Fantasy Hockey Geek

Deep Analysis: Canadiens

Welcome to Hockey Pool Geek’s Deep Analysis. Our goal is to dig deep into the team and league that is being analyzed in order to bring out some insight and push you into really getting the most out of your team and ultimately taking down the rest of the league. 

The subject of this Deep Analysis was drawn from our database of subscribers at www.hockeypoolgeek.com and this one is a doozy! As you’ll see when you read the League Structure section, Chris’ league is complicated. Not only is it a dynasty-style league with three (3!!) teams per GM, it also has a salary cap. Now that’s daunting. 
 
For Deep Analysis purposes, assessing a team in a very deep league with large 3 tiered rosters in a salary cap environment is not for the faint of heart. But it’s doable if you simplify the objectives of the Deep Analysis to looking at present day competitiveness and future year competitiveness. That is the approach we are taking with this Deep Analysis.
 
Team Name: Montreal Canadiens                                              
League Name: Slap Shot Hockey
GM: Canadiens
Evaluators: The Hockey Pool Geek Team
Date of Analysis: September 2010

League Structure:

Format: 14 teams, H2H league. No max GP, though GMs must have at least 3 goalie starts per week.
Rosters: 24-man roster: 3 C, 3 LW, 3 RW, 3F, 2 Utility, 4 D, 2 G, 4 Bench.
 
There is a 35-man farm team, and a 7 player junior team.
 
To add to all of that, there is a salary cap for the pro team of $79.4 million.
 
Scoring categories:G, A, P, +/-, PIM, PPP, SHP, GWG, SOG - W, SV%, SO, GAA, SV
Number of keepers: Everyone. Every. Single. Last. Player.
Keepers declared by:  Before next year.
Draft: Draft for this year already completed.
Season add/drop limit: 60
Trade limit: Unlimited               
Trade deadline: NHL trade deadline

Team Assets at Time of Deep Analysis:

Roster:
Montreal Canadiens (Main Roster)
Centers: Backstrom, Plekanec, Bozak, Fisher
Left Wing: Marleau, Cammalleri, Jussi Jokinen, Paajarvi, Avery, Smyth, Cooke
Right Wing: Simmonds, Knuble, Boyes, Yip
Defense: Keith, Streit, McBain, Liles, Fowler, Niskanen
Goalies: Roloson, Leclaire, Niittymaki, Niemi      
 
Hamilton Bulldogs (Farm Roster)
Centers: Nyquist, Lehtera, Mike Santorelli, Legwand, Hanzal, Zubrus
Left Wing: Tatar, Beck, Sexton, Harju
Right Wing: Petrov, MacLean, Zharkov, Simon Hjalmarsson, Laliberte
Defense: Lashoff, Jovanovski, Bouwmeester, Postma, Marc-Andre Bourdon
Goalies: Stalock, Janus, Montoya, Wesslau, Cheverie, Maxwell, Budaj
 
Junior Roster: Teemu Pulkkinen, Ludvig Rensfelt, Kevin Sundher, Brooks Macek, Petr Mrazek

Background and Environment:

This is the 1st year of the league. To our GM’s chagrin, late in the inaugural draft the Chicago Blackhawks walked away from Niemi… he was in round 25 and by that time Leclaire and Roloson were available but not much else.   He grabbed them as quick as he could. Thankfully Niemi landed a job with Sharks to give the Canadiens the goalie handcuff.
He wants to be a contender soon and already traded Dubinsky for Boyes to help out at RW. He says that the league has been pretty tight with trades so far but it’s early in the league so that’s pretty understandable.

A Look at League Strategy:

First step in looking at the strategy for any league is to understand the scoring system, statistics, and player alues. Because this league is SO deep with virtually every fantasy-worthy NHL player owned, we made a few assumptions about the positions when entering them:
  • We ignored the bench and utility positions because this league is SO deep we simply didn’t know which players would be fitting into which slots.
  • Those 3 F slots were distributed evenly among the 3 “core” forward positions: C, LW and RW. Honestly, this bad boy is such a deep league that it’ll be more a case of trying to find any productive body to fit into a forward slot than optimizing which slot they’re in!
 
