The dust has settled from the Montreal Canadiens’ most recent NHL Entry Draft, held online due to concerns over the coronavirus. A familiar criticism has re-emerged over the Habs’ recent choices, largely over cultural geography.
While the Canadiens’ assistant general manager Trevor Timmins tried to douse the flames by being transparent, he might have been a bit too honest.
He joined Tony Marinaro on TSN 690’s The Montreal Forum show Thursday morning. The biggest topic of conversation that stood out from the interview was the team’s views on drafting Quebecois and Quebec-based talent. Timmins did not hold back.
Réponse fort émotive de Trevor Timmins au micro de @TonyMarinaro, ce matin, au sujet des joueurs québécois, et de la #LHJMQ.— Guillaume Lepage (@GLepageLNH) October 8, 2020
Il revient sur S. Girard et N. Roy tout en affirmant que l'équipe a tenté de s'avancer en fin de 1ere ronde, mardi. Réponse intégrale #Habs pic.twitter.com/lCXEPn147I
Montreal has drawn criticism for not always taking the best talents the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has to offer. The Habs selected zero QMJHL players in this week’s draft, and they’ve only taken four players from the development league since 2014. None of those players were taken from the first four rounds of the draft.
It was refreshing to hear Timmins be open about his own disappointment over not picking players from the Q, but he also can’t be faulted for his comments on liking players no matter where they come from. If a squad made up of mostly American players is the recipe for the next Canadiens Stanley Cup championship, whenever that happens, the team’s ultimate mission will have been accomplished.
Timmins starts to look a little shaky when he discusses his wife’s last name being Poirier, further implying he has nothing against Quebecois/Francophones. It was an unnecessary point to make.
But his most surprising moment came when he discussed specific Quebecois draft picks the team passed, or missed, on. Samuel Girard, Nicolas Roy, and Anthony Beauvillier to be specific were mentioned alongside Canadiens prospects Lukas Vejdemo and Noah Juulsen.
To follow it up by suggesting that if he could redo those drafts, he’d possibly think a little differently comes across as a knock on his own work and a bit of a swipe at those two players. Even if it isn’t his intention and later said he didn’t want to start “downplaying” them, it still reads as if he did.
Better yet, Timmins should have perhaps continued along his initial premise that the team likes players regardless of where they come from. He could still make his point that the team does not have a negative view of the QMJHL and still maintain they look to draft the best players available to them.
No one will dispute that the Canadiens could use either Beauvillier or Girard, two established NHL players, on the team right now. Roy is jumping back and forth between the minors and big league. Juulsen and Vejdemo still have some time to make an impact in the Canadiens organization and it might be a bit premature to say they are lost causes or mistakes.
Timmins didn’t go that far in evaluating Juulsen or Vejdemo, but it begs the question why he and his staff didn’t pull the trigger on selecting Beauvillier and Roy, or even trade up to get Girard (or not trade away a pick that could have landed him). It could bring unnecessary speculation and more criticism onto him.
The Canadiens make the picks they made because they feel they know what’s right. If some of those players are still in their system, in most cases it’s because the team feels there’s still some work that can be done with them. Timmins wouldn’t have been in the wrong if he discussed players he missed on and compared them to players who had left the franchise for various reasons.
Also, who is to say that Beauvillier and Girard would have also panned out if they were taken by the Habs? It’s on the player to develop to a certain extent, of course, but the Habs are only now seeing an improvement in their development resources at the American Hockey League level with Joël Bouchard in charge instead of Sylvain Lefebvre. Hindsight is 20/20 and there’s no guarantee those players would have had the same success they have now in the Habs’ system.
Timmins’s attempt at being transparent about the process, while informative for media and fans on the surface, simply invites more scrutiny into his past record, mostly because he suggested he’s second-guessing himself.