The NHL season is underway and there have been plenty of surprises thus far. This has sparked plenty of NHL rumours, adding to the excitement of the early-season. As long as NHL rumours remain around, Last Word on Hockey will look to keep fans up to date. Today, we’ll cover rumours surrounding the Montreal Canadiens, Mike Babcock, and the Edmonton Oilers.
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin is taking in #Blackhawks-Stars tonight.
He’s been spotted a few times in Rockford this season also.
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) November 27, 2019
Analysis: It seems Bergevin might be tired of his team struggling. He spent all summer rounding out the Montreal lineup, turning them into playoff-guarantees prior to the season’s start. They haven’t won a game in 15 days, collecting a record of 0-4-2 in that span. This includes an 8-1 loss to their Atlantic Division rival Boston Bruins. The Canadiens have truly struggled, topped with Carey Price looking completely out of character.
While the Canadiens don’t boast a weak lineup by any means, a spark is clearly needed. This could be accomplished through a trade, something Bergevin seems to be leaning towards. The only question from there is, who would Bergevin want from Chicago and/or their AHL affiliate?
Chicago has been struggling even more than their Montreal counterparts. They clearly aren’t in any position to compete in the NHL, making a rebuild seem imminent. Montreal could help the admittedly awful Hawks GM, Stan Bowman, spark this rebuild and, in the process, also spark his own lineup. While there is plenty of NHL talent available, the Hawks true bright spot is their goaltending.
They hold onto one of the best goaltending duos in the Western Conference, with Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner both exceeding expectations this year. In their AHL system, they have a trio of solid talent. Collin Delia impressed in the NHL last year. He was expected to dominate in the minors this season but has struggled to start. In his place, Kevin Lankinen has shined. As has Matt Tomkins. While none of the three are immediately ready for NHL backup duties, they would provide youth and reliability to the Canadiens depth charts, alongside the very promising Cayden Primeau.
Rumour: In their latest ‘Quiz’ segment, the TSN crew discussed when Mike Babcock is likely to return to the NHL. Carlo Colaiacovo and Jeff O’Neil agreed that the 2021-22 season will see Babcock’s return but Bob McKenzie noted that next year is more likely.
Analysis: Babcock’s rapid fall from glory has left many wondering if he’ll return to the NHL at all. Considering his track record, though, there’s no doubting a desperate team will at least reach out. This is the case that McKenzie envisioned, at least. He notes that ‘Babs’ has a clean 700 wins to his name since he appeared as a head coach in 2002-03. He’s served as some team’s head coach in every year since then, only missing the playoffs twice in that span.
That is impressive, to say the least. Babcock is undeniably among the discussion for best coach of all time, alongside historical names like Scotty Bowman and Joel Quenneville. While some may claim that Babcock’s numbers are heightened thanks to the elite talents he’s often coached, he’s still an elite name. McKenzie may be right in his claim because of this. Babcock would be a perfect name to reface the image, and personnel, of a struggling club. He’ll likely follow Quenneville’s steps in taking time to himself before enthusiastically joining a new team next season.
If he’s available by the 2021-22 season, though, he could find perfect refuge with the NHL team that’s set to come to Seattle. This was Colaiacovo’s theory and rightfully so; a franchise name like Babcock would be a statement pickup for the new team. If Seattle passes him up, the added time would give other teams plenty of chance to thoroughly consider a Babcock-addition, something that O’Neil pondered.
No matter what, all three agreed that the legendary Mike Babcock wasn’t done yet.
Analysis: Edmonton has surprised many to start the year but there still a few steps away from contention. Mike Smith helped add stability to the goaltending role but the team’s defence remains dicey and their offence lacks scoring.
Of the two, the latter issue is much more concerning. The Oilers are beyond top-heavy right now. They boast arguably the two best players in the NHL, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who have accounted for roughly 40 percent of the team’s 86 goals-for. Adding James Neal to that equation brings that up to 56 percent. Over half of the team’s goals have been scored by only three players. That’s staggering. Adding additional firepower to this lineup could go a very long way. Both Kreider and Gusev would add significant goal-scoring ability to the team’s top-six wings. Gusev could also bump down to the third-line and fill the much-needed third-line centre role that Edmonton has sought after for years.
With Smith standing tall in net and McDavid and Draisaitl pursuing historical seasons, the Oilers seem to have nothing to lose this year. It’s time for them to bank on their starpower and go all-in. Luckily, Gusev’s slow start to the year and Kreider’s long tenure on the trade block could make either player relatively cheap.