Rebuild… Retool… Resomething!

DustBG

With just over five weeks to go before the NHL trade deadline, we have reached the time when some teams are already thinking about what to do in order to become competitive again. Unfortunately for the Montreal Canadiens, they are one of those teams and the thought of the Habs being out so early has many fans and media members steaming at the collar… with reason.

And this tweet by Brian Wilde of Recrutes.ca, quoting Elliott Friedman, has the fanbase stirring prior to the game against the Washington Capitals.

It makes you wonder though… are Carey Price and Victor Mete really untouchable players on the team? In my humble opinion, they are also very much touchable, even Price if, for nothing else, because of his contract.

As a matter of fact, in my opinion again, anyone not named Jonathan Drouin should be considered touchable. Drouin is a very talented and young local product, and it looks like Marc Bergevin paid a high price to get him from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Local, young and talented players are difficult to get and we have touched before, on this very blog, on the importance of having local talent on the Canadiens, a very unique market. They paid a high price for Shea Weber as well but unlike Weber, Drouin’s best years are ahead of him.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bergevin’s best asset is Max Pacioretty. The Habs would get a great return for their captain, who is still under contract for one more year with a cap hit of $4.5 million. If he is offered a return anywhere close to what the Colorado Avalanche got for Matt Duchene, Bergevin cannot pass on trading him.

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Max Pacioretty is a likely candidate to be traded

While we know that Bergevin has always supported Carey Price (remember the grocery store comment), the fact that the goaltender is scheduled to take $10.5 million of the team’s cap hit for the next eight years starting next season should be enough to make him consider testing his value on the market, at the very least. Is Charlie Lindgren the caliber of Price? Absolutely not. But he is ready to take the next step in his career and paired with a quality veteran backup, goaltending wouldn’t be a big issue, particularly if the team improves on other weaknesses.

Would he dare trading Weber after giving up on P.K. Subban, a fan favourite? Again, I’d say that it would depend on what he can get in return. But in my opinion, Weber will be kept no matter what. If Pacioretty is traded prior to the draft as I’m anticipating, the team will need a new captain and while Brendan Gallagher is also an excellent candidate to wear the “C”, Weber would be even more. Why? Because when either of them stands up and speaks, teammates are more likely to listen to Weber. He has this presence and respect from everyone. You need some quality veterans to lead by example, as the Edmonton Oilers finally realized. Having said that, if a team is willing to pay the big price for him, then pull the trigger.

There are some glaring holes in the Canadiens’ line-up, everyone who knows a little bit about hockey can see it. But there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Bergevin tried to improve his team at the centre position. He’s not a dumb hockey man, as some around Montreal seem to think. But he was unsuccessful doing so and that is his biggest failure since taking over the team. Trading a couple of veterans would be the fastest way to replenish the blue-chip prospects’ cupboards while filling key holes in the organisation, the centre position being one.

Team’s best trade candidates

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Tomas Plekanec could be gone by trade deadline.

Prior to trade deadline, the Canadiens’ best trade candidates based on fair return is pending UFA Tomas Plekanec. If a team knows the importance of quality depth at the centre position, it’s the Canadiens and while he’s not the offensive player that he used to be, Plekanec is an excellent defensive and responsible centre who would play a key role, particularly on a third line. He does carry a cap hit of $6 million so the Habs might have to eat some salary to help a contender pull the trigger, but the return should be excellent because of the position that he plays.

 

Max Pacioretty, Carey Price, Shea Weber, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are the team’s best assets for potential trades, but they would get best value during the off season. Why? Not only are they the team’s best players but only Price has any say in where they could be going with his full non-movement clause. It’s then up to the highest bidder with any team in the NHL and everyone has cap space in the summer, not so much at trade deadline. Put quality players and add bidding wars between teams and you have the recipe for a good trade return.

No matter what happens from now on, Bergevin cannot miss on any major trade from now on. He cannot waste his best assets without getting full value in return. The team that he built is underwhelming and under-performing and even Geoff Molson’s patience has to have its limits. The Canadiens’ GM is playing big from now until the trade deadline as what he does will likely decide if he will be the one getting a chance to rebuild, retool or resomething this upcoming summer. Go Habs Go!

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Top Cheese: December 2017 Edition

TopCheese

Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ as the Christmas break is approaching and the team finds itself in a bind for a playoffs’ position. Feel free to share on Social Media and post your comments as they are always welcomed.

We can all admit, things aren’t looking good for the Canadiens in their pursue of a playoffs’ spot. They find themselves three points back of the Boston Bruins, who still have three games in hand on the Habs, for the third and final spot in the division. They are five points back of the New York Rangers for the last Wild Card spot, and they have to leap-frog Carolina, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to get there.

