Friday, July 22, 2011
A Day as Pierre Gauthier: Let the Kids Play
"YOU'VE GOT MAIL," rings my computer.
"Oh, look at this, it's from Commissioner Bettman," I, Pierre Gauthier, announce to no one in particular. I open the e-mail and carefully read its contents to be sure I understand everything correctly.
"May the Rich Get Richer - A Battle of Youth" was the title. Bettman's memo had gone out to General Managers league-wide announcing a pre-training camp tournament to be debuted this season. The rules:
- Every NHL team must ice a full roster of players under 25 years old at the tournament's start (September 1, 2011).
- Teams will include 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, 2 goaltenders, and up to 3 reservists.
- Players don't have to be under an NHL contract, but their team must own their NHL rights as of September 1st.
- Teams will compete against one another, beginning with divisional, then conference, then playoff play over a 15 day span.
- In the end, the team that wins the tournament will receive an additional draft pick at the end of the 2012 first round - 31st overall.
Wow! It's not often that you have such a chance to earn an extra asset. Quickly, I must pull up our organizational depth chart and see what we can do....
Plekanec? Darn too old. Kostitsyn? No? Seriously? I know, what about Jaroslav Spacek?! Whaaaat? That guy has been in the league for HOW long?!
How about our two new YOUNG defensemen Alexei Yemelin and Rafael Diaz? You're kidding me... BOTH ineligible?! This might be harder than anticipated.
Well, I guess I can start with some easier includes. The three young pillars of our franchise at the three positions: Carey Price in goal, P.K. Subban on the blueline, and Max Pacioretty up front. And what do you know, having a pair of somewhat superfluous young offensive centers in the organization finally pays off! David Desharnais and Lars Eller can play on the top 2 lines.
After a brief chat with my staff, we settled on a preliminary list looking something like this:
MONTREAL CANADIENS, UNDER 25 EDITION
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Aaron Palushaj
Brock Trotter - Lars Eller - Brendan Gallagher
Ryan White - Michael Bournival - Louis Leblanc
Danny Kristo - Andreas Engqvist - Michael Blunden
Jarred Tinordi - P.K. Subban
Brendon Nash - Yannick Weber
Nathan Beaulieu - Mark Mitera
Ok! I like it! A chance to see all of our good young players together and where they're at in their development. We've got some size, some physicality, an alright top 4, and the best young goalie in the game! Let's pick a couple of spares, like Mac Bennett on defense, and Gabriel Dumont and Olivier Fortier up front, and we've got a team! We can't lose. That first round pick is ours.
But... you know... just for fun... let's see how some of our rival clubs might look. Hmmm...
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS, UNDER 25 EDITION
Evgeni Malkin - Sidney Crosby - James Neal
Eric Tangradi - Jordan Staal - Beau Bennett
Ken Agostino - Dustin Jeffrey - Casey Pierro-Zabotel
Paul Thompson - Keven Veilleux - Brian Gibbons
Kris Letang - Matt Niskanen
Simon Despres - Carl Sneep
Brian Strait - Joe Morrow
*GULP* That's a heck of a team... Wow. Well, ok, maybe they'll be upset early on and we won't have to face them. At least they've got no goalie. I mean Jacques could use White - Engqvist - Blunden as a shutdown line, but still how are we going to get past that top defense pairing... But anyway, I mean the tournament starts with divisional play, right? So we must be the best in the North-East! Let's just check to be sure...
BOSTON BRUINS, UNDER 25 EDITION
Brad Marchand - Tyler Seguin - Jordan Caron
Milan Lucic - Zach Hamill - Benoit Pouliot
Craig Cunningham - Maxime Sauve - Jarred Knight
Lane MacDermid - Alexander Khokhlachev - Stefan Chaput
Steven Kampfer - Adam McQuaid
Matt Bartkowski - Doug Hamilton
David Warsofsky - Yuri Alexandrov
Hmm these guys look pretty good too. And they even have a goalie. Butttt at least the division will be just a battle of two teams. I mean we can take the Bruins... thankfully there's no other quality opposition around, right?
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS, UNDER 25 EDITION
Matt Frattin - Nazem Kadri - Phil Kessel
Luca Caputi - Joe Colbourne - Jerry D'Amigo
Greg McKegg - Marcel Mueller - Brad Ross
Tyler Biggs - Sondre Olden - Tyler Brenner
Luke Schenn - Keith Aulie
Carl Gunnarsson - Cody Franson
Matt Lashoff - Jake Gardiner
BUFFALO SABRES, UNDER 25 EDITION
Tyler Ennis - Luke Adam - Nathan Gerbe
Marcus Foligno - Kevin Sundher - Zack Kassian
Corey Tropp - Steven Shipley - Joel Armia
Philippe Gogulla - Daniel Catenacci - Justin Jokinen
Tyler Myers - Marc-Andre Gragnani
Mike Weber - T.J. Brennan
Drew Schiestel - Mark Prysyk
Myers... Schenn... Gragnani... Aulie... hrmm. Ok, fine, I give in. We've got a tough road ahead of us. But surely this just means the East is far ahead of the West, right? Let's say we make it out of the Conference. What kind of challenge might we have ahead of ourselves?
EDMONTON OILERS, UNDER 25 EDITION
Magnus Paajarvi - Sam Gagner - Taylor Hall
Linus Omark - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Curtis Hamilton - Gilbert Brule - Ryan O'Marra
Anton Lander - Tyler Pitlick - Teemu Hartikainen
Theo Peckham - Colten Tebuert
Martin Marincin - Oscar Klefbom
Jeff Petry - David Musil
Geez. Talk about stacked. No wonder Gary called this the "Rich Get Richer" tournament. How can the Oilers NOT walk away with a free first round pick?!
How? I know how. I guess the whole point of this event will be to show Habs fans the truth they all secretly know. As deep and reasonable of an organization as we have, at the end of the day, this year and for the foreseeable future, our team's success is dependent on one CAREY PRICE, perhaps the best young goaltender in the game. I will do what I can to build around him, but it is only because of him, and with him being on his best game, that we have a chance to win every night in this league. Because everywhere else, someone's got us beat. But I believe in Carey Price.
In all seriousness, wouldn't that be a fun tournament to watch? Come on NHL, get on it!