After inputting the league setup into the site, our first stop is the League Breakdown
If you don’t do this with your league, you won’t know at what values in each stat category will be letting your team down – the underlying principle is that by having a well balanced team, you can weather fluctuations in production (slumps, injuries, etc) much better than if your roster is filled with “specialist” players that contribute to specific categories. The League Breakdown let’s you know the threshold in each statistical category at which a player’s stats hurt a team, rather than help a team. For this league, it is:
Position
G
A
P
+/-
PIM
PPP
SHP
GWG
SHOTS
C
25
37
62
4
46
21
2
4
193
LW
26
29
54
3
43
17
1
4
194
RW
24
27
51
2
43
16
1
4
189
D
10
30
40
3
47
19
1
2
142
 
What does this tell us about strategy in this league?
 
  • Defenders only really fall behind forwards in this setup when it comes to shots, G, A, and P. There’s no discernable (or statistically significant) leg up that defenders have anywhere else. Because of this, there is an inherent disadvantage to dressing defense in the utility roster spots, which can be used for any forwards. So, don’t dress defenders in the utility slots.
  • Approximately 200 shots is the magic number: players that shoot less than that should be avoided, unless they perform particularly well in another category.
  • Similarly, 45-50 PIM is a reasonable cut-off to shoot for
That takes care of strategy as it relates to skaters. But what about the goaltenders? The League Breakdown for goalies:
 
Position
W
SO
SV
GAA
SV%
G
33
5
1,716
2.54
0.917
 
 
What does this tell you about the goalies?
 
  • As with most category-totals leagues, goalies are very important in this one too. Of 14 total scoring categories, 5 are for goaltenders – that’s almost 36% of scoring being contributed by two starting goaltenders, or 8% of the starting roster. Hate to sound like a broken record but goaltending is critically important in this league.  You might have noticed that we recycle that line for every article! It’s not our fault that very few fantasy hockey GMs play in leagues where goaltending isn’t a huge part of scoring. 
A critical thing to consider in any league format is the impact that injuries can have on a roster. This league is a head-to-head league with weekly matchups and a playoff format to determine the winner. What does that tell us? The first, and most important thing, is that the playoffs happen in the last month of the season so that’s when you want to have the most production out of your roster, provided your team is good enough to make the playoffs in the first place. 
 
Did we mention that this league has a salary cap? That’s so important to the valuing of players and strategy that it gets its own section.
 

The Team – Just Statistical Value:

Using the Canadien’s guidance, they want to win right away! To understand the value of his players, we’ll generate rankings customized for this specific league setup using last year’s statistics as a benchmark. The summary of the players are below.
  

Player

Position

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

SHOTS

GWG

PPP

SHP

HPG Value

Nicklas Backstrom

C

82

33

63

96

30

40

183

4

39

0

60.2

Tomas Plekanec

C

81

25

41

66

5

49

201

4

23

3

12.2

Mike Fisher

C

79

25

25

50

1

69

204

5

10

3

-13.1

Tyler Bozak

C

37

8

19

27

-5

6

51

1

5

0

-103.7

Patrick Marleau

LW

79

43

33

76

21

24

238

8

26

4

58

Mike Cammalleri

LW

70

28

42

70

7

30

229

4

27

0

28.3

Jussi Jokinen

LW

75

28

27

55

3

27

131

5

19

0

-10.5

Sean Avery

LW

56

11

15

26

0

142

122

2

5

0

-36.1

Matt Cooke

LW

78

15

14

29

17

99

93

1

2

1

-46.3

Magnus Paajarvi

LW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brandon Yip

RW

32

11

8

19

5

22

65

2

5

0

-78.1

Wayne Simmonds

RW

80

17

21

38

22

95

127

3

3

1

-18.4

Mike Knuble

RW

78

33

24

57

23

64

168

5

23

1

28.5

Brad Boyes

RW

82

30

18

48

1

24

208

8

17

0

1.7

Ryan Smyth

LW

66

22

29

51

8

51

209

3

18

0

-2.5

Duncan Keith

D

80

14

47

61

21

56

177

1

14

4

39.1

Mark Streit

D

79

13

37

50

0

46

167

2

25

1

22.5

John-Michael Liles

D

72

8

29

37

-2

29

136

1

22

0

-10.7

Matt Niskanen

D

77

5

14

19

-15

35

106

1

6

0

-55.1

Jamie McBain

D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cam Fowler

D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FARM TEAM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Legwand

