Stick a fork in ’em: 2017-18 Montreal Canadiens edition.
Just a year after winning the Atlantic Division, hockey’s most historic team has reached rock bottom. You can blame head coach Claude Julien for not implementing a working system. You can blame bad luck – as the injuries to top players like Carey Price, Andrew Shaw and Shea Weber have piled up.
But at the end of the day, this is entire mess was started by general manager Marc Bergevin – and there are no signs of someone cleaning it up any time soon.
So how have the Habs gone from perennial playoff teams (they’ve qualified in eight of the past 10 seasons), to a massive failure? Well, a quick glance at Bergevin’s can answer that.
Two years ago, he traded franchise defenceman and fan favorite P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. And while the latter has been a fine fit in Montreal, the fans have never come to terms with the trade. Subban was the heart-and-soul leader of this team. It’s clear something is missing in this locker room.
Bergevin also couldn’t strike a contract with long-time Hab and another fan favorite in Andrei Markov. Insulted by how he was treated by management, Markov went to play overseas in the KHL. Good on him. He deserves respect and appreciation.
The Habs could barely score last year, but one-year rental Alexander Radulov posted 18 goals and 54 points to engineer the offence. He kept voicing his desire and hope to remain in Montreal, but Bergevin wouldn’t budge. The Dallas Stars scooped him up with a five-year deal worth $31.25 million.
Montreal had to replace Radulov, so Bergevin sacrificed generational defenceman Mikhail Sergachev to land Jonathan Drouin from the rival Tampa Bay Lightning. Drouin has six goals and 21 points on the season. Sergachev has eight goals and 26 points in Tampa. Go figure.
Oh, and to make the defence much worse? Bergevin traded Nathan Beaulieu for a third round pick. He did not replace Beaulieu in the offseason.
If the season ended today, the Habs would place 28th in the NHL standings. The only bright side? They’d have a shot at drafting Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall pick. Other than that, no positives come to mind.
With the disaster that the Habs have become, Bergevin has one last order of business before his inevitable termination of employment. Or else, his successor has to do this: Trade Carey Price.
The Habs are not a good team with Carey Price. The 2015 Hart and Vezina Trophy winner is good on his own. We’ve seen this team crumble over-and-over again when he’s hurt. Price IS the team, not part of the team.
Price posted a .933 save percentage and 1.86 goals against average in last year’s playoff series against the New York Rangers. Remarkably, the Habs were eliminated in six games. Seriously, how do you waste that kind of performance?
In the offseason, Price received an eight-year extension worth $84 million. That deal doesn’t kick in until next season, however. The Habs have to shop Price now – while his value is high and before age and injuries pile up on him.
Price deserves better. He’s given nothing but remarkable performances for the vast majority of the past 10 years. The Habs have failed to build a true championship-caliber team around him. It’s time to give him what he deserves – the chance to chase a Stanley Cup.
And don’t tell me the contract isn’t movable. The New York Islanders would sure love a No. 1 goalie. If they had one, they would be a favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak aren’t cutting it.
The Ottawa Senators are also struggling this season, and it’s evident that the Craig Anderson-Mike Condon tandem aren’t going to carry this team anywhere. Ottawa still has foundation players in Erik Karlsson, Matt Duchene, Mark Stone and others. They would give Price a chance to win over a long period of time. They have the cap space to take on the contract.
If not them, you can take a look at other talented teams that are lacking a legit No. 1. The Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres are loaded with young talent. They just need a No. 1 goalie to start taking their respective plays to the next level.
The Habs can lie to themselves and say they can turn this around soon and win a championship around Price. Sure, but looks like you’re going to trade captain Max Pacioretty and underachieving forward Alex Galchenyuk. Weber – at age 32 – isn’t getting any better. Oh, and the prospect pool is one of the absolute worst. Nobody stands out as a potential franchise player.
If the Habs are smart, they admit their mistakes and ask Price to accept a trade. There will be no shortage of interested parties. Montreal may have to retain salary or take back another expensive contract, but it’ll be worth it.
Trade Carey Price. Free Carey Price. Tell him you’re sorry you couldn’t build a quality team in front of him. Ask him to accept a trade so he can chase a Stanley Cup championship.
The Habs don’t have any other choice at this point.
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