The Habs’ minor league recipe for major league success

By Chris Boucher
Many people in hockey, and by extension the entire sports world feel that winning is a learned ability. Of course it is first and foremost the product of talent, but it also comes from confidence, and leadership. The two latter characteristics are normally acquired through experience, and can therefore be thought of as part of this learning “curve”.

The Québec Citadelles’ recent success can only help the Montréal Canadiens long-term. This is a franchise with the highest percentage of Montréal owned talent since the team’s inception.

Only 51% of the 1999-2000 Citadelles roster (the first year of its renewal) contained players with direct ties, or contracts with the Canadiens organization. This team finished the season with a 37-38-5 record, and 83 points. It was then eliminated in 3 straight games during the first round of the AHL playoffs.

The percentage increased to 74 % last year. This team finished with a 41-36-3 record, and 89 points. It went on to enjoy some success during the playoffs, but ultimately lost to the eventual Calder Cup champion St. John Flames.

The current team has increased this percentage to an impressive 85%. Twenty-two of the 26 players to dress for the Citadelles this season hold Montréal contracts, and all except for 3 were acquired (but not necessarily drafted) by Rejean Houle. Five of these players are former 1st round picks, while 3 others were chosen in the 2nd round. This could be considered a negative as it demonstrates an inability for some of the team’s top picks to make a quick jump to the NHL (Marcel Hossa, and Ron Hainsey excluded of course).

In the past, outside players were brought in by Québec management to play key offensive roles. This created a situation where many of the Hab-owned players were not seeing ice-time during important situations. Thankfully this is no longer the case, as the top 17 point producers on this year’s squad are part of the Canadiens’ family.

Keeping in mind that it’s still quite early in the season, and the Citadelles have a well-documented history of coming out of the gate strong, the team is off to an exceptional start. They’re tied for first overall in the AHL with an 8-0-2 record. The offense is statistically the second best in the league, averaging 4.40 goals per game. While the defense, and particularly the goaltenders have played impressive hockey.

Should this trend continue the Canadiens will likely become a better team for it; players who learn to win during the early stages of their professional careers carry that forward with them into the NHL. The key ingredient in winning championships will always be talent; it is talent that scores the goals, and it is talent that makes the saves. But talent remains just one of the ingredients; confidence and leadership being some of the others. Call it a recipe for success, or call it the cycle of winning. But much like the circle of life, it keeps on moving. Get enough of these wheels moving in the same direction at once, and success becomes almost impossible to avoid.

Click on the Canadiens’ logo at the top left of the page to see a listing of the Habs’ top prospects. Including biographical information, and up-to-date stats.

Feel free to E-MAIL me with any questions or comments (in English or French). Just click on my name at the top of this page. I am a former goaltender with writing, scouting, and coaching experience.

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