Pierre McGuire is a fairly polarizing figure in hockey media. While he undoubtedly has experience as an NHL scout and coach, as well as some inside connections, he's prone to hyperbolic statements about whatever team he happens to be covering at the time, and never owning up when he's caught dead wrong. In fact, usually when McGuire's hyperbolic narratives are shown to be wrong, he claims he said the exact opposite at some point or another and was right all along. The best part is, he's probably not lying, because he changes his entire outlook on hockey depending entirely on who he's talking to.
While Pierre certainly has his fans, and I'm not one of them, I do sometimes enjoy listening to him on The Team990's 'Melnick in the Afternoon', as at times he can be very insightful about the game. However after listening to his borderline tirade the day after the Canadiens were eliminated from the playoffs this year, I think it's high time to take him down a notch. The clip is here; the one from April 28th if you fancy listening to it for context.
It's been fairly obvious for the better part of the last decade that Pierre McGuire is quite bitter about his services never being requested by the Montreal Canadiens organization, this vitriol becoming even more clear when the man who fired him in Ottawa was named general manager of the Habs last year. This inherent lack of professionalism in his commentary is further worsened by the fact that he's a huge Habs fan, and isn't able separate that from his commentary.
McGuire's core criticism of Canadiens management and the team itself is that they were behind on his personal model for success, what he calls a "7 player profile". Interesting side note, Pierre McGuire has never managed an NHL team, so his experience in this area is basically that of a fan, not an experienced manager who's had success previously. McGuire outline's how the Habs fit and don't fit his model as follows:
Franchise goaltender: Carey Price. Pass
Elite puck moving defenseman: P.K. Subban. Pass
Big stopping defensemen (what? I assume he means elite defensive defenseman): He cites Markov, but says basically the Habs won't get that from Markov again so there's a hole there.
Questionable? McGuire says: Fail
Two elite centers: Pierre claims that Montreal has zero elite centers, yet cites Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp (a natural RW) as elites. Now I don't consider any center on the Canadiens elite, but I don't think anyone in the world considers Dave Bolland to be a better NHL player than Tomas Plekanec. Maybe Dave Bolland's mom, and I think Sharp and Plekanec are very similar players. So if they count, Plekanec counts. Yet Pierre says: Fail x2
Power forward: McGuire states boldly that Montreal does not have a power forward anywhere in the organization. I guess he forgot that we have a budding one, he just had his neck broken in March is all. McGuire says Fail
Specialist (what? I've never heard this term pertaining to hockey before): Pierre says Gionta and Plekanec are both in this made up category that no one has ever heard of before. Pass
So overall Pierre McGuire gives the Canadiens a 3/7 mark on his incredibly simplified recipe for success in the NHL. Personally, looking over this list I don't think McGuire cares about the truth at all, he just wants to bash Gauthier. Looking at the Canadiens roster, excluding upcoming UFAs for the purposes of only looking at guaranteed players for next year, I would rank the Habs much differently, I'll look only at those spots where Pierre has given a failing grade:
Elite defensive defenseman: I'm assuming this is what McGuire actually meant, because if he meant what he literally said then the Habs had that this year in Gill. Hal is great but I wouldn't call him elite because of his limitations at even strength. Josh Gorges however, is easily an elite defensive defenseman. He's one of the best penalty killers in the NHL, has above average skating, plays above his size and occasionally chips in offensively. Pass
Two elite centers: By Mcguire's criteria, Plekanec fits here. He's an ideal #2 center of course, but here is where Pierre is correct, the Habs need more depth at center. Luckily Lars Eller was acquired in the trade for Jaroslav Halak last year that McGuire hated so much, and as evidenced by his play in the playoffs he could very well be a couple seasons from achieving this goal. 1 Pass, 1 Fail
Power forward: I'm not sure what Pierre was smoking on April 28th to forget Max Pacioretty, but this is perhaps the player I'm most excited to see don the CH next season. The characteristics that define a power forward are speed, strength, physicality, no fear and scoring ability. Max showed all of this last year, and at just 21 he's only going to get better. Ideally a power forward should contribute 30 goals and 50 points at the least, both marks Pacioretty was on pace for had he played all of the 2010-11 season. Pass
So it seems Montreal is only in need of an elite #1 center by McGuire's own criteria, something they've been looking for since Damphousse was ousted. This need ended up leading to the worst move of Bob Gainey's tenure as GM, acquiring Scott Gomez for a package including Ryan McDonagh, the only real loss of the trade, but a big one.
Even without a true #1 center however, depth at that position in the Canadiens organization is stronger than it has been in a long time. Plekanec, Gomez, Eller and David Desharnais are possibly good enough as a group to overcome the lack of a true #1, especially if Gomez has a bounce back year.
Surprisingly enough though, McGuire doesn't stop there in his rant, further offering Pierre Gauthier some advice on what to do with Scott Gomez:
"I'd try to trade him. I'd try to trade him. I'd try to package him with a draft pick and try to trade him."
"You've got to, you've got to find a way to package him and move him. I don't see how you can have him back and start the season in Montreal with him on your team with the money he's making. I just don't know how you can do it."
