The same goes for the NHL draft. One would hope a team's management wouldn't need such a review having a more intimate knowledge. But for us fans, who will be baying and braying for our own pet picks over the next few days, it's worth a refresher.
The best full depth chart I cam across for the Canadiens was at Faceoff.com. It really gives an idea of the absolutes of the situation.
My first step was to derive a depth chart without free agents. Remember this is a numbers exercise, I haven't considered the merits of each player staying in junior, etc.:
|Left wing||Center||Right wing|
|Left wing||Center||Right wing|
Anyone shaking in their boots yet?
Not anyone in Boston, that's for sure. I think I might be.
There has been endless calls for a new centre, and the chart shows the case. But is anyone else more than a little bit worried about our wingers should we lose Kovalev and Tanguay. Even with them, it's thin. Laraque and Wyman? We'd be in trouble. Looking at the chart tells me this team needs a whole top line to knock every single forward down a step. We can take Plekanec, Lapierre and Metropolit at 2, 3 and 4; never at 1, 2, 3. Similarly, the wingers.
The biggest hole for me in this analysis is not the centres though, but scoring wingers (exactly the same as last season at this time). The thought of icing Higgins, Latendresse, D'Agostini and Sergei Kostitsyn to back up scoring from Andrei is shocking. Latendresse may have 20 goals in him, and Higgins could rebound; but there's no 30-goal threat there. And that's just the top of the pile. If a winer were to get injured I don't relish the thought of Laraque being a mandatory starter anymore than I do the thought of Wyman being called into the already young core. It's dire.
The Canadiens must absolutely address this scoring shortcoming, and they will. Whether the scorers happen to be centres or not is really a secondary concern at this point.
My feeling is that this is a concern that needs to be addressed for the immediate future and the long term.
Verdict: Address via the Draft and Free Agency
The Habs are blessed with one of the top 10 defenders in the league and probably one of the top 10 deputies as well. In the right system, this could work. Gorges is a gem when played within his abilities too. But that's where the party ends.
The prospects coming through are numerous enough to trust that at least three will one day be NHL material. Of that, I am not worried. The questions for me begin with this season. O'Byrne has been shaky, Weber has all of 5 NHL games behind him, Carle has little experience and didn't exactly light the AHL on fire. Then you have Subban (straight from juniors), Fischer, McDonagh and Pateryn (all NCAA). Belle could fill a hole, but even he's a free agent.
If I were in the management position, I wouldn't be looking to add more defenders to put behind these guys in the depth chart, but a few to put ahead of them. 2 D with NHL experience to the Habs and a little time and this depth should bear the fruit it promises.
Verdict: Address via Free Agency
People talk about two of the best goaltenders in the game. They're not joking. We wouldn't be getting on the case of an able 21-year-old with a 0.905 save% if there wasn't a 24-year-old with tantalising stats dying to get a few starts himself.
Like the defence, the fun stops there. It's worse than the defence though as the #4 goalie in Montreal is really someone you wouldn't want to be caught having to play in relief, let alone start. Desjardins would be OK, but with all due respect to Loic Lacasse, he was a pretty average (and over-age) QMJHL goalie as recently as 2 years ago. Not thanks.
Verdict: Address via Trade and/or Draft
As it affects the draft
As it is, I stand by my original scheme, which was to pick the player with a chance at being a star. The one who will be the biggest asset for the organization both for the future and for upcoming trade opportunities. Broadly speaking, I think this means picking a scoring forward – one with a 35-goal shot – or a potential star at the back vs. an all-rounder. I'll be giving my thoughts on who the player I think that should be in the next couple of days.
As for the glaring and immediate organizational needs, I don't think any are realistically addressable through this year's draft (barring a trade up, that is). Draft a forward at #18 and you'll be lucky if he scores one day, let alone next season. Draft a goalie or a defender and you are looking at a project. Free agency and trades will be relied upon for our 2009-10 team.