C

73

15

21

36

-5

31

156

2

8

2

-60.8

Martin Hanzal

C

76

11

21

32

0

57

119

2

6

1

-66.5

Dainius Zubrus

C

72

14

23

37

-5

45

115

3

8

0

-61.5

Dan Sexton

LW

41

9

10

19

-3

16

93

0

3

0

-85

Matt Lashoff

D

75

1

5

6

-2

14

56

0

3

0

-85

Ed Jovanovski

D

76

11

29

40

-12

78

184

3

20

1

15.4

Jay Bouwmeester

D

82

11

20

31

-4

63

165

1

13

1

-11

 
 
The Canadiens also show Paajarvi, McBain on the main roster. This is actually a very prudent move! We’re not projection experts, so we haven’t done projections for these players, who all have a very small body of NHL stats to pull from, if any at all! Feeling gutsier than us? You can use the What If? Tool to see what their hypothetical production, along with Cam Fowler, might be worth if they all made their respective teams and played a full season:
 
 
 
Player
Position
GP
G
A
P
+/-
PIM
SHOTS
GWG
PPP
SHP
HPG Value
Magnus Paajarvi
LW
82
20
30
50
5
20
175
1
10
0
-31.1
Cam Fowler
D
82
5
30
35
5
30
150
1
20
0
-11.6
Jamie McBain
C
82
10
30
40
5
50
150
1
20
0
1.0
 
Now the goalies:
 
Player
GP
W
SO
SV%
SV
GAA
HPG Value
Antti Niemi
48
25
5
0.917
1238
2.33
-21.5
Antero Niittymaki
40
20
1
0.918
1121
2.59
-83.1
Dwayne Roloson
58
26
1
0.907
1583
2.96
-66.6
Pascal Leclaire
53
23
4
0.907
1360
3.00
-47.4
Petr Budaj
14
5
1
0.917
354
2.91
-141.3
 

Salary Cap:

To be competitive, a GM needs not only to optimize the production (and value) out of their team, but has to keep the team under the salary cap. Details, details!
 
Normally, we’d advocate setting budgets based on $/point, but since this league scores so many categories, we’re going to have to go with $/HPG value.
 
So let’s start from the start!
 
The salary cap for this league is $79.4 million, for the main roster of 24 players. That gives a budget of $3.3 million for each player. It’s important to set a budget for production (expressed as HPG value) for each position, so we are proposing that in order to put forward a winning team you’ll need to be at least 10% above average for skaters, 5% for goalies. Using the results from the League Breakdown as a starting point – the League Breakdown shows the “average” player at each position, and average has a value of zero in our world – we then add the buffer to each stat to make a competitive team, then use the What If? Tool to find out what that production would mean in terms of HPG value, we get the following:
 
Position
G
A
P
+/-
PIM
PPP
SHP
GWG
SHOTS
HPG VALUE
C
28
41
69
4
51
23
2
4
212
15.5
LW
29
32
61
3
47
19
1
4
213
13.7
RW
26
30
56
2
47
18
1
4
208
12.9
D
11
33
44
3
52
21
1
2
156
12.1
 
 
Position
W
SO
SV
GAA
SV%
HPG VALUE
G
35
5
1,802
2.41
0.922
12.7
 
Each team will have 24 players, so assuming each team carries 6C, 5LW, 5RW, 5D, 3G = 24, that makes a composite average of a HPG value of 13.5 for each player. $3.3 million per player, and we know the HPG value that each position needs to deliver in order to be on budget:
 
Position
$
HPG VALUE
$ / HPG VALUE
C
3.3M
15.5
~213k
LW
3.3M
13.7
~241k
RW
3.3M
12.9
~256k
D
3.3M
12.1
~273k
G
3.3M
12.7
~260k
Composite
3.3M
13.5
~245k
 
So there you have it! For every $245k that is spent on salary in this league, they need to produce an HPG value of 1.0 in order to be on budget.
 

Back to the Team – Tying it all together:

So how do the players on the Habs of the Slap Shot Hockey league do when placed against the cold, hard, analytical light of a budget process? Let’s look at it position by position, using an average salary for the next 3 years. When players have contracts shorter than that, we’ve taken the average of the remaining contract. If the player hasn’t signed, we’ll just have to guess!
 