Yet another brilliant idea by the
experienced NHL general manager r abid fan bombastic commentator. Much like many fans wanted to do with Carey Price last season, McGuire is suggesting the Canadiens deal Gomez at the absolute lowest his value will ever be. At this moment he's coming off the worst year of his career, and still making more money than his cap hit, automatically ruling out most teams in the NHL as potential trade partners. From a guy who's been whining about maximizing potential return on Halak for the last 10 months, he doesn't seem to be very consistent here. Not to mention he's suggesting the Canadiens lose an asset in a high round pick in order to jettison Gomez, and you're still left with a gaping hole on your second line.
After Melnick suggests the Canadiens need to get younger on defense, McGuire accuses the management of the Canadiens of cruising along using band-aid solutions. I suppose that's why the entire team was blown up 2 years ago.
Pierre then continues on, going through the Eastern Conference claiming that various teams are primed to get better, while insinuating that Montreal is not on that track. McGuire then goes on to make the same prediction he made last season, that if the Canadiens don't make big moves they'll miss the playoffs next season, again slandering Canadiens management saying he doesn't know if they'll be honest with the fans, and oddly enough predicting another Gomez-like trade. As he continues he claims that Canadiens management is so smug that they don't understand their own weaknesses.
Detailing why McGuire doesn't think the Canadiens will make the playoffs next year, it seems to come down to a lack of young "difference makers" in their top prospects group, citing players like John Tavares and Jeff Skinner, specifically who will make the team next year. Well Pierre, last time I checked the Canadiens have made the playoffs 4 years straight, so they haven't exactly had top 10 picks in the draft like Tavares (#1) or Skinner (#7). Yet despite this lack of high end picks the Canadiens still have a sparkling group from the 2007 draft class on the team next season in Subban, Eller, Pacioretty and Yannick Weber. Last I checked you don't need a high impact rookie coming onto the team every season to make a difference, you need young players to step up, and the Canadiens have that in spades.
When McGuire asks Melnick who will be a difference maker for the Habs, Mitch states that "We see who their prospects are, their prospects are pretty much 3rd and 4th line guys", to which McGuire responds; "Correct".
Really? That's odd because the next day Pierre went off about how great Chris Kreider is, and how he "ripped up and shredded college hockey the last two years." For those who don't know who Kreider is, he's an American center for Boston College who the Rangers took one spot after Louis Leblanc in 2009. Here are his stats:
I wasn't aware that 47 points in 70 games was ripping up and shredding a league. Now I don't want to diminish Chris Kreider, he's an excellent hockey player and he'll be good for the Rangers, but he's not Sidney Crosby. Still though, it's too bad our inept management passed him over for that 3rd or 4th liner Louis Leblanc, right? Let's look at his stats:
Hm, for a 3rd or 4th liner who'll never make an impact like Chris Kreider will, it's kind of weird that Leblanc was able to put up the same 23 points as a rookie in the NCAA while playing 7 fewer games, struggling with a broken wrist for half the season, and playing on a far inferior team. Damn, what a mistake by Gainey and Gauthier!
In that same audio clip (April 29th now) McGuire also went on about how great the recently swept Washington Capitals would be with the young Dmitri Orlov possibly making the team next season. I've seen Orlov play, he's very good, and he played well in his 25 games with Hershey this season (including playoffs), but the comparison McGuire makes is so hyperbolic you have to question his sanity. He says Orlov will be the next Sergei Zubov, and to "trust me on that". I'm sorry Mr. McGuire, but I don't think I'll trust you that the 20th defensemen taken in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft will be an equal to perhaps the greatest Russian defenseman of all time. I especially won't "trust you on that" before Orlov plays a single minute in the NHL. Sergei Zubov recorded 771 points in 1068 NHL games, and another 117 points in 164 playoff games. This is a potential Hall of Famer we're talking about.
He also claims that Orlov is better than any prospect the Canadiens have, but that all depends on what you consider a prospect. Hockey's Future doesn't rate Orlov in it's top 40 prospects around the league, and on his player page they have him ranked as a 7.0 C, a good prospect that could be very good, but not great. According to Hockey's Future Montreal currently has 4 prospects who project to be as good or better players than Orlov; Danny Kristo, Louis Leblanc, Jarred Tinordi, and Yannick Weber. Combine this with the fact that in the last calendar year Montreal has graduated Lars Eller, Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Benoit Pouliot, Tom Pyatt and David Desharnais, it's amazing we're still ranked in the middle of the pack as far as prospect depth goes.
In reality; the real one, not Pierre McGuire's delusional version, the Canadiens actually have very solid prospect depth. In fact they would likely rank a bit higher if Hockey's Future didn't criminally underrate the recently acquired Michael Bournival. In many ways Michael Bournival actually outplayed Louis Leblanc this season, and he's a year younger. However Leblanc being further developed and having a higher profile will lead to him getting the top billing among Habs prospects. Look for Bournival to increase his profile in a big way next year for Canada's World Junior team, he was the final cut this year.
With the likely departures of Roman Hamrlik and Jeff Halpern this summer, and Spacek the year after that, this team is getting younger every year, contrary to the opinion of McGuire and many so-called pundits out there, who make snap judgments based on recent events, and don't ever bother to look at issues in-depth.
-Statistics via The Internet Hockey Database