Montreal Canadiens Did Everything Wrong with Promising Defenseman Jarred Tinordi

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Montreal Canadiens Did Everything Wrong with Promising Defenseman Jarred Tinordi
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jarred Tinordi spent just over five years with the Montreal Canadiens. He was acquired as a first-round pick, a prospect so desirable that Montreal traded up to make the selection. He departed in a complex three-way trade involving a bunch of players who had previously cleared waivers.

Some of the fault for his plummeting value lies with the player. The rest lies with the Canadiens.

Oddly enough, Tinordi’s road, both too and from, ran through Arizona. As LNH.com’s Arpon Basu pointed out shortly after the trade, Tinordi was originally drafted with the Coyotes selection:  

Reed Saxon/Associated Press
Mark Visentin, drafted by the Coyotes with Montreal's pick

Neither team did particularly well out of that trade.

Montreal got Tinordi and a fourth-round pick, which was expended on the unremarkable Mark MacMillan. The then-Phoenix Coyotes drafted goaltender Mark Visentin and used their second-round pick on Oscar Lindberg. Lindberg was later flipped to the Rangers for the inconsequential Ethan Werek.

The Canadiens were eager to land Tinordi both because of his potential and because he seemed like the kind of player who would be a natural fit on their roster.  The Hockey News 2010 Draft Preview quoted one scout who compared Tinordi to physical shutdown defenseman Robyn Regehr, while McKeen’s Hockey offered the following assessment:

The most physically ready of all USA NHL draft eligible prospects, Tinordi completes the package with a mean streak and strong mobility … Tinordi is a great complementary defense partner for a smaller, offensive-minded defender. He can stay with plays, make good outlet passes and bodyguard when necessary.

Tinordi moved from the U.S. development program over to the OHL’s London Knights. In his final year with the Knights, he put up just 16 points in 48 games, a figure lower than that of even teammate Scott Harrington, another defensive specialist. However, he also led the Knights with a plus-39 rating, so at the very least, good things were happening when he was on the ice.

That kicked off his pro career and four years of bouncing between the minors and the majors.

In 2012-13, the NHL lockout compelled Montreal to leave Tinordi in the AHL for most of the year. He was recalled in March, sent down at the end of the month and then brought back up in late April and for the playoffs. He played a total of 13 games, never getting more than 16 minutes of ice time, and on three occasions, getting less than 10 minutes.

It was the start of a trend. Over the next two seasons, Tinordi played 35 NHL games and 91 contests in the AHL. In none of those 35 NHL games, spaced out over multiple call-ups, did Tinordi hit the 20-minute mark in terms of total ice time. Last season he averaged just 12 minutes per game.

His usage was indefensible, both from a development and a trade perspective.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tinordi was up and down, and when he was up, he barely played, with the Canadiens neither leaving him in the minors to find his way nor giving him a long enough leash to prove his worth in the majors.

His best opportunity was a 16-game stint in Montreal late in 2013-14; it was the last time he’d get an extended cameo in a regular role. Despite this, the Habs hung on to Tinordi rather than trading him, once it was clear the coaches weren’t fans but while he was still in his entry-level deal and had waiver exemption.

That waiver exemption ended this year. Montreal couldn’t send Tinordi down to the AHL without someone putting in a claim. Yet the Canadiens had no intention of playing him in the NHL, so they stuck him in the press box for two months. He played his first game in late November in the AHL after being sent down on a conditioning assignment.

The assignment went well, as SB Nation’s Andrew Zadarnowski wrote at the time:         

In his first four games with the IceCaps he has a respectable stat line: two assists and +3, but it was the dominant performance against the Toronto Marlies this past week that really opened everyone's eyes to the talent that this player possesses. After his first game in the AHL against the Rochester Americans on November 27, Jarred Tinordi was greeted in the locker room by Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, and both were all smiles due to Tinordi's performance. Others also praised Tinordi's play, including IceCaps captain Gabriel Dumont, who quite confidently claimed that Tinordi was an NHL-calibre defenceman.

Tinordi played six AHL games, went back to Montreal, sat for two weeks and then was promptly benched in his third game back with the Canadiens. That was on December 26; he hasn’t played since.  

The Canadiens could have been patient with Tinordi, allowing him to develop in the AHL for a year or two before bringing him up to the majors. They could have committed to giving him an honest shot in the NHL when they decided it was time to promote him. They could have traded him a year-and-a-half ago when the coaching staff made what seems to have been its final decision on the player.

They did none of those things.

Instead, Montreal burned up three years of waiver eligibility with a program seemingly custom designed to inhibit development and hung on to the player long after it was clear its coach wasn’t a fan. On Friday, Montreal dumped the first-round pick for a veteran forward and a veteran defenseman, both of whom had previously cleared waivers.

If the Canadiens had consciously set out to reduce the value of a 23-year-old former first-round pick to zero, they couldn’t have done a better job.

Statistics courtesy of NHL.com. Trade details via prosportstransactions.com

Jonathan Willis covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for more of his work.

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