Player
Position
HPG Value
Salary ($M)
Nicklas Backstrom
C
60.2
6
Tomas Plekanec
C
12.2
5
Mike Fisher
C
-13.1
3.67
Tyler Bozak
C
-103.7
0.875
Patrick Marleau
LW
58
6.9
Mike Cammalleri
LW
28.3
6
Jussi Jokinen
LW
-10.5
1.9
Sean Avery
LW
-36.1
4
Matt Cooke
LW
-46.3
1.8
Magnus Paajarvi
LW
-31.1
0.9
Brandon Yip
RW
-78.1
0.725
Wayne Simmonds
RW
-18.4
0.525
Mike Knuble
RW
28.5
2.8
Brad Boyes
RW
1.7
4.25
Ryan Smyth
LW
-2.5
5
Duncan Keith
D
39.1
8
Mark Streit
D
22.5
4.1
John-Michael Liles
D
-10.7
4.5
Matt Niskanen
D
-55.1
2
Jamie McBain
D
1
0.85
Cam Fowler
D
-11.6
0.9
Antero Niittymaki
G
-83.1
2
Antti Niemi
G
-21.5
2
Dwayne Roloson
G
-66.6
3
Pascal Leclaire
G
-47.4
3.6
 
 
 
 
FARM TEAM
 
 
 
David Legwand
C
-60.8
4.2
Martin Hanzal
C
-66.5
2
Dainius Zubrus
C
-61.5
3.4
Dan Sexton
LW
-85
0.575
Matt Lashoff
D
-85
0.575
Ed Jovanovski
D
15.4
6.5
Jay Bouwmeester
D
-11
6.6

 
One little issue though… what do we do about all the players with negative HPG values? When you divide their value into the salary budget, you’ll get something absolutely nonsensical. 
 
Hours and hours and hours of thinking pass.
 
We spent so much time trying to understand, on a mathematical level, the best way to approach this that our heads nearly exploded. No joke. Bottom line: a player with a negative HPG value absolutely must not have a big salary. The team, on the whole, should have a total HPG value somewhere around 13.5 or better.  
 

A Look at the Roster:

 
With relative freedom of movement up and down between the Pro and Farm rosters during the season (obviously limited by cap considerations), those two teams need to be assessed for both short and long term competitiveness in this league. However, while pro roster can all be assessed on the short and long term scales, not all of the farm team will be active in the NHL this season, so there is a reasonable separation between farm team players who can serve the short term needs of this team and the players who are in essence prospects for the future. The prospect’s team is just that, a place to incubate/monitor players who may or may not contribute in future years.
 
So it seems reasonable to analyze this team on two fronts. First, it’s competitiveness for this season and secondly on its longer term outlook.
 

Short-Term Outlook:

 
Let’s get after the short term outlook for this team.
 
Obviously, the idea is to ice the best pro team possible, from the players held, that allow the team to stay under the league salary cap.
 
PRO ROSTER:
2010-2011
2011-2012
2012-2013
2013-2014
2014-2015
C
Backstrom
Nicklas
C
$6,000,000
$6,000,000
$6,000,000
$6,000,000
$6,500,000
C
Plekanec
Tomas
C
$5,000,000
$5,000,000
$5,000,000
$5,000,000
$5,000,000
C
Bozak
Tyler
C
$875,000
RFA
 
 
 
LW
Cammalleri
Michael
LW
$5,000,000
$6,000,000
$7,000,000
$7,000,000
UFA
LW
Marleau
Patrick
C/LW
$6,900,000
$6,900,000
$6,900,000
$6,900,000
UFA
LW
Jokinen
Jussi
LW
$1,900,000
UFA
 
 
 
RW
Simmonds
Wayne
RW
$525,000
RFA
 
 
 
RW
Knuble
Mike
RW
$2,800,000
UFA
 
 
 
RW
Boyes
Brad
RW
$4,500,000
$4,000,000
UFA
 
 
F
Yip
Brandon
RW
$700,000
$750,000
RFA
 
 
F
Fisher
Mike
C
$4,000,000
$4,000,000
$3,000,000
UFA
 
F
Paajarvi
Magnus
LW
$900,000
$900,000
$900,000
RFA
 
Util
Smyth
Ryan
 
$5,500,000
$4,500,000
UFA
 
 
Util
Avery
Sean
 
$4,000,000
$4,000,000
UFA
 
 
D
Keith
Duncan
D
$8,000,000
$8,000,000
$8,000,000
$7,660,000
$7,000,000
D
Streit
Mark
D
$4,100,000
$4,100,000
$4,100,000
UFA
 
