Even though they’re starting the 2013-14 season with several players on the shelf, the Montreal Canadiens are actually poised to ice a stronger lineup on opening night Tuesday as a result.
That would be “stronger” in terms of ability and not size or sheer, brute strength. Enforcer George Parros is presumably still out with a shoulder injury, while defenseman Douglas Murray may be slowly eased back into the lineup after missing the Habs’ last preseason games.
As such, look for both defenseman Jarred Tinordi and forward Michael Bournival to possibly make their way into the lineup to start the season. It’s not guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination, but, while both were surprises to make the team out of training camp, they wouldn’t necessarily be to dress, given the team’s current injury situation.
In short, they’ve been given their respective opportunities with the Habs on two-way contracts. They may easily be sent down as a result, but they are nonetheless arguably superior to several current Canadiens with one-way deals.
In regard to Tinordi, both defensemen Alexei Emelin and Davis Drewiske are out for extended periods of time, which is in part the reason the Habs were able to keep him, at least to start the season. The question could very well boil down to a decision to go for size and experience on Tuesday in Murray (6’3”, 240 lbs) over the more mobile option in Tinordi (who’s still 6’6”, but less meaty at 227 pounds).
At first glance, the answer is a simple one. Murray was signed for a reason at $1.5 million, and if he’s healthy the Habs will go with him. However, Tinordi could still theoretically get into Tuesday’s opening-night lineup instead of one of the team’s other sixth defensemen, Raphael Diaz and Francis Bouillon.
Diaz is more of an offensive, puck-moving rearguard with holes in his defensive game. Bouillon can be considered his polar opposite (were it not for the fact that he’s older, slower than he once was and, somehow, still manages to get time on the power play).
With both Tinordi, projected to be a shutdown defenseman himself, and Bouillon most comfortable playing on the left side, it would likely mean that Tinordi and Diaz could realistically get the nod on Tuesday in such a scenario. P.K. Subban, Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov would obviously fill the remaining three spots in front of undisputed No. 1 goalie Carey Price.
Further up front, Bournival, who plays both center and left wing, gives head coach Michel Therrien further options. Bournival, of course, made the team by notably scoring four goals in six preseason games.
It’s unlikely to say the least that he'll keep up that scoring pace. After all, he did go scoreless in his last three games. And, all due respect to him, when Washington Capital Eric Fehr scores the same number of points as Detroit Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk, it’s either a sign of the coming apocalypse or that it’s the preseason when little is guaranteed to carry over into October.
Nevertheless, Bournival has some scoring ability, and, more importantly, based on the role he will be playing with the Habs, speed.
While the top three lines are presumably set (Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Daniel Briere; Rene Bourque, Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta; Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller and Brendan Gallagher), the only certainty on the fourth line is that Brandon Prust will be a near-permanent resident there (barring more injuries).
Assuming Parros is still recuperating his shoulder by the time Tuesday night rolls around, the spots will go to two of Travis Moen, Ryan White and Bournival. Since Tuesday’s game is against the physically imposing Toronto Maple Leafs, it stands to reason Therrien will go for size and toughness in the former two, Moen being 6’2”, 210 pounds and White being 6’0”, 201 pounds.
If the 5’11”, 196-pound Bournival does get into the lineup, it would most likely be at White’s expense. While Moen had a bad season last year and Bournival would arguably be an upgrade over him as well, White was consistently a healthy scratch last year, appearing in just 26 games due to his indiscipline…indiscipline, and, well, overall lack of playing ability.
In the end, whatever lineup the Habs end up icing on Tuesday will go a long way toward revealing which way management is leaning in regard to Tinordi and Bournival’s ultimate fates. If they dress on Tuesday against Toronto, it will be a sign that they aren’t viewed as mere insurance policies until the team is fully healthy once again. If they then succeed, all bets are off.
There’s every probability that they will end up with the Hamilton Bulldogs, but there’s every reason in theory to keep them. Already given the opportunity to stay with the Habs, they’ll have to show just why they belong in practice from here on out.