When the Montreal Canadiens aren’t doing well nobody is safe. Habs fans will hold anyone responsible for poor team play; don’t be surprised if Canadiens fans start blaming the valet parking attendants in the coming weeks. In such a hotbed hockey market it can be very difficult to escape the wrath of fans who have been waiting decades to see another Stanley Cup parade.
After a disappointing 2015-16 season and a premature playoff exit in 2016-17, many fans in Montreal have questioned general manager Marc Bergevin’s front office decisions. Bergevin, once praised for acquiring low-key players and turning them into regular contributors (Paul Byron, Dale Weise, Phillip Danault) is now being blamed for everything that has gone wrong with the Canadiens to this point.
Being at the helm of one of the most storied franchises in sports is no easy task and there’s little room for error without being chased out of town. When the Canadiens are doing well, the GM is celebrated and when they’re doing bad, he’s being blamed. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
We’re going to take a look at the 8 moves Marc Bergevin has made that ruined his career and 7 moves he can still make to save it.
15. Ruined: Giving Andrew Shaw A 6-year contract
The Andrew Shaw trade made sense. Signing him to a 6-year contract did not. Shaw brought his gritty style of play and two championships to a Canadiens team that desperately needed some toughness. Shaw signed a 6-year $23,400,000 contract in 2016 with the bulk of the contract paying him $5 million dollars this year and $4 million next season. That means Shaw is a $3.9 million dollar cap hit compared to Max Pacioretty’s $4.5 million dollar cap hit. A mere $600,000 difference from a guy that averages 34 points a year versus Pacioretty’s 63. The contract is unnecessary; as much as the Canadiens panicked by grabbing some grit, Shaw is the type of player that is easy to come by at a much more affordable price.
14. Save It: Give The Captain “C” To Someone Else
Though Max Pacioretty is an undeniable scoring threat in the NHL, Bergevin’s decision to make him the 29th captain of the franchise was a curious one. The Canadiens franchise is as old as any in the NHL and their list of captains is legendary, ranging from Quebec-born players to franchise standouts and Pacioretty doesn’t exactly fit that mold.
Your captain’s true colours come out in times of despair that the Canadiens have grown accustomed to since Patches became captain in 2015. You need a leader who can take charge of the locker-room and for the most part, Pacioretty isn’t that guy. He’s already claimed “it’s overwhelming to be the captain of the Canadiens” and perhaps by stripping that letter off his jersey Bergevin can get Pacioretty back to what he’s good at doing: scoring goals.
13. Ruined: Not Re-Signing Alexander Radulov
Bergevin took a risk during the 2016 offseason by signing Russian sniper Alex Radulov to a one-year deal and the risk paid off. Radulov didn’t only provide the Habs with some much needed fire power in the likes of 18 goals and 36 assists, but was a spark on the bench and a delight to watch as he danced around opponents all season. After bringing in Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning, Habs fans were drooling at the prospect of a potential first line of Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin and Alexander Radulov. Unfortunately, Bergevin let Radulov slip away signing a 5-year $31 million dollar deal with the Dallas Stars. Bergevin and co. offered Radulov similar terms to stick around la belle province but couldn’t pull the trigger in matching Dallas’ numbers. With $8 million dollars of wiggle room in cap space, Bergevin surely could have coughed up the extra scratch to keep Radulov in red, white and blue.
12. Save It: Deal With His Young Duo Of Goaltenders Properly
Bergevin has Charlie Lindgren and Zachary Fucale in the minors. Obviously neither of the two are expected to challenge Carey Price for the starting job but Bergevin can manage his young duo of goaltenders and showcase them in a possible trade scenario. The Habs are content with Al Montoya as Price’s back-up but Bergevin should showcase Lindgren, 23, and Fucale, 22, as potential trade bait. Every franchise wants to have goaltender depth running through the franchise and the Canadiens are fortunate to have that commodity. Bergevin can eye the new franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, as a team that may want to bolster their organizational depth by adding a young, talented goaltender.
11. Ruined: Signing Daniel Briere
In an attempt to Band-Aid his team’s need for scoring and local talent, Marc Bergevin signed Daniel Briere to a 2-year deal worth $8 million dollars in 2013. Briere was nearing the end of his career and the 36-year old lasted only one season with the Canadiens to the tune of 25 points in 69 games. Briere never found his stride with former skipper Michel Therrien and was traded to Colorado the following offseason. Briere dealt with multiple injuries, bounced all around the lineup and spend various games in the press box as a healthy scratch. On the plus side, he was the first Montreal Canadiens player ever to have an accent on the back of his jersey, so… there’s that.
10. Save It: Hold On To The Young Core
Bergevin could save his reputation by being smart in terms of his young player’s development. The Canadiens have a decent talent pool in their system and Bergy would be smart to hold on to them as they should develop into future contributors. He’s got a big centreman in Michael McCarron (6’6’’/230 lbs), a smooth, skilled winger in Nikita Scherbak, a puck moving, strong skating defenseman in Noah Juulsen and big bodied (6’4’’/213 lbs), stay-at-home defenceman in Brett Lernout. These are all pieces drafted by Marc Bergevin since 2014 and if he holds on to them, he could be receiving high praise when they’re all Canadiens moving forward.
9. Ruined: Trading For George Parros
Marc Bergevin tried to add some toughness to the Canadiens during the 2013 offseason by acquiring George Parros in a deal with the Florida Panthers. Instead of throwing punches however, Parros ate ice. During a fight with the Maple Leaf’s Colton Orr, George hit his head on the ice and the subsequent concussion forced him to miss 12 games. This was especially sad as the season was just getting underway. He endured a second concussion later on in the year and totalled only 22 games while collecting only 1 point. He wasn’t very physical either, gobbling up only 85 penalty minutes and tossed 14 hits. He retired at the end of the season. What a great moustache though.
