarred, was sent through waivers, with no takers, to the AHL, where he's been doing yeoman's work on the first pair and as the young veteran for the IceCaps. As predicted, while he had a good camp, his asset value was a little lower in the eyes of the competition, and no one felt he was worth a spot on their 23-man roster over anyone they currently had on their hands.
We can compare to how the Canucks handled their surplus of young defencemen. They decided to keep Ben Hutton when he surprised in camp with solid play, over Frank Corrado, who they had to expose to waivers to send him to the AHL. Unfortunately for Vancouver, the Maple Leafs snapped him up, and they lost the asset for nothing.
Sure enough, the season started and injuries hit the blue line, and Ben Hutton had some struggles, and the Canucks couldn't turn to Frank Corrado for help, he was gone. If they'd sent waiver-exempt Ben Hutton to Utica instead, he'd be available now for callups, he'd have gotten heavy minutes instead of limited icetime.
So while the principle may be laudable, that the player having the better camp gets to stay with the team regardless of organizational realities, while it 'sends the right message' to the players, ultimately it may be self-defeating. The Canucks shot themselves in the foot with this principle, whereas the Canadiens have held on to their asset.
In my opinion, the principle should be tweaked so that, like in boxing, where the challenger has to knock out the champ, clearly and decisively beat him to take his crown, the waiver-eligible player has to be beaten decisively to be beaten by the kid who can play in the AHL without waivers. The tie goes to the champ. Which is what happened with Jarred and Mark Barberio, the difference in their play in camp wasn't significant enough to decide, to outright lose Jarred.
The one surprise so far has been that Jarred has not played in a single game. I'd written a hopeful, probably unrealistic post this summer advocating that by hook and by crook, notably by resting Andrei Markov on back-to-back games and giving Jarred a turn, he could get somewhere around 40 games in this season. The best-laid plans and all that. I figure the conversation with Andrei to inform him he was sitting out to rest his brittle bones wouldn't go too well.
But there has to be a somewhat positive medium in between there, right? Figure out a way to get him a handful of games, three or four? Like the Rangers are doing with Dylan McIlrath, or the Stars with Jamie Oleksiak? Both teams are in the same boat with towering but green defence prospects, but have managed to feed them four and six games respectively, despite also being at the top of the standings.
Instead, Jarred has been shut out, even when leftie Alexei Emelin missed a few games due to injury. Jarred might have been the natural choice to replace him, but rightie Greg Pateryn was used instead, with Tom Gilbert shifted over to the left, where he acquitted himself decently.
One of the issues might have been that Greg Pateryn, who had with Jarred been a healthy scratch since the season started, had accepted a conditioning assignment in October with the IceCaps. In three games, he didn't wow anyone on the stat sheet, getting no points and a -6, but evidently that was enough to shake the rust off. When he got on the ice with the Canadiens, he played well in his first game and improved from there.
Now we don't know if this is the case*, but various analysts assumed that Jarred Tinordi had refused a similar assignment. Combined with the fact that Jarred's dad, former NHL'er Mark Tinordi, didn't attend the 'Dads Trip', and the rumour mill got cranking, that he was at loggerheads with the team, that the camps were engaged in a stalemate, a 'play me or trade me' situation.
This conditioning assignment comes at a perfect time for Jarred, if only to defuse these rumours, let air out of the balloon. The IceCaps are scheduled for a three-game in three days weekend starting Friday in Rochester, and in Toronto against the Marlies Saturday and Sunday. A nice compact window for him to get in gear, as injuries seem to mount both for the Canadiens and IceCaps, and the trade market starts to heat up.
I'll say it again, I don't want Jarred traded, I want him to be a big part of our future in more ways than one. We need some physical players in our team, some guys who'll push back when Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves or Chris Neil and Mark Borowiecki decide to run around and pick on our smaller players. Bully tactics can't be allowed to prosper.
We traded away Brandon Prust and hoped that Zack Kassian and Alexei Emelin, Greg Pateryn and Jarred would provide enough size and mean to deter the more flagrant attempts to intimidate our squad, but that plan hasn't quite worked out so far. Our powerplay has helped keep the thugs at bay to a degree, but long term, I see Jarred and Mike McCarron as big components of our team, big guys who can play but inject enough menace in the lineup to give the Wayne Simmonds of the world pause.
So good job Jarred, get those minutes over the weekend, and I hope we can find a way to get you to play as the season progresses. I'm prepared to be patient. I hope that you, the fans, and the management of the team are just as ready.
(*) EDIT: Michel Therrien stated in a press scrum that this was the first time the team offered/requested that Jarred go to the IceCaps for conditioning:
«C’était la première fois que nous lui demandions, a mentionné l’entraîneur en chef. Nous avons attendu pour le faire pour la simple et bonne raison que les IceCaps ne jouaient pas assez de matchs. Je crois qu’ils ont joué quatre matchs en 15 jours. Là, ils rentrent dans une séquence où il y aura plus de rencontres. Nous avions encerclé cette date pour lui afin de partir à St. John’s.