D
McBain
Jamie
D
$850,000
 
 
 
 
D
Liles
J.M.
D
$4,425,000
$4,550,000
UFA
 
 
G
Leclaire
Pascale
G
$4,800,000
UFA
 
 
 
G
Nittymaki
Antero
G
$2,000,000
 
UFA
 
 
BN
Hanzal
Martin
C
$1,500,000
$2,100,000
RFA
 
 
BN
Cooke
Matt
LW
$1,800,000
$1,800,000
$1,800,000
UFA
 
BN
Zharkov
Vladimir
RW
$610,000
RFA
 
 
 
BN
Niemi
Antii
G
$2,000,000
UFA
 
 
 
TOTAL:
 
 
$78,685,000
 
 
 
 
CAP:
 
 
$79,400,000
 
 
 
 
CAP SPACE:
 
 
$715,000
 
 
 
 
 

FARM ROSTER 
2010-2011
2011-2012
2012-2013
2013-2014
2014-2015
Nyquist
Gustav
C/W
DET
NCAA
 
 
 
 
Lehtera
Jori
C
STL
$731,250
 
 
 
 
Santorelli
Mike
C
FLA
$600,000
 
 
 
 
Legwand
David
C
NSH
$4,500,000
$4,500,000
$4,000,000
$3,500,000
UFA
Zubrus
Dainius
C/W
NJD
$3,400,000
$3,400,000
$3,400,000
UFA
 
Petrov
Kirill
RW
NYI
N/A
 
 
 
 
MacLean
Brett
RW
PHX
$787,500
 
 
 
 
Hjalmarsson
Simon
RW
STL
N/A
 
 
 
 
Laliberte
David
RW
PHI
$550,000
 
 
 
 
Tatar
Tomas
LW
DET
$640,000
 
 
 
 
Beck
Taylor
LW
NSH
$690,000
 
 
 
 
Sexton
Dan
LW
ANA
$575,000
 
 
 
 
Harju
Johan
LW
TBL
$787,500
 
 
 
 
Fowler
Cam
D
ANA
$900,000
 
 
 
 
Niskanen
Matt
D
DAL
$1,250,000
$1,750,000
UFA
 
 
Lashoff
Matt
D
TOR
$575,000
RFA
 
 
 
Jovanovski
Ed
D
PHX
$6,500,000
UFA
 
 
 
Bouwmeester
Jay
D
CGY
$6,600,000
$6,600,000
$6,600,000
$6,600,000
UFA
Postma
Paul
D
ATL
$662,500
 
 
 
 
Bourdon
M.A.
D
PHI
$712,500
 
 
 
 
Stalock
Alex
G
SJ
$785,000
 
 
 
 
Roloson
Dwayne
G
NYI
$3,000,000
UFA
 
 
 
Janus
Jaroslav
G
TBL
$658,333
 
 
 
 
Montoya
Al
G
PHX
$750,000
 
 
 
 
Wesslau
Gustaf
G
CBJ
$790,000
 
 
 
 
Cheverie
Mark
G
FLA
$850,000
 
 
 
 
Maxwell
Brandon
G
COL
 N/A
 
 
 
 
Budaj
Peter
G
COL
$1,250,000
UFA
 
 
 

 
Farm Roster Size: 29/35
 
JUNIOR ROSTER 
Draft Year
Teemu
Pulkkinen
LW
DET
2010
Ludvig
Rensfelt
LW
CHI
2010
Kevin
Sundher
C
BUF
2010
Brooks
Macek
C
DET
2010
Petr
Mrazek
G
DET
2010
 
 
That is, the best team possible when you consider the scoring categories for the league, of course. It is reasonable to assume that each roster spot will have a player assigned to it for starters and that the utility positions will have forwards assigned to them because depth defensemen won’t produce enough to warrant that slot. With a significant weight to goalie stats, a bench goalie is desirable and with so many forward slots in a daily starts league, at least two bench slots should likely be assigned to forwards and probably all of the 3 remaining. Unless a team has a reserve defenseman who is going to post over 40 points, forwards make the most sense in terms of the bench positions.
 
So with that in mind and after carefully examining the Canadiens roster for producing players for this year – we decided that the following pro roster is the most likely to get the best results (barring injury) and still be within the salary cap.
 
