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Thanks. As a traditionalist I tend to have an affection or at least respect for any of the original 6 teams. The Bruins have really stretched the limit on that goodwill, but really the only team I hate with a passion is the Flyers (spits)! Oh and if Quebec gets a team again then I will despise the New Newdorques with a passion.
I have seen a couple of Rangers games at MSG and the atmosphere is good and the fans are knowledgeable. But NYC is like that. It is cosmopolitan enough that there is a knowledegable market for everything. Lets just say that it is a bit different at a Carolina Hurricanes home game.
Anyway all to say that I always had a soft spot for the Rangers that not even Torts could totally destroy. Although the team has lost my favourite (that's right, with a "u"!) player: Brandon Prust. Hmmmmm, where did he end up?
The Habs have actually done a startlingly bad job of scouting the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the last 20 years or so. You would think they would pay attention to their own backyard, and leverage the language difference to gain an advantage. Let alone the marketing impact of home grown players in such an obvious language context.
My understanding is that when Marc Bergevin took over as GM in May 2012 the Habs did not even have a single full time scout for that league. Bergevin has ramped up Scouting across the board along with hiring more player development coaches, including a couple who are native French speakers. So I think that is turning around.
One area where they have devoted a lot of scouting focus in the last 15 years and has resulted in draft picks is in the US, both at the High School and College level. The year that Kristo was taken the Habs only had 5 draft picks and took 3 US players. It is not a fluke. The year after they took 3 American boys out of a full complement of 7 picks. The year before they had 9 picks due to trades and used 5 of them on American kids. That was the year we like to think of as "The Max Pacioretty Draft" because thinking of it as "The Ryan McDonagh Draft" is just too painful.
Seven of the last nine 1st Round picks the Habs have made have been Americans, and one more was a French Canadian kid playing in the USHL. It is actually pretty striking how US centric the Habs drafting has been. The Habs have two full time scouts in the US, I think they are both based in the midwest, but the Habs are definitely tracking both hotbed regions of New England and the upper midwest/Prairie region.
They recently have expanded scouting in Europe,which had been underserved. They have actually made some very good European picks but they tended to be late round gambles. They seem to be paying a lot more attention to Sweden since Bergevin took over.
Behind this all is the Habs secret weapon: Trevor Timmins, who has been running the player procurement efforts for about a decade. Over his tenure he has the highest rate of picks making the NHL than any other NHL organization. He consistently seems to find guys, so even when he makes a puzzling pick that goes against logic (Mike McCarron anyone?) most of us in the fan base will just trust him.
They have also devoted resource to Player development coaches and hired two former NHLers to travel around and work with draftees all over the place. During the lockout Martin Lapointe and Patrice Brisebois were actually doing things like running a practice for a WHL team that had two prospects on it.
One of the secondary sick feelings from the trade of Ryan McDonagh for "he who shall not be named" was what McDonagh said after expressing surprise. He effectively said that he had not heard from anyone in the Habs organization for about a year. Now there are some weird insane rules around what you can and cannot do for NCAA athletes but it is just shocking that they would have that distance between themselves and a big asset.
I tend towards the realist end of the spectrum, and my expectations for the Habs tend to reflect that. I don't think I have picked the Habs to finish higher than 5th in the East in almost 20 years. But the Habs have an incredible core of under 25 year old players and a large number of high quality prospects in the organization who will be looking to make the jump in a few years. In virtually every category there are multiple players at each position who have mid to high end promise. If a third of them pan out, watch out.
A window is going to open for the Habs in about two years and for the latter half of the decade I think there is a very strong chance that they are a constant contender. So remember that and in a few years, impress all your Ranger fan friends as the guy who predicted it.
And oh yeah f#@k the Philadelphia Flyers! Not sure if I am allowed to swear on this blog so you might have to edit out that obscenity: "Flyers"
6 months ago on Lots of Love for Kristo
Hey Rangers fans. The most common story floating around Hab land was that Kristo was considering going rogue in August and becoming a Free Agent under the "Screw you, I did 4 years in the NCAA" loophole. The Habs would have got nothing. See whatshisname re: Anaheim and Edmonton.
The story continues that Marc Bergevin was not too big on Kristo anyhow (Character!). Just google "Kristo frostbite" or "Kristo underage drinking" or....
So, the story goes that a deal was worked out. Kristo would sign a contract with the Habs and play a couple of games in the AHL, thus burning a year off his NHL contract. The Habs would then work out a trade for whatever they could get to send him to a team possibly more to his liking.
The Rangers would get a prospect upgrade. Kristo would be a year closer to RFA status. The Habs would get something more than nothing.
I don't know how close to reality that is but it makes sense of an otherwise seemingly incomprehensible scenario.
BTW Kristo was very well regarded among Habs fans and viewed as potentially one of the more NHL ready guys. Some expected him to possibly play a couple of NHL games last season after the Habs made the playoffs and were routinely dressing a couple of 21 year old kids from the AHL. Over at HabsEyesOnThePrize blog I think most would have had him around the bottom of the Top 10 of the "Top 25 under 25" exercise (where 1-5 are already NHLers). I am not so convinced on Kristo and probably would have had him at #13, but find comparing NCAA players to Junior, AHL or Swedes difficult. As did Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey in evaluating Ryan McDonagh apparently.
FWIW I had Christian Thomas at #19 based on very very limited information. Thomas is younger and with more Pro experience and success so far, could be something. I don't think many in the Habs community think Thomas is better than Kristo, which again lends some credence to the apocryphal story above. My own sense was that Kristo was maybe a 50% chance of becoming a second line NHLer and Thomas maybe has a 30% chance of being a third liner. I think the Habs have a half dozen or so smallish scoring forward prospects in the pipeline, so had some wiggle room there.
And on McDonagh/Gomez, while I regret losing McD, predicting success is nowhere near 100%. So I don't want to kill Gainey for trading McD much as I disagree with it. But taking on Gomez and his contract? That was just flat out insane. There is no possible way that makes sense. The Rangers should have given the Habs someone like Del Zotto as a "Thank You" gift for taking Gomez off their hands.