Scandella: Timing Is Everything

The year 2020 had barely pointed itself that four teams created a tremor, a slight earthquake in a league where in-season trades have become the exception, not the rule. Three of the four teams involved in two separate deals are from the Atlantic Division. The Montreal Canadiens’ Twitter account was the busiest, by first announcing that the team had traded one of their depth defensemen, Mike Reilly, to the Ottawa Senators. Soon after, they were back at it announcing that they had made the acquisition of Marco Scandella from the Buffalo Sabres. Then the Sabres announced that they had acquired Michael Frolik from the Calgary Flames. All of that was announced within a few minutes preceding the first Eastern time zone games.

One of the busiest General Managers in the NHL since taking over the Habs in 2012, Marc Bergevin, was once again was the busiest, completing not one, but two trades:

To To
Mike ReillyAndrew Sturtz
2021 5th round pick (OTT)
To To
2020 4th round pick (SJS)Marco Scandella

in 14 games with the AHL’s Belleville Senators, Sturtz, 25, has managed two points (1 G-1A). Standing at 5-foot 8-inches and 184 lbs, he has also registered two points (1 goal, 1 assist) in four games with the Brampton Beast in the ECHL. Sturtz is described as a small, speedy but injury-prone forward and was likely acquired to provide some much needed help for the Laval Rockets, as several players are either called up in Montreal or are injured.

In the second trade, the Canadiens got a Montreal native in Scandella, 29, who has nine points (3 G-6A), 34 blocked shots (4th on the Sabres) and has a differential of plus -9. The 6-foot 3-inches, 212 lbs left-handed defenseman is averaging 16:36 of ice time per game in Buffalo. The former QMJHL Val-d’Or Foreurs carries a $4 million cap hit and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He will provide Ben Chiarot a bit of relief, he who has been playing tons of minutes lately, and should help stabilize the penalty killing units.

Trades analysis

Making sense of the first trade was rather easy. Reilly has only appeared in 14 of the Habs’ 41 games this season. He has one more year remaining to his contract after this season, so by trading him, the Canadiens were not only freeing up his $1.5 million salary, but they freed up a spot for prospect Alexander Romanov for next year, he who met with Bergevin in Russia a few weeks ago. Further, Bergevin keeps collecting Draft picks, as he’s done for the past couple of years. So far, so good, everything makes sense.

Marco Scandella is coming home, but for how long?

Then comes the Scandella trade, sending totally mixed signals. Had this trade occurred a few weeks ago when the Canadiens were right in the race for a playoffs’ spot, everyone who doesn’t have an axe to grind against Bergevin would acclaim this acquisition. But with the Habs sitting six points back of the Division’s third place and seven points back of the last Wild Card spot, with five teams to leapfrog to get in, many people, myself included, question the timing of it. No one is questioning if Scandella is an improvement over Brett Kulak. He certainly is. But with Brendan Gallagher just joining Jonathan Drouin, Joel Armia and Paul Byron on the injury list, they’re questioning the timing, as none of these guys are expected until at least the third week of January. So why so late? Too late?

The only – somewhat – logical explanation I can think of is one of the following three scenarios:

  1. Scandella plays well, the Canadiens are out of the playoffs by trade deadline, they trade him and get that pick back or even get more than what they paid.
  2. Scandella plays well and by the end of the KHL season, Romanov changes his mind and stays in Russia, so the Habs offer him a new contract.
  3. He plays poorly and they let him go this summer, wasting a 4th round pick.

Many fans and members of the media are puzzled by Bergevin’s actions. Has he given up on the season or not? If not, he might have waited too long to help his team and repeated his previous mistakes. And if f he has given up, then why improve his team now and potentially hurt his chances to get Alexis Lafrenière? Either way, Bergevin’s actions yesterday are murky at best. Something tells me that we will find out soon enough why he’s made the moves that he has but for that, fans and media will have to do something they’re not accustomed to: be patient. Go Habs Go!

Unsung Hero: Ti-Paul Byron

The Montreal Canadiens hit the jackpot when claiming Paul Byron off waivers. That, everybody knows. But it hasn’t always been easy for the undersized speedster, who has been told too many times that he wouldn’t be making it to the show. Too small and not heavy enough were the reasons he was given each time. But that didn’t stop him from pushing the envelope, proving doubters wrong and that, at every level that he’s played.

Let’s go back in time. It’s June 22nd, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio. In Nationwide Arena, it is with great anticipation that hundreds of young men aspiring to, one day, fulfil their dream to play in the NHL are attending the league’s 45th Entry Draft. Patrick Kane is the first name being called to the podium, selected by the Chicago Blackhawks. But it’s on the second day of the Draft that Paul Byron heard his name… finally. We are in the sixth round and 178 prospects have been called. It’s the Buffalo Sabres’ turn and they called Byron. Step one of the dream had finally come through.

Byron was drafted by the Sabres

On January 23, 2011, called up from Rochester, Byron played in his first NHL game against the New York Islanders in Long Island. He managed to record his first point, an assist, in his first game. Two days later, he scored his first NHL goal in his hometown, in Ottawa, against the Senators. He ended up playing six more games with the Sabres that season and was traded to Calgary on June 25th of that year, along with Chris Butler in exchange for Ales Kotalik, Robyn Regehr and a 2012 2nd round pick .

The Habs claimed Byron off waivers from the Flames

On October 5, 2015, looking to add toughness to their line-up, Flames’ management decided to try sending the Ottawa native down to the AHL and placed him on waivers. Not only didn’t he go down that season, but he has never even come close to being sent back down after the Canadiens put in a claim for him. Byron ended up playing 130 games with the Flames, managing 16 goals and 46 points in Cowtown. To this date, this waiver claim figures amongst GM Marc Bergevin‘s best hockey decisions since taking over the reigns in Montreal.

An impact player

Byron has some good memories of Columbus. Not only did he get drafted in that City, but he also just played his 400th game in the NHL against the Blue Jackets and to commemorate the milestone, he scored his 11th goal of the season in that game, helping his team edge Columbus by the score of 3-2.

Paul Byron is a warrior. Listed at 5-foot 9-inches and 163 lbs (those numbers might be generous), he has managed 64 goals and 116 points in 262 games with the Canadiens. Along with Brendan Gallagher, Byron is part of the Habs’ leadership group as an Assistant to team Captain Shea Weber. His relentless work ethics and the way he conducts himself on and off the ice, his outstanding defensive ability, his blazing speed and fearless attitude make of him a genuine impact player for the most storied franchise of the NHL.

Many would venture to say that he is likely one of the most underrated players not only on the Canadiens, but in the entire NHL. One thing we know for sure: management and coaches love him, fans love him and he genuinely loves playing in Montreal. Here’s hoping that he can be surrounded by quality player and raise the Stanley Cup over his head one day, wearing the red, white and blue number 41. Go Habs Go!