C: Backstrom, Plekanec, Bozak
LW: Cammalleri, Marleau, J. Jokinen
RW: Simmonds, Knuble, Boyes
F: Yip, Fisher, Paajarvi
Util: Smyth, Avery
D: Keith, Streit, McBain, Liles
G: Leclaire, Niemi
B: Niittymaki, Hanzal, Cooke, Zharkov
 
This means a cap hit of $78,685,000 and a surplus under the cap of $715,000 – a little wiggle room but not much – if injuries strike, it could mean moving up weak producers to fill roster spots, because guys who might produce are simply too expensive.
 
So rather than examine the reasons why these guys were selected, let’s look at the options to them – it becomes very clear that there really isn’t much room in setting the pro roster. Jovanovski and Bouwmeester are simple too high priced for their production to consider for an active roster spot. To play them would require a watering down of forward spots without a reasonable return. Zubrus, Legwand, Roloson could be considered for a roster spot, but quite simply their production per salary ratio just doesn’t make them particularly valuable. Budaj is a backup and needs to stay on the farm team in case of injury. Fowler, Santorelli, Sexton, Harju and Niskanen are possible and may get injury call ups during the season but with the exception of Niskanen and perhaps Fowler, they aren’t real prizes at this time to be on a starting roster.
 
Soooo, let’s assume we have the best pro roster we are going to squeeze out of this team. How does it look for this year?
 
Forwards: An admixture of vets and essentially prospects. The vets for the most part will produce well – if they hold the line from last season and Boyes and Avery can step it up – they are pretty solid with decent across the board production. The prospect types on the forward lines definitely have the potential to supplement the vets well this season. The progress of Bozak, MPS, Zharkov and Yip this season needs to be there for this forward group to rate much better than 4th through 6th in this league though (which isn’t so bad, actually). 
 
Defense: The starting D for this team is very good if McBain has a good season. Knowing that Niskanen is on the farm as a call up and perhaps even Fowler, if he gets going, is reassuring. With these 6 and Lashoff, Postma and Bourdon on the back burner – the Canadiens are quite well set for the season and beyond. Bouwmeester and Jovanovski will never figure into this team’s efforts unless they are traded for something useful. Too much cap hit for the production they provide. Anyway, the D corps is solid and it’s a strength of the team, if a little pricey.
 
Goal: Having a goalie tandem in this league set-up is not good in general, it decreases games played over having two independent goalies and it essentially sucks up a roster position that could be allocated elsewhere – 2 goalies, same team = 1 goalie. However, the tandem of Niemi and Niittymaki should be one of the best in the league, so one can’t be too upset at that. Leclaire is the X factor – if he can stay healthy, he is a very good goalie and the 3 tenders should make the Canadiens at least competitive in the goalie categories and on any given week maybe even unbeatable. Goes like that in H2H sometimes. If Leclaire isn’t able to stay healthy then a call-up of Roloson is the likely remedy. Dipietro may have something to say about that being a viable thing – time will tell. Generally, the Canadiens goaltending is shaky, it could be pretty good but certainly we would be looking for other options.
 
Reserves: The Canadiens are quite thin on farm reserves for the purposes of callups for this season. There are few players on the farm roster who will produce to any degree this season and just about all of them are somewhat expensive and that will create salary cap pressure if they are called up. A large portion of the farm team is too far off producing in the NHL to be useful this season.  So as a “this year” asset, the farm roster rates very poorly.
 
Summary of Short Term Outlook: This team will have to go injury free for the most part and have all the starting roster players have a good season to be truly competitive in this league. It should make the playoffs however (we aren’t sure how many teams make the playoffs but we assume 8), and anything can happen in the playoffs. We just think with the goalie issue at hand and a roster with so many prospect types who aren’t likely to be high producers this season, that a top half of the league finish but not in the top 3 is the most likely scenario.
 
If the Canadiens were able to trade for more stable goaltending and upgrade their starting prospects to midrange veteran producers, the outlook might look brighter – however the cost of doing that might not be worth it. It might require the sacrificing of good prospects and that still won’t assure a finish in the money.
 
