By Jordan Lambe, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine
As we approach the start of a new NHL season, there is much excitement about the makeup of the roster of the Montreal Canadiens. I will touch on that in this piece but my focus for the next few weeks will be on the prospects that are the future of the Canadiens organization. I invite your thoughts in the comments section below.
BAIE VERTE, NL — To begin my review of the current Habs’ prospects, I decided to highlight what is an organizational strength and that’s defense. It’s also where significant change occurred in the off-season. There is no doubt that the Canadiens will miss the services of Josh Gorges, who was a defensive anchor on the top-4. As it did with many Habs fans, the trade caught me by surprise as I am a huge Gorges fan. I feel his abilities on defense were grossly underrated and will be missed. Interesting fact: Gorges blocked more shots than some full time netminders in the NHL, namely Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.
After the shock of the trade settled in I started to think What now? Who is going to need to step up to fill the void? Is another trade for Gorges’ replacement in the works?
The trade came early specifically at the March trade deadline when Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin sent a 5th round pick to Florida for Mike Weaver. After 55 games with the Panthers, the rearguard played 17 regular season games with the Canadiens tallying seven points with a plus-9 ranking, and recording 34 blocked shots and 20 hits. Weaver also played in 17 playoff games with the Habs and was rewarded with a one-year contract during July’s free agency period.
Another player signed as an unrestricted free agent was Tom Gilbert, a defenseman who spent the 2013-’14 season with Florida (yes, another one.) Gilbert will also be in line to fill the void in the lineup left by Gorges but won’t be able to match Josh’s hardnosed play and shot blocking abilities. However, he will be an upgrade in the offensive department — Gilbert had 28 points in 73 games, averaging 21:30 of ice time for the Panthers last season.
So if Weaver and Gilbert aren’t going to fully fill a top-4 position, who else is there? The one name that I keep coming back to is Jarred Tinordi. While many are expecting him to be in a battle for the 6th or 7th slot, is it possible that his ceiling is higher?
Tinordi certainly has the size, six-foot-six, 227 pounds, and the temperament to be an intimidating force. Recall Tinordi destroying the Leafs Carter Ashton last season and later in the year take down the Sharks Raffi Torres. Tinordi doesn’t seem to back down from anyone, and we’ve all seen him lay some crushing hits at the AHL and NHL level. Tinordi is willing to step up for his teammates when required. With both Brendan Gallagher and P.K. Subban having the ability to stir the pot, Tinordi’s mean streak will be useful.
What surprised me last season was the decision to send Tinordi back to the Bulldogs after a six game stint. Although I felt he should have been given more of a chance at the time, at 21, a chance to play a larger role in Hamilton seemed to have helped in his second call up. In February he managed to stick for 16 games and averaged about 15:20 per game.
Tinordi’s defensive awareness, mean demeanor and ability to hit the opponent hard and often is where his value lies. That said, he tallied nine points in 47 AHL games on a weak Hamilton team last season. He is an excellent skater with a potent shot but at this point the offensive side of his game is underdeveloped.
Given the pace that young players are worked into the Canadiens lineup on a regular basis, it is probably optimistic to see Tinordi ascending to such an important role in the lineup so quickly, but what do I see for his future?
In terms of projecting Tinordi’s career, it is a little difficult to do. Some analysts have compared him to Robyn Regehr and Hal Gill. I have another player in mind as certain aspects of Tinordi’s game are similar to the Panther’s Erik Gudbranson. While both players were taken in the same draft year, 2010, Gudbranson was taken third overall just behind Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin with the Canadiens selecting Tinordi with the 22nd pick.
As such Gudbranson has played the better part of three seasons and plays against the opposition’s top players for 18-20 minutes a game. The two players are similarly-sized with Gudbranson also having a mean streak and playing a strong defensive game. One might expect Gudbranson to make a larger offensive contribution but only managed nine points in 65 games last season.
I expect Tinordi to start with the Habs this year. Let’s hope that he is given every opportunity to play, at least. bottom pairing minutes while gaining experience on the penalty kill. Fast forwarding to the prime of Tinordi’s career, I can see him being a 10-15 point player, be among the top of the league in hits, be a very solid contributor to the first penalty kill unit, and be a feared opponent when the bell rings.
[…] the same draft year as other notable NHLers like Tyler Seguin, Tyler Toffoli, and fellow Canadien, Jarred Tinordi, it’s safe to say that Gallagher came from a good draft year. But what Gallagher has […]