Sunday, 8 May 2016

Montréal Canadiens could use Hudson Fasching more than Martin Reway.

With the disappointing season we just went through, we're all a little jaded, a little bitter.  For me, one of the real sore spots is that the prospects, who I've been waiting on for 5-6 years now, they haven't arrived yet, they haven't swarmed our roster and made us more clutch, tougher, tradier.

I understand that not all draft picks will pan out, that lots will fall by the wayside.  Sebastian Collberg, who we were overjoyed when we got him high in the second round in 2012, who we parked on right wing next to Alex Galchenyuk in our putative rosters by 2014, 2015 tops, was never in the stars.

Tim Bozon, a medium range goal-scoring option, got felled by a horrible disease.

Dalton Thrower got injured, didn't progress much, or does so by fits and starts.

Magnus Nygren got good results, was apparently on the verge of being called up his second season in the AHL before getting concussed again.

And so on, and so on, prospects not developing, or at least not racing through the steps.  Charles Hudon, Daniel Carr, Mike McCarron, Sven Andrighetto, this would have been a great time to turn into Brandon Saad or Brendan Gallagher, and jump up and seize a Top 6 roster spot.  But they're not hatched yet.

Even looking beyond those considerations though, I'm feeling angsty about all the reports we're getting on the reinforcements from Europe that are around the bend, namely Arturri Lehkonen and Martin Reway.  They're admittedly longshots to make the Canadiens next season, but even if they did, I'm having problems seeing these two guys as being good for what ails us, as what the doctor ordered.

Meanwhile, I learn, with much jealousy, that the Sabres' Hudson Fasching will be representing the U.S. at the World Championships.  And it sends me into a spiral of 'I-told-you-so's.

Hudson Fasching was drafted late in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, 118th overall, by the L.A. Kings.  This was after the Canadiens had squandered spent picks in consecutive rounds on Arturri Lehkonen, Sven Andrighetto and Martin Reway.  And this drove me around the bend, as I wrote back then:
Once we get to pick #115, with which we drafted Martin Reway, we're upside down in the weeds with pond water slowly filling the passenger compartment.  We don't know if we can recover from this.  He is the player-pick Trevor Timmins himself described as his "homerun swing".  The thing with swinging for the fences, instead of trying to make solid contact, is that you strike out a lot more that way.  Especially since the howling wind of idiocy which is buffeting the NHL right now is blowing in our face and keeping the ball in the park.  Mike Milbury's and Don Cherry's constant effluvia of argle-bargle makes it hard to connect with 5'9" players.  

Instead, still on the board was Hudson Fasching, a big winger with the USNTDP with a cool story of how he had to mature quickly to help care for family members stricken with a genetic disorder.  Ben Kerr had a glowing review, and compared his style to Andrew Ladd.  We're in the fifth round, this kid slipped down from a potential 2nd round pick, let's take a cut at this pitch instead.  It seems so easy to me.  Or, let's spin the Kelowna Rockets Big Wheel of Big Defenceman and land on towering project Mitchell Wheaton, see how he turns out.

The obvious criticism of my re-draft will be that I don't know the players, and I'm only focusing on size.  And we can go back and forth.  My point again remains that we needed to complement what we already have on the farm, take players with size to assist the smaller scorers like Sebastian Collberg and Brendan Gallagher, and the tweeners like Louis Leblanc and Michaël Bournival.

My objection to the addition of three smallish forwards, to a system already replete with such small players, was that it was adding to the imbalance, not doing anything to address the size deficit on our roster, in our system, especially when the playoffs begin and the refs put the whistles away.  I analogized it to finding the bath water too cold, yet adding lukewarm water instead of hot water to try to make it better.

Hudson Fasching was initially thought to be a potential first or second-round pick, but fell in the draft.  He told the story that in pre-draft interviews, he was challenged by a couple of teams on whether he knew what his role was, what his game was going to be, and he said it stumped him, he didn't have an answer, and that partly explained why he fell to the fourth round.

He resolved to learn from it, and decided to stop trying to be a skill player, to stop overhandling the puck, and instead that he'd use his size more, play near the net, in the corners, protect the puck.  He played three seasons at Minnesota in the NCAA, scored 20 goals and picked up a point a game this season, and just signed a pro contract in the spring and played seven games with the Sabres.

And he'd be just what we needed on our team, a 6'3 215 lbs right-shooting right winger.  How much better off would we be, when looking to the future, if we had this asset in our ranks, instead of any of Arturri Lehkonen, Sven Andrighetto or Martin Reway, or indeed instead of all three?  How much better would he make our team, better able to resist intimidation attempts, to play against Western Conference teams?

I want to be clear about this, I'm not just bitching with the benefit of hindsight, akin to complaining about Andrei Kostitsyn rather than Corey Perry.  I think this was a fundamental strategic mistake, to add more smallish prospects when we already had too many such players on our roster, in our system.

And the chickens are coming home to roost.  As others have pointed out, with Paul Byron and Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher on the roster, we're hard-pressed to shoehorn in a Sven Andrighetto, despite his obvious talent.  As I've pointed out before, the Bruins with a blue line of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Dougie Hamilton and Adam McQuaid could benefit from folding in a Torey Krug, while we, with Raphaël Diaz and Yannick Weber and Josh Gorges already here, would have aggravated the problem.

So yeah, I trust the Canadiens' management, and they know a heck of a lot more than I do, but if I can offer a critique, picking up three more smallish forwards in the 2013 draft, doubling down on skill regardless of size, when the Ducks and Sharks were taking 'homerun swings' on big forwards who have blemishes themselves, but if they pan out, will be able to thrive in Colin Campbell's hate-selling NHL, that was a strategic mistake.

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