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The Montreal Canadiens are still in a youth movement

After waiving three players in our Top 25 Under 25, the team is still focused on the future

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

When the Montreal Canadiens sent down Michael McCarron, Hunter Shinkaruk, Brett Lernout and Rinat Valiev, you could think that the team was ignoring Marc Bergevin’s stated goals of getting younger.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Youth on its own is not something that gets you an NHL job. McCarron said on Thursday that he took his spot for granted last year. Lernout is not better than Noah Juulsen, or Victor Mete, or Mike Reilly, or Xavier Ouellet. Contrary to many fans beliefs, he’s not even better than Jordie Benn or David Schlemko.

Heck, Lernout might not even be better than Valiev.

At a certain point, the players need to show something to earn their spot. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is doing that. So have Mete, Juulsen, and Ouellet. They are staying with the big club not because they are simply young but because they have shown they belong.

McCarron and Lernout among the others waived need to earn a trip back to the NHL in their time with the Laval Rocket. They need to show signs of improvement. The fact of the matter is, not only are they being passed by players their age, they are also getting more competition from new players in the organization.

In reality, the two of them may do well to stay a full year in the American Hockey League as opposed to being yo-yo’d up and down several times a season. Sometimes, stability is the most important thing.

This year will be a true litmus test to see whether coaching was the issue in Laval. Sure, it could take time to change the mindset, and people shouldn’t expect miracles overnight. But when it comes to - yes I’m going to say it - attitude, a change can happen.

McCarron did the right things in the off-season. He worked on his skating. He said the right things after being sent down as well. Now it’s time for actions. He needs to get back to the player he was two years ago when he earned his first promotion to the NHL. He has yet to play a full AHL season, and maybe a boost of confidence is just what he needs to take the next step.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking that the Canadiens are ignoring youth for veterans who are not as big of a part of the future. The NHL does not work that way. At a certain point, you need to earn your spot - even as a prospect on a rebuilding team. Regardless of whether a team is re-tooling, rebuilding, or any other construction term, the goal of the head coach and the 23 players on the roster is to win.

Internal competition is a real thing, and if you don’t come ready to compete you will simply fall behind.

If McCarron and Lernout and Valiev and Shinkaruk want to be in the NHL, they need to earn it. And the same goes for any player in the organization. Just because you’re a first-round pick doesn’t mean the team won't risk losing you for nothing or you get a roster spot by default. Not anymore.