Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Habs Picks Are In (Almost)

So there it was, the spectacle of the NHL draft lottery. RDS and TSN outdid themselves by narrowly surpassing the pointlessness of their Trade deadline Day and Free Agency day coverages.

We had to wade through quite a bit of speculation, but eventually there was some excitement.

First we pan to Bill Daly opening an envelope (what too sensitive to show the draw on camera?) and then to Brian Burke to show that the Maple leafs had not won the draft lottery (phew). From this we know that no team directly behind the Leafs were pulled either. Also, we find comfort in seeing that Burke is sticking with his angry man tie fashion.

Another envelope, another loser. This time the Isles miss the win. So that's what Garth Snow looks like...

The big moment didn't give much time for anticipation. The envelope was opened to reveal to Larry Carriere that the Habs would be picking 3rd as their position showed.

On to first, and the Oilers are revealed as the winners. The undeserving GM can't wipe the grin from his face. The sad Blue Jackets take one last loss at the final buzzer.

Picks in
What this means of course is that the Habs will be picking third overall. It will be the team's highest selection in over 30 years. Only the Rangers and Flames (no top 5 picks ever) have had fewer top fivers over that time.

Beyond the third pick, it's good to note that the Habs will be picking 3rd in every subsequent round as well. That is, all those rounds from which they have not already traded their privilege.

So that means 3rd, 33rd, 64th (round 2 has 31 picks), 94th and 154th. The team also owns the rights to Nashville's second round pick this year, thanks to Hal Gill. Essentially the team will have four picks by the time they would have had one in 2008. Five before they would have had their second last season.

This volume is important and not mentioned very often. Five players of the top 100 in a deep year can mean some quality depth added. It also gives the team a chance to mine some quality Quebecois talent (none right now in the consensus top 30, btw) without having to pay over the odds to do it (with too high a pick) or by doing it half-heartedly (O. Archambault @108).

Also very important is that 33rd pick. This pick is a first-round run-off pick and as such is very valuable. It gains more and more value as the trade continues and players that some teams have valued as their top priority fall by the wayside to home run swing picks. The value can be cashed either with one of those players, or perhaps in a bargaining move with an eager buyer on draft day. The luxury of having the other second rounder and the high 3rd and 4th rounders are good buffer for trade.

All this puts the Canadiens scouting staff in a nice position to really go after what they believe in. Furthermore, it gives a new GM some ammunition should the route of trade be considered the way forward.


The 3rd pick as it stands now looks like it could materialize into Mikhail "Grigo" Grigorenko.

But temper the optimism. The likelihood of that player falling to the third position depends very much on the two teams ahead of the Canadiens.

In the better case scenario, I think we all saw the Blue Jackets taking Yakupov, with Edmonton finally conceding they need something other than a forward and taking (sudden consensus two) Ryan Murray to fill out a team of shooters. With CBJ in second, the logic remains, but is somehow less convincing. Columbus doesn't have a young stable of good forwards in the organization like the Oilers do and can't afford to take the second best player as they cling to NHL life. While a defender might ultimately make more sense for a team who believed Wisniewski the solution to their woes, a jittery team might value the quick fix of a scorer and at last a centre for Nash.

If Grigo is gone, the Canadiens have some soul searching to do. Ryan Murray is not perhaps the player they need on the big team to complement Subban/Markov/Gorges/Emelin/Beaulieu/Tinordi. And one sees what having an expendable young defender can return (McDonagh). The decision to trade that defender should be clear before the situation unfolds so that time is not lost to hesitation.

Personally, I would trade down before picking Murray. Indeed, from what I've read, I might prefer two of the top 30 to one of the next five. I have a bad feeling about Galchenyuk and would rather hedge than take him outright at three.

Whatever happens before June, or in June, I will guarantee that it will be a more exciting time to be a Habs fan than it usually is in early summer. The potential for this kind of talent to join, the potential for movement, the reason to even watch the draft all make for a better June.

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