The last blog I wrote centered around looking at the Habs as solely an entertainment entity in light of the Logan Mailloux pick. I argued that professional sports are not meant to be a moral compass for society and that parents should never rely on athletes or teams to set ethical parameters. Quite the contrary, parents should make morals such a focus for their children that they never have never have to seek values from sports teams or other social media influencers.
Is it time now for parents not to let their son be drafted by the Habs in the first round? Jesperi Kotkaniemi joins the long list of high draft picks who the Habs have underdeveloped or abandoned.
Marc Bergevin became the GM of the Habs on May 2, 2012 and had the 3rd overall pick. He used it on Alex Galchenyuk, a centre and excellent prospect. Rather than let him develop in Junior or in the AHL, get some confidence, and learn the nuances of playing centre, they rushed Galchenyuk, ruined his confidence, treated him like a yo-yo between wing and centre and ultimately got rid of him. Granted, Bergevin was not GM for the 2009-2011 drafts, but he inherited 1st round picks Louis Leblanc, Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu respectively. He did oversee their development and none of them lived up to the first round hype. Bergevin’s next 5 drafts did not go any better.
The 2013 - 2017 drafts went like this in the first round: Michael McCarron, Nikita Scherbak, Noah Juulsen, Mikhail Sergachev, and Ryan Poehling respectively. KK was taken #3 in 2018 followed by Cole Caufield, Kaiden Guhl, and Logan Mailloux in the 2019-2021 drafts. Will Caulfield, Guhl and Mailloux get the time needed to develop properly? Don’t count on it.
Two years ago I wrote a blog entitled “The Curse of Vincent Damphousse.” I argued that the loss of Damphousse, not Patrick Roy, was the biggest regret since the 1993 Cup. The Habs have been trying to replace Damphousse since 1997 and the process has been painful. With so much pressure to get a #1 centre, Bergevin drafted Kotkaniemi #3, 8 spots ahead of where the experts had him slotted. He was the highest centre in the draft and at the time it was seen as a calculated leap. I argue that had Kotkaniemi been drafted by most other teams, he would be a solid 2-way centre in the next 2 years.
The problem for KK is that he got drafted by the most impatient franchise in the NHL and is now a Carolina Hurricane because of it.
There are things in life that, despite all of the technological advances we have, cannot be forced or hurried up. You need to crawl before you walk; relationships need years to develop and take longer to maintain. Reading is hard, math is hard, parenting is hard, marriage is hard, and puberty is just painful and awkward - but if there is a foundation built, there is a major possibility of success. The Law of Diminishing returns in agriculture is further proof that nature can only be sped-up so much. Add all the fertilizer you want, your crops can only absorb so many nutrients and you as a farmer are still at the mercy of mitigating factors like heat, drought, rain, bugs, disease, and natural disasters (like hurricanes!). Every growing season is different and what works with one crop may not work with another. Farmers know damn well that by Fall, if they are patient and supportive, their crops will grow. The Habs need farmers to run the farm in Laval.
Too much was expected of Kotkaniemi in too short of a time. Benching him in the playoffs at the start and at the end was not only absurd, but down right negligent. I’m not sure how you expect the kid to grow properly if you keep changing the growing conditions around him? Change the wingers all you want, he is still behind developmentally. You drafted him as a centre but then banished him to the wing when he couldn't win draws? How does one get better at something by not doing it?
I’m tired of hearing about the $6,100,015 and the $20 signing bonus. I’m tired of the debate whether Carolina used the offer sheet as revenge. I’m tired of GMs pretending to be insulted if someone uses an offer sheet to poach a player. Why do the offer sheets exist in the first place if they are so evil?
Habs fans lost twice on Saturday when Bergevin let Kotkaniemi go. We lost a solid prospect with a ton of upside that, had he been planted and watered under more patient conditions, could have been a great #2 behind Suzuki. Habs fans also lost because the compensation for Kotkaniemi is a 1st and 3rd round pick in next year’s draft. What on God’s green earth, farmland or otherwise, makes you confident that the Habs will cultivate any worthwhile prospects going forward with these picks?
This is not a revenge story; this is a farm story. At what point does the farm owner, Geoff Molson, start separating the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the player development team?
Until then, the Habs remain a cute little hobby farm trying to survive in an agricultural landscape that rewards patience and toil, not quick fixes and premature harvests.