8. Save it: Don’t trade Alex Galchenyuk
Marc Bergevin can help out his own cause by not doing something; keeping Alex Galchenyuk. He’s been demoted to the 4th line recently and rumours are swirling around Habsland that he wants to be traded. Galchenyuk is not only a former 3rd overall draft pick but also a former 30-goal scorer. Drafted as a centre, Galchenyuk has been moved to the wing where his production has decreased. As a soon-to-be 24-year old, Galchenyuk still has a massive upside and room to mature, if Bergevin were to move the slumping forward with a decreased value, the Habs would get a minimal return and could be doomed to see an ex-player blossom into superstardom.
7. Ruined: Signing Karl Alzner
In what seemed like a panic move this past offseason, Bergevin signed free agent blue-liner Karl Alzner to a 5-year $23 million dollar deal. Alzner was essentially the final deterrent in marking Andrei Markov’s time in Montreal; Alzner was Bergevin’s choice of replacement. Though Alzner is known to be a decent defender, his offensive game is severely weaker than his precursor. Karl Alzner is a step backwards on a squad that already has trouble scoring. His $4.625 million dollar cap hit is a mere $800,000 dollars less than what it would have cost to get Markov back. By losing Subban and Markov, (almost singlehandedly) Bergevin’s blueline has lost the ability to transition the puck from the defensive to the offensive zone.
6. Save It: Swap Price For A Library Of Young Talent
This is a tough one to swallow, bear with us. If and only if the Canadiens find themselves in a massive hole, their best course of action would be to trade Carey Price. He’s currently in the last year of his former contract therefore his no-trade clause won’t come into effect until his 8-year deal starts in 2018. Bergevin could jumpstart a massive, immediate and effective rebuild by trading Price to a team for a collection of young players and/or draft picks. Carey Price is the savior of the Montreal Canadiens, one or other,. Whether that’s with him between the pipes or as the headliner of trade bait to kick off an immediate rebuild if the Canadiens unfortunately find themselves in that position.
5. Ruined: Signing Ales Hemsky And Mark Streit
In response to losing both Alexnader Radulov and Mark Streit, Bergevin signed low cost free agents Ales Hemsky and Mark Streit during the 2017 offseason. Streit is no longer a Canadien after the two parties agreed to mutually break up after only two games and Hemsky hasn’t registered a single point in 7 contests thus far. It’s not a bad thing to sign low risk – high reward players as a depth move, but Bergevin signed two over-the-hill players to replace above average performers from a year earlier. Bergevin signed two players in a panic move – demonstrating he didn’t really have a back-up plan once Markov and Radulov took their talents elsewhere. Bergevin should have used some of his excess cap space to grab a player who would have produced more than Hemsky and Streit put together.
4. Save It: Nab Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
With the oft-mentioned Matt Duchene making the move to Ottawa, the Habs can turn their trade-sights to another Western conference centreman in the likes of Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent-Hopkins is a former 1st overall pick and an established presence in the NHL already at only 24 years of age. It would be costly to pry him away from the Oilers but with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s massive contracts, the Oilers are going to have to move some of their other star players eventually to ensure caps space. RNH comes with a $6 million dollar cap hit akin to Tomas Plekanec’s. With Plekanec’s contract coming off the books next year, Bergevin should find a way to swipe the elite centreman from Edmonton.
3. Ruined: Letting Andrei Markov Go
Andrei Markov was a staple for the Montreal Canadiens franchise since 2000. He was drafted by the Canadiens in 1998 and remained with the team until Bergevin let him slip away. In the storied history of the Canadiens, Markov ranks second in games played and points by a defenseman behind only Larry Robinson. Andrei Markov appeared in 990 games and registered 572 points for the Canadiens and never received a farewell ceremony or even a departing ovation. Even despite Bergevin’s belief that Markov was no longer needed as a player, Bergevin should have worked out a deal with Markov so the Russian could have left the Canadiens on a higher note that he so obviously deserved.
2. Save It: Get John Tavares
Every one in the hockey world knows the Canadiens need help down the middle. They haven’t had a true number one centre since Cheers was still on TV and Bergevin can be the saviour who makes it happen. John Tavares is slated to hit the free agent market following the 2017-18 campaign and at 27 years old, will make for an intriguing target. He has established himself a premier goal scorer, a powerful centreman and a formidable captain – three things the Canadiens lack. With money to spare this season, and Plekanec’s $6 million dollar contract expiring after this season, Bergevin can balance his bad moves by signing John Tavares to a long term deal and bring in a powerful centreman the Canadiens so desperately need.
1. Ruined: The P.K. Subban Trade
In June 2016, mere months after the Canadiens closed out a disappointing season, Marc Bergevin shocked the hockey world by sending defenceman and fan favourite P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. Subban played for 7 years in Montreal with grit, flair and excitement and was a contributing advocate to the Montreal community. Choosing size over personality, Weber was brought in to replace Subban who made it to the 2016 Stanley Cup finals in his first year with Nashville. Subban and Weber match up statistically, but Subban is entering his prime at 28 years old while Weber is leaving his at 32. Weber is locked into his contract with the Canadiens until he is 40 and all signs so far, point to this being what Marc Bergevin will ultimately be known for – trading P.K. Subban.
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