A Hard Lesson Journal

A Hard Lesson | Journal

The fascinating thing about the training camp is that you jump to conclusions all too often. While the pre-season schedule sometimes surprises, in the end when it comes to making the list of 20 players who will take part in the first game of the season, there are very few newcomers.

But this season is different.

Why ? There are several vacancies for defenders.

On offense, the question arises again and again as to whether Juraj Slafkovsky has what it takes to play in the national league.

The answer is yes, but when?

Owen Beck was a nice surprise, but he will return to the junior ranks because there are already several centers with National League contracts on the roster. Emil Heineman also caught the eye of the organization’s decision-makers.

Filip Mesar performed well in Toronto. But of course, there are very few positions to fill in attack.

Defensively it will be very interesting. We will inevitably have to give important responsibilities to the young hopefuls of the organization. We can argue that barring an unexpected turn of events, Kaiden Guhle will be there and there’s Jordan Harris… as well as Arber Xhekaj, a surprise.

Justin Barron has a position to lose and he’s not taking the resources to hold it.

The Harris file is attracting attention as he is being asked to develop/move on the right flank of the Defense Brigade, a new experiment for the ex-varsity player. He filled that position on Wednesday with Xhekaj on his left.

Some feel he shouldn’t face such a change, especially when facing National League players. If we want to make him a right-handed defender, why not give him the opportunity to perfect his game at that position in the American League?


But why not the National League? If it really is the intention of the organization’s decision-makers to entrust him with this responsibility, isn’t the pre-season schedule an interesting forum?

Teams use young players and also give some veterans a chance to show more and make a good impression with the American League tag.

So far, Harris has excelled quickly. Of course there is an adjustment period. But he’s gifted. He is well served with his calm and his intelligence to read the game well and make quick decisions. As we get closer to the season opener he will have an opportunity to improve his game.

He has his place in the defense brigade.

Veterans Limited

The Canadian relies on three veterans: David Savard, Mike Matheson and Joel Edmundson. Let’s be realistic, there’s no need to worry about the opposing team. They are good veterans but with limited talent.

The development program is designed to give Harris, Guhle, Barron and Xhekaj the tools to become familiar with the National League style.

Xhekaj is included in the candidate list. You probably appreciated his play style: he is imposing, robust, his vision of the game is amazing. Last year he caught the attention of Marc Bergevin and his close guard and was eventually persuaded to sign a contract. A decision that could serve Kent Hughes well.

Before Baron

Xhekaj has been ahead of Barron since the start of the training camp in the assessment of Martin St-Louis and the coaches. And Edmundson’s absence, a not very reassuring situation, could change plans.

It fits well with the concept advocated by Martin St-Louis. The Canadian urges his defenders to be creative to step up attack and those who try to fill the vacant positions have all the qualities to succeed in this facet of the game.

Xhekaj might not have the same abilities as Harris and Guhle to give attackers the ability to quickly move into the offensive zone, but in his territory, don’t venture into his reach without suffering the consequences.

However, it is clear that learning must take place under very specific conditions. As Kent Hughes said last week, the Canadian’s business model would be different with Carey Price in perfect health. But that’s not the case and we have to turn the page now.

Therefore, with the situation of the goalkeepers, it is clear that the young defenders will face more difficult conditions.

But talent will serve the cause well…

And Slafkowski…

It is difficult to pass judgment on Slafkovsky at the moment.

The potential is there.

But he’s not showing what he does best, which is scoring goals while also being a power forward.

We saw that the other night in Toronto. Despite being on the power play, he failed to trouble the Maple Leafs goaltenders. He’s also showing signs of impatience at missing the goal.

We can understand.

He knows he was chosen for his talent in attack.

But so far it doesn’t work.

But the Canadian’s decision-makers will be patient. Slafkovsky must be given time to prove that the recruiters made the right decision. Patience and education are important factors.

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