Now, if the Canadiens could magically convert Bouwmeester and Jovanovski into some producing veteran forwards or a good goaltending option, then the game might change. Those two players in particular, if traded, would equate to getting something for nothing in this league – they are real albatrosses. Legwand, Zubrus, Roloson and Budaj to a lesser degree would also fit the bill, but they may also be enough currency to build a little more depth in prospects for this team.
 

Longer-Term Outlook:

 
The Canadiens roster is for the most part young enough not to be concerned about the replacement of aging players – Knuble and perhaps Ryan Smyth are getting close to the bubble here, but they could also have a few good seasons ahead, so not a major concern. Hence, the core roster of pro’s will remain intact for some time to come - barring injury, trades to bad situations or some unpredictable drop-off in performance. It’s a decent core to build a better team around. Other than a modest increase in salary for Backstrom and Hanzal and a likely increase in a Niemi resigning, the salary increases to be concerned about will be prospect re-signings and no one looks posed to break the bank on this team. 
 
There aren’t really any prospects on this team who might be considered fast emerging however (at least not yet). Brett McLean, Fowler, Bozak, Yip and MPS all have the probability of leveling up season over season though and that should produce a stronger roster. You always want more and better of course, but in a 14 team league, there is only so much to go around. This team will get better next year with the development of these prospect types.
 
For the most part, the further off prospects on this team are pretty decent. Some guys with high end potential for sure. Prospects are prospects and it is really hard to predict who will make the show and with what impact, but the Canadiens have a thoughtful selection of forwards, defensemen and goalies that should produce some solid NHLers down the road. This team should get better over time as these prospects develop and take a spot on the pro roster or serve as trade bait for productive roster guys.
 
It is our assessment that the farm team is a little overbuilt on defense – realistically a starting roster number of 5 maximum and perhaps 4 guys on the farm developing is really sufficient on a rolling basis. Now with deep roster like this league has, extra high end D prospects can be carried, but to carry marginal prospects on D isn’t a good use of space. A focus on more forwards and goaltending prospects would make more sense.
 
The team has a decent selection of prospect goalies, but nothing ‘oh wow’. That isn’t to say one of the prospects won’t become a very serviceable pro goalie, though. We believe that it is hard to have too many goalie prospects because so few actually make the show, so we would encourage the Canadiens to continue seeking out goalie prospects and adding them to the farm roster. 
 
Summary of Long Term Outlook: Well, one of the beauties of this team is that the farm team isn’t full of marginal NHLers, so with careful culling, quick and thoughtful FA pickups, astute trades and good drafting – this team should get better over the next few seasons. It has prospects that should help improve the team over time.
 

Recommendations:

 
If some of the high priced farm help can be moved for decent prospects or additional draft picks, this will enhance the team’s long term outlook. Guys like Zubrus, Legwand, Jaybo and Jovanovski are ultimately a waste of roster space – get what you can and move on.
 
The farm team should be filled to it’s maximum capacity – there is little point in having a farm team spot vacant. There is also no limit to the number of players you can draft for the junior roster, so if an extra pick comes along on deals, take it – it can never hurt. If players don’t develop well enough in the two years you can hold them on the junior roster – cut em loose.
 
It is hard to see any obvious trading priorities at this point, except perhaps in goal and for developing depth on the farm. Given the potential of Leclaire to be a solid producer and the possibility of one of the Sharks tenders taking control of the starting position – this is probably not the time to make a move that costs much. If some of the backups in the league come available (like Crawford, Schneider, etc) and the price is right, go for it. The more the merrier in goal. Generally, as this is the first year of the league, a bit of a wait and see approach to trading might be the best approach – unless of course a no-brainer is plopped on the table for you. 
 
Be on the lookout for shooters and goalscorers with some grit. This league places value on that in a player – guys like Clarkson (NJ) and to a lesser extent, Jones (Col) are the type of player that contribute well in this league for a good price.
 
Above all be patient, don’t sell off your good prospects before their time, let them mature. Short term acquisitions with limited upside, will seldom help you build a competitive team. Take your lumps if you have to – keep an eye on the big picture.
 
It really helps in a league like this to take the measure of your competitor’s management capacity and trading acumen, especially in the first few months of the league. Before guys get settled into what the league is all about, it can be very profitable to conclude some strategic trades. These trades will tend to be future oriented, going after prospects who won’t get to the show for a year or two. We can’t stress enough the value in the long term of having very solid if not spectacular roster players who have reasonable contracts.

 

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