To say the Hamilton Bulldogs franchise is an offensive black hole would be an understatement. And the parent Canadiens aren’t much better off. On both sides the problem is the same; a lack of size and limited six forward scoring talent. Since Hamilton is the talent pipeline, it doesn’t take a Mensa candidate to know that it spells future competitive problems for the Canadiens.
The Bulldogs currently rank 28th among 30 AHL teams in goals scored while the Canadiens are 20th in the NHL. Last weekend the Bulldogs fell into the cellar of the American Hockey League’s Western Conference. And mostly because they can’t score, Hamilton is facing the prospect of missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
While player development is placed ahead of results by the Hamilton coaching staff and the Canadiens, the win/loss column is still an important measurement of a team’s talent pool. Bluntly put, while the Bulldogs have at least five defencemen with NHL potential, up front they are a wasteland.
Their top point scorer is 30 year old centre Martin St. Pierre but that is only faint praise. St. Pierre, who has played in 566 AHL games and only 39 in the NHL, has only 39 points in 50 Hamilton games.
Among the entire group of forwards there are only two clear NHL top six prospects, Swiss born rookie Sven Andrighetto and Christian Thomas both of whom are 5’9”.
2009 first round draft pick Louis Leblanc has been playing himself out of the Canadiens picture with his frustrating inability to play two productive games in a row. Leblanc becomes a restricted free agent in July and some are wondering if he’s worth the trouble re-signing.
There are some projects among the Bulldogs forwards. Patrick Holland has a chance to be a bottom six NHL forward. Same thing with centre Joonas Nattinen and Gabriel Dumont leads the team with 13 goals, which is again faint praise. After that, the well is pretty much dry.
There’s a reason for this of course. In the six years between 2006 and 2011 the Canadiens had five first round draft choices. Outside of Leblanc in 2009, the Canadiens used that pick to take defensemen and three of them,Ryan McDonagh, Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu have played in he NHL. The Canadiens have traditionally drafted on a “best player available” basis and it would be hard to argue against those choices.
But ultimately an organizational imbalance has been created, one the Canadiens have moved to correct over the last three drafts, first by taking Alexander Galchenyuk. And by using second round picks they took forwards with some size in Sweden’s Jacob de la Rose and Sebastian Collberg. And their 2013 first round pick was Michael McCarron, a 6’6” giant who has recently been converted to centre by the OHL’s London Knights. Well and good, but we won’t them for a minimum of two or three years. The issue facing Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is what to do in the interim.
Hockey front office people like to refer to players as “assets”. Their value can be to the club itself, or on the trade market. Right now the most valuable assets on the Canadiens are defensemen. It might be time to consider trading one or more of those assets in order to acquire something to help the the shallow front line offensive talent. With Tinordi and Beaulieu almost NHL-ready, one or more of the veterans might be legitimate trade bait.