Week 17 in One Word: Hiatus

February 5, 2023

Week 17 of the 2022-23 season for the Montreal Canadiens featured one game as the NHL entered its All Star Break. On Tuesday night, the Ottawa Senators were in town to face the Habs. In their last game for a while, the Habs put on a good show but the result was a 5-4 loss. Fortunately, the Habs always give us something to talk about.

In their last game before a hiatus, the Habs heard their coach’s wishes.

Before the game Martin St. Louis said it this way. “I want them to respect today.” He didn’t want to see his team, in a losing season with half of the roster in sick bay, start their break early and mail it in against the Sens. This young team is in an absolute grind, playing night after night with a depleted roster, in a losing cause. They could hardly be blamed if they called their hiatus early, but they heard the message from the coach and delivered one of the funnest losses we could hope for.

Can we call a hiatus on the centreman debate?

I know fans of the Montreal Canadiens are not used to having more than one legitimate top-6 centreman at any given time. I know a true first line centre creeps around unicorn territory in Montreal. But some fans and pundits might be advised to call a hiatus on the debate about who is the best centre between Dach and Suzuki, and who might eventually move to the wing when others are added, until they have watched some teams not wearing the red, white and blue.

Just like Draisaitl and Malkin and Stamkos and Stastny and other true centremen who have played wing when it made sense, the Habs will eventually have a top six group that has more than two centres in it. This is not complicated. The time will come that, if the rebuild goes as planned, there will be three or four legitimate top six centres in Montreal. They already have two, they will likely draft at least one, and they may trade for one. And guess what – that’s the goal.

Trying to pin down which of that future group of centres will play wing is foolish. Neither Suzuki or Dach have reached their ceiling, never mind others already in the organization and those they will draft or acquire by trade or free agency. Can we call a hiatus on building line combos before we know who will be on the roster? The whole debate is the height of Habsland neurosis.

Perhaps the demands to trade Josh Anderson could also stand a hiatus.

On Thursday Darren Dreger reported that Josh Anderson is not really in play approaching the trade deadline. He said the Montreal Canadiens often get calls about Anderson because of his uniqueness as a player. “He is that prototypical power forward” who is on “a good contract, a long term contract.” Dreger said the only way Anderson would be on the trade block would be if a team could persuade Hughes by making him an offer he can’t refuse.

Fan reactions to this report can also be filed under Habsland Neuroses.

There is the group of fans that cannot fathom why Hughes would entertain trading Anderson at all. Many of those fans would also re-sign Monahan to a long-term contract and think the rebuild will be over in a minute. This is unrealistic thinking. While it is unlikely the Habs will be lurking this close to the bottom next season, their truly competitive window is still years away, and there are legitimate concerns about whether Anderson will still be very useful by the time they get there.

Of course, that could change with a lottery win to add Connor Bedard and a trade for Pierre-Luc Dubois. But now we’re in fantasy territory, a bit.

Then there is the group of fans who believe Anderson is a true liability that should be dealt as soon as possible for just about any package as long as the cap space is freed up for future years. This line of thinking is proper denialism. Anderson has 14 goals and 5 assists in 49 games on a very bad team. That’s a 23-goal pace for an 82-game season… on a bad team. That doesn’t make him a Hart Trophy candidate, but he’s not the no-brainer dump that some suggest.

Anderson’s biggest flaw is that he’s a defensive liability. But on a good team – a team with strong defensive structure where Anderson’s weaknesses aren’t as noticeable – he would be fine. And he would still produce goals while playing a power forward’s game. If you think the NHL market for that is drying up, you’re not paying attention.

Fortunately, Kent Hughes isn’t given to the extremes of the fan base. He knows what Anderson is worth, which means he’s not offloading him for less than that, and he’s also not holding on to him on principle. When an offer comes that Hughes can’t refuse, and it eventually will, Anderson will be moved. I’m just not confident that’s happening at the trade deadline. There is no rush, regardless of what your angst is telling you. In fact, the draft floor might be the better window.

Maybe your angst could use a wee hiatus.

Sometimes a change is as good as a hiatus.

Nick Suzuki was the only member of the Montreal Canadiens to make his way to Florida for All-Star Weekend. He could have used an uninterrupted break as much as any of the Habs, both from the ice and the microphone (did I mean microscope?), but it’s not like it was an arduous weekend. Hiatus? It’s remarkable he hasn’t slipped into a coma out of boredom.

But isn’t it amazing how good he looks with top-notch wingers?

The hiatus some guys have taken is a little longer than comfortable.

Earlier in the week, the Canadiens said they intended to provide an update on Sean Monahan’s status before the end of the week. He’s been out since early December with what we understand to be a broken foot, and the recovery time has been longer than expected. He recently practiced in a no-contact jersey, and then he was gone again. He’s now played in less than half of their games.

Joel Edmundson was late getting his season started, a chronic back issue the culprit. My pre-season prediction was that HuGo would move him before the trade deadline for a first round pick. Then the kids shone and dealing Edmundson became an obvious move, but now he’s out again and it’s debatable whether they’ll be able to deal him.

That’s two potential first-round-quality returns that may be off the table for the Canadiens. Will that provoke them to change their deadline plan?

A few more days yet before we get some Habs game action. Perhaps Kent Hughes will delight us with a trade during the hiatus.

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.

One thought on “Week 17 in One Word: Hiatus

  1. Keep up the great work Lori. I look forward to your articles. Hughes has so many options and fans can easily fixate on one or two. We tend to see only what we want to see. Right now I’m willing to leave the calls up to Hughes and Gorton and wait to see surprises that may come. There’s no hiatus for HUGO.


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