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Montreal Canadien Ryan White.
During the regular season, the fourth line was centered by a combination of three main players: Gabriel Dumont, Ryan White and Jeff Halpern, each of whom could stand to bring more size to the lineup.
However, that’s only part of the reason why each may not be back in a regular role next year.
Halpern is a reliable faceoff specialist, but at 37 years old, he’s definitely getting up there, has little else to contribute aside from decent if not soft defensive play and will also be an unrestricted free agent.
White, while a hard worker, has proven unable to keep his emotions in check and to be an overall liability time and again when on the ice. Dumont, conversely, probably has the best chance at taking over the fourth-line role in question.
Dismissing the fact that Dumont still has a lot to prove, he does work hard like White, actually led the Habs with a 63 percent success rate in the faceoff circle—albeit in only 46 attempts—and is a Quebec native. That last bit shouldn’t matter all that much, but it nonetheless plays to his favor, playing in Montreal.
However, he is also the smallest of the bunch at 5’9”, 170 pounds (White is 6’0”, 194 lbs; Halpern is 6’0”, 190 lbs). Ideally, the fourth-line center should also be physically intimidating. That doesn’t necessarily mean they should be a legitimate enforcer, but it certainly would be a plus.
So, does this hypothetical Francophone center, who’s at least 6' tall and 200 pounds with a good work ethic and belligerent yet controlled playing style even exist? Not in storybooks, I mean?
Under the assumption they do, the need is immediate, meaning drafting one such player is likely out of the question. As such, the Habs should look into signing or trading for one.
The closest the Habs could get would be free-agent Washington Capital Matt Hendricks, who is 6’0” and 211 pounds and has been known to drop his gloves from time to time. As an added bonus, he can play all three forward positions, with an impressive 56.8 percent faceoff success rate last year as a center (259 attempts).
Former Hab Maxim Lapierre is also available.
At 6’2”, 207 pounds, he does bring the prerequisite size to the position. He’s also a familiar face who always brings it on the ice, but one would think he should get the whole standing-up-for-your-own-actions thing down before he’s able to successfully stand up for teammates.
With just a 50.6 percent faceoff success rate, he also isn’t what one would call a specialist, even if many opponents likely do consider him quite “special.”
Via trade, the 6’0”, 213-pound Zenon Konopka will become an unrestricted free agent next season and could conceivably be available for the right price or on the cheap at next year’s trade deadline if the Minnesota Wild are out of it.
Having earned a 60.7 percent success rate taking faceoffs (267 attempts) last year, he’s also far from incompetent as a hockey player. Plus, he’s Polish, has a Greek first name and is from Ontario, so it’s at least possible he knows some French, right?
Taking another approach, recently re-signed left-winger Patrick Bordeleau of the Colorado Avalanche is a bad, bad man who stands 6’6”, 225 pounds. If Montreal doesn’t re-sign Colby Armstrong, that would open up a spot for Bordeleau and give Dumont a shot to prove himself as a legitimate NHLer.
This would also address the ironic elephant in the room in regard to the team’s lack-of-size issue.
All faceoff stats taken from NHL.com.