The many trades GM Lennart Westman has made in Montreal seem to be a never-ending topic for conversations among hockey experts.
Recently the conversation was about the fact that only backup keeper Anders Nilsson is the only player left since what has been called the ”original roster”, meaning the roster as it looked after the Dispersal Draft.
So lets have a look at that ”original roster”, that the new GM had no influence over and break the changes down, looking at forwards, defenders and netminders stat by stat.
The MTL line up after the Dispersal Draft was:
Malkin – Aho – Armia / Petry – Leddy Benn – Hughes – Donskoi / Murphy – Dunn Larsson – Okposo – Cousins / Pysyk – Johns Wennberg – Sikura – Hayes
Price / Nilsson
In the most recent game against the Los Angeles Kings (11 forwards and 7 defensemen), the line up was:
Eichel – Landeskog – Spezza / Goligovski – Severson Henrique – Kapanen – Rantanen / Hanifin – Braun Spezza – Ennis – Carpenter / Hagg – van Riemsdyk Lemieux – Ritchie / Simek
Vasilevskiy / Nilsson
Without a doubt the roster after the Dispersal Draft had some great players. Some thought the team had qualities to be a contender as it was, but the new management still started making changes right away.
One of the first trades saw Joel Armia moving to Carolina in a package including the CAR 1st coming to MTL. That made it possible for GM Lennart Westman to put together an offer to acquire Vasilevskiy from Detroit.
The trade so far for sure qualifies as one of the most important/game changing trades made this season as Vasi as we speak has the highest save percentage and lowest GAA in the entire league.
"Our strategy with trading has been clear to us from day 1," said Westman. "We want players with a distinct profile, being great in one strategic areas, not players that are decent in many areas. As we looked at the table we sat down at we decided to make some changes, to get some more physical but still disciplined forwards and try to improve puck handling, play making and scoring.
"We wanted to improve the defensive awareness with the defenders. We had Petry, but wanted to find a younger player still able to quarterback a power play. And we moved on, trying to make small improvements in every step rather than necessarily trying to find the ultimate player(s) in one deal.
"Some trades are even made with the only purpose to acquire an asset needed in another trade or simply make room for another player coming in in a later move."
So let’s have a look at the changes from then to today, stat by stat:
Forwards: CK +9, FG +4, DI -1, SK +/-0, ST +2, EN +/-0, DU +/-0, PH +1, FO +5, PA +1, SC +1, DF -1, PS -4, EX +3, LD +3, PO -2.
Defenders: CK -5, FG +4, DI +2, SK +1, ST -3, EN -1, DU +5, PH +/-0, PA +2, SC -1, DF +4, EX -2, LD -1, PO +3.
Netminder (Vasilevskiy): SK +6, DU +/-0, EN +5, SZ +/-0, AG +14, RB +4, SC +2, HS +1, RT +1, PH +5, PS +/-0, EX -20, LD -20, PO +20.
To sum it up:
More physical forwards, better at every important offensive stat – and even more so if you look at the top nine as opposed to all twelve. Potential dropped two units as the average age went from 27.5 to 28.4.
With the formula used calculating PK/PP success in the previous articles we improved the average with five on PK and eight on PP. The defenders PK average increased 0.7 and dropped 1.3 on PP. The latest trade, sending Theodore away, had great impact on this, but Westman tells us it was a conscious choice to move the offensive skill up to a forward (Kapanen) instead.
The blue line also got younger and the age average on the entire team is exactly the same as after the dispersal. Of course this improvement has not been cheap, not in any aspect – salary or price paid. Picks and talents have moved and players like Heinola, Woo, Bjornfot, Hoglander and Primeau are gone as well as prospects Podkolzin et al.
"Philosophy is that the purpose of picks and prospects is to improve your pro team, and you may call me cynical but that is exactly what they have done - by moving, as important assets in trades," says Westman. "I still claim that we have plenty of exciting talent developing in the farm as well as on the prospect list.
"Tage Thompnson, Alexandre Fortin, Austin Wagner, Cole Kehler and a few more are having a great season and could very well get time in pro next year. Behind them we follow Costmar, Constantini, Villeneuve and others with great interest”.
Westman also comments on the black and white picture drawn by some sorting teams out as either being in a ”win now-mode” or rebuilding.
"I see no reason to be in any other mode than trying to be a contender every single year. We risk losing three players next year, two in two years and three players in three years. I am not worried at all that we have players in the organisation ready to fill those possible gaps if necessary. If we feel we need to make more moves to solve the situation I still think we have the assets available to accomplish that too.
"I would be more worried was I forced to to make room for a number of young talents that wont be farm eligible next year without really having a spot on the pro roster. Or having the farm team so full that I wouldn’t be able to develop guys on the prospect list."