Updated: Mar 21
Fans had waited years, heck decades, for a player like Josh Anderson to finally don the Canadiens jersey.
The summer Marc Bergevin landed the big, rugged, forward, he handed all Habs fans an early Christmas gift, a fan base that had been used to watching smaller (albeit speedy) forwards fill up the roster for years. And predictably, the lack of size and balance up front was one of the major reasons why the Canadiens achieved little success since the start of the new millennium. So when word came out that the Canadiens had added a legitimate top-line power forward, it gave fans the belief that perhaps those rare gems were indeed obtainable, and that better times could be ahead (heck it also dispelled the myth that those types of players were only available on PlayStation- sorry Marc, but you will never outlive that quote).
But Anderson came with a buyer beware label: Injuries, bouts of inconsistency, and, as we've come to see, limited hockey IQ. Nevertheless, the Canadiens took a bet and signed him to a lucrative, multi-year contract.
And now as the Habs are headed in a new direction under the current regime, rumors have been swirling that he is once again available. His lack of complementarity with high level forwards (like Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield), his age, and his marketability make him a player that almost needs to be moved (as per several local journalists' opinions). Big Josh has become the expendable piece they say that needs to be dangled in order to help the team improve in other areas (which ones?).
A couple of counterarguments come to mind however.
One, why would it be far-fetched for Anderson to improve over time, especially in light of all the resources Canadiens' management have broad aboard (the hiring of Adam Nicholas, Marty St.Louis and his ability to teach players how to "think the game", access to far more advanced analytics, etc)? Also, whose to say that Anderson's game will necessarily erode as quickly as it did with other power forwards that are often used as comparables (Lucic, Foligno, Simmonds, etc)? Keep in mind those players were never quite fleet of foot to begin with.....
And, finally, why should they trade away the type of player that is absolutely needed in building that highly desired combination of smaller, skilled forwards playing alongside bigger, more physical ones that are there to create space and buy time for their line mates (not to mention Josh's ability to jump in and defend his teammates and correct a few wrongs)? By the way, this is precisely what the Canadians have: a core of young and smallish forwards as well as several similar player types on the way (Caufield, Suzuki, Farrell, Mysak, Evans, RHP, and so forth). There is no Josh Anderson 2.0 waiting in the wings....
Even if, in the most pessimistic of scenarios, Big Josh eventually finds his way on a third line in a couple of years, as long as he can continue to provide the team with the relentless forechecking he has come to be known for, plus contribute his usual 20 goals or so, it would make the 5.5M$ cap hit (in a rising cap environment) much more palatable.
Obviously, Hughes would do well to carefully weigh every potential proposal that may come his way this off season, but unless the Canadiens can significantly improve their roster and/or get a younger Josh Anderson in return, I strongly believe they should stop joshing Josh around and keep him as an integral part of this rebuild.