Habs Camp is a Rookie Runway through Robidas Island

September 24, 2022

With rookie camp winding down, and the main camp underway, the Montreal Canadiens have kicked off the new season.  

The Habs rookie camp invitee list looks like a Black Friday sale at Best Buy.    

74 players at the main camp. That number tells a story. This camp is not about locking down one or two core roster spots. This camp is about development. It’s a breadth look, not a depth look. Kent Hughes and his team will get a look at who might fit where, and they’re keeping 74 doors open.

Filip Mesar will get some looks at centre. Owen Beck will get a longer look than many expected, having demonstrated he was not a sub-plot in the 2022 draft. Emil Heineman will see lots of ice and combinations before a tough decision is made about Europe. A gaggle of young defencemen will get a chance to stick – and their chances have increased with the release of the injury list.

Oh, the injury list. Even the most ardent fans of the tank look at that injury list with a groan. But that list of injuries opens the runway for a host of rookies to put their talents on display.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale – the tale of Robidas Isle.

Stephane Robidas signed a three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on the opening day of free agency in 2014. He played exactly 52 games with the Leafs, and the running gag of Robidas Island was born. Robidas was placed on injured reserve to start the 2015-16 season, and never played another game for the Leafs. As the season wore on and Toronto was in clear tank mode, other languishing players found themselves shipped to Robidas Island.

It’s ironic that Robidas is now an assistant coach for the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs have their own version of Robidas Island. Last season, injuries to Shea Weber and Carey Price threw the Habs into free fall. As the season wore on, the injury reserve list never got a minute to breathe, and camp opened with some old and new names on the list.

Is Robidas Island a solution for Paul Byron?

The Robidas story isn’t all bad. His playing days were over for the Leafs, but he did find his way into player development in that organization. He might be with the Canadiens today because of connections he made in that role.

Byron is a quiet leader, loyal to the organization, and smart enough to grow into the business of hockey. At this stage, his body is giving up on the game. A variety of injuries – his hips the current culprit – have resulted in him playing just 102 regular season games in the first three years of that four-year deal.

Can he make a return? If he can, will he be able to play at a level to truly earn a roster spot? Perhaps Laval offers its own version of Robidas Island, with lots of young players who could use the veteran support, and the next stage of Byron’s career could be born.

Can Brendan Gallagher avoid Robidas Island?

Last season was the worst of his career, and it was the first of a giant contract extension. He’s back and he’s healthy and he has a point to prove. If Gallagher can return to form, he will give HuGo plenty to think about. Do you keep him to support the new core, or do you move him for value and give him a chance to win elsewhere?

Is Joel Edmundson closer to Robidas Island than any of us realized?

Another camp and another absence of an indefinite period for Joel Edmundson. Jeff Gorton confirmed on TSN’s Melnick in the Afternoon that Edmundson had reaggravated last season’s back injury. That is not good news for the big guy, or for the Habs. Recurring back problems can fell a hockey career.

Just before camp, rumours circulated that teams were calling Kent Hughes about Edmundson. He was retained and given a leadership role. We can hope he is back soon, but with his health history and the status of the team, Hughes has to consider the merits of getting Edmundson healthy and playing well in advance of the trade deadline.

Perhaps HuGo should be spending some of those young assets for immediate help on D.

Jakob Chychrun is waiting for a trade, and I can’t image why the Habs wouldn’t be knocking on that door. Yes, they have a ton of youth coming on the left side, but I’m not convinced there is a Chychrun in the lot. He’s still a kid himself, on a team-friendly contract. Montreal’s prospect depth is strong enough now to give up some assets and not feel it too much.

Does a package of Jan Mysak, Mattias Norlinder, Mike Hoffman and Florida’s first rounder in 2023 get it done?

It’s the kind of dream you can live in for a while when your team is in an extensive reno.

Published by Lori Bennett

Hockey is my hobby. I love a respectful hockey chat or debate, but it stops being fun if we're jerks.

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