Most times, when looking at a trade, it’s rather easy to see what the General Managers are thinking when completing that trade. Each time, fans and media alike love to jump in and go with their gut feeling, their first thoughts about who the winner is and, by the same token, who the loser might be.
When you take the recent trade which saw the Columbus Blue Jackets traded away young centreman Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators in exchange for young defenseman Seth Jones, everyone could read that the Predators traded from a position of strength and depth (defense) to acquire more offense, and that the Blue Jackets were looking at solidifying their back end and powerplay at the point. Both players were young top end players with great potential.
Then, you have the Montreal Canadiens, in the midst of six-week long “slump”, a team in desperate need of offensive talent, who trade away a young, promising defenseman in Jarred Tinordi, and acquire a 33 year-old enforcer in John Scott, a guy who had cleared waivers earlier this season, and a B, or perhaps C level prospect in Victor Bartley. Further, the Habs also shipped a prospect of their own in Stefan Fournier to make the deal happen.
Twitter didn’t need any more ammunition to start firing right, left and centre at Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin, calling him all sorts of names, making him the laughing stock of hockey. Others, more polite and rational in their approach, were trying to make sense of this puzzling trade to say the least, and few could successfully explain the logistic behind such a move by Montreal.
So what is the reason for this trade?
Is it that John Scott is an All-Star, voted in by the fans? Not in the sense of him being a skillful player, but perhaps there is something more to that story. Is it because the Canadiens needed muscles? While I believe that they miss Brandon Prust in the fisticuffs department, Scott could never keep up to the NHL, even less on the Canadiens, a team built on speed and transition. Is it that this prospect, Barkley, is better than people make him out to be? Allow me to doubt it, although Bergevin does like his depth at the back end for sure.
If you stop there, today, January 15th 2016, it is difficult, if not impossible to justify this trade, even coming from one of Marc Bergevin’s biggest defenders. In my opinion, the mistake that Bergevin made was to hang on to Tinordi too long, to the point where his value has diminished from not other reason but not having played enough this season. It’s something that we touched on in an earlier article as a matter of fact.
Instead of panicking and joining the mass in calling for the GM’s head, I found two scenarios that are likely the cause of this (short term) brouhaha.
1. Seeing that John Scott, after being asked by the league and by the Coyotes to withdraw from the All-Star game for the embarrassment the fans’ voting had caused, refused to do so, the NHL has asked Geoff Molson for a “favour”. I do not believe one minute that this “favour” to Gary Bettman came free. Watch closely for future announcements for outdoor games, All-Star games, Drafts and so on as Bettman has to make it right to the Habs for bailing the league out on their own mess.
2. No GM is as stupid as the Canadiens’ GM has looked with this trade, especially not Marc Bergevin, who is thought amongst his peers as one of the best in the game since taking over in Montreal. Fans can be as frustrated as they want with his “inactions” so far to address what they perceive as the problems, but in today’s NHL, with a salary cap, number of contracts team can have at one time, and trying to make a “fair” trade, moves are often more like a game of chess. GMs think two or three moves ahead of most fans. Most of them see the whole picture of their team, they can differentiate the forest from the tree, something that fans, from reading their comments, don’t always seem to get.
See, Bergevin knows as well (if not better) than the average fan that his team needs top-6 help on offense. He now has 48 players under contract and the league limit is 50. He has called up Barkley for a cup of coffee with the big club so he can better assess what his professional scouting team have been telling him. With the play of Mark Barberio, with the fact that Greg Pateryn, who has generally played well, and with the eventual return of Tom Gilbert, there is still too many defensemen in Montreal, which leads me to think that at least one of them won’t be with the team much longer.
You see, it is my personal opinion that this puzzling move today by the team’s GM, is in preparation for another move, a bigger one which would see at least one top-6 player landing with the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge. Stay tuned folks and try to be patient just a bit longer…