While the odds are against them, there is still hope but the team will have to string a few winning streaks soon, very soon, if they hope to participate in the Spring tournament. The fanbase seems divided with some wishing them to sell immediately in hope for a better chance at getting the first overall pick while others, like yours truly, will never give up hope until it’s practically over. With a world-class goaltender like Price, making the playoffs should, in my opinion, be the number one priority as once you’re in, you never know. Just ask last year’s Nashville Predators…

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Speaking of goaltenders, as Carey Price goes, so do the Habs. This season, Price has played 19 games and he has a record of 8-9-2, with a 3.16 goals against average and a .899 saves percentage. Those numbers are well below what people should expect from him, and no one knows it better than Price himself. Here’s a breakdown of the goaltender’s performances in his wins, in comparison to his losses:

WINS

DETROIT 1 G 23 SA .957 Sv%
DETROIT 3 G 31 SA .903 Sv%
OTTAWA 1 G 28 SA .964 Sv%
COLUMBUS 1 G 38 SA .974 Sv%
BUFFALO 0 G 36 SA 1.000 Sv%
NY RANGERS 4 G 26 SA .846 Sv%
FLORIDA 1 G 27 SA .963 Sv%
BUFFALO 2 G 45 SA .956 Sv%
TOTAL: 13 G 254 SA .949 Sv%

LOSSES

EDMONTON 4 G 14 SA .714 Sv%
CALGARY 3 G 37 SA .919 Sv%
ST. LOUIS 4 G 30 SA .867 Sv%
MINNESOTA 5 G 26 SA .808 Sv%
LOS ANGELES 4 G 28 SA .857 Sv%
ANAHEIM 6 G 45 SA .867 Sv%
SAN JOSE 4 G 34 SA .882 Sv%
TORONTO 4 G 22 SA .818 Sv%
CHICAGO 3 G 25 SA .880 Sv%
NY RANGERS 2 G 25 SA .920 Sv%
WASHINGTON 4 G 14 SA .714 Sv%
TOTAL: 43 GA 300 SA .857 Sv%

Pundits like to pounce on Bergevin and the Habs at any chance they get but if we’re being honest with ourselves, we will recognize and admit that not many teams in today’s NHL will win games when their goaltender has a saves percentage below .900… particularly not when he’s your franchise player.

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As Kari Lehtonen reached the 300 wins plateau, The Hockey News released a list of the Top-10 active goaltenders with the most wins.

 

But I would like to add a twist to it, by including the age of each goaltender. Have a look:

  1. Luongo (38) FLA 459
  2. Lundqvist (35) NYR 419
  3. Fleury (33) VEG 378
  4. Miller (37) ANA 361
  5. Ward (33) CAR 300
  6. Lehtonen (34) DAL 299
  7. Rinne (35) NSH 285
  8. Price (30) MTL 278
  9. Quick (31) LA 275
  10. Anderson (36) OTT 245
 Also, if or when you chose to compare the number of wins by goaltenders with the all-time greats, don’t forget that the players mentioned above all benefited greatly from the overtime and shootout wins, something their predecessors didn’t, for the most part.

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In case you’ve been living under a rock and had yet to notice, the witch hunt is full on by some fans and members of the media to get Canadiens’ General Manager’s Marc Bergevin‘s head cut off. But someone dared posting Bergevin’s win/losses record, and found an interesting way to look at the trades that he’s pulled since he was made in charge of the team.

Oh he’s not perfect, don’t get me wrong, but if you show me a perfect GM or coach, I will show you a liar.

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In response to the people who have been calling for the firing of the Habs’ GM, Canadiens’ owner Geoff Molson said that Marc Bergevin has his full support.

“We’ve got some room on the cap, and you never know what he might do or might not do,” said Molson. “He certainly does have the license to improve the team, and that’s his job. I support him fully.”

This might have to do with the fact that he, like other reasonable hockey men around the NHL, understands what @HankBart91 pointed out and that he is still very much respected around the league. Fans can kick, scream and have a temper tantrum all they want, Bergevin’s job is safe until at least the end of the season.

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There are plenty of rumours going around and as we’ve explored in a recent article, the Habs Are Not Alone Looking For A Forward. That being said, Bergevin is still looking at filling the hole on the team’s top defensive pairing, a suitable partner to Shea Weber.

One interesting rumour going around is the supposedly interest from Bergevin towards another former Chicago Blackhawks, puck moving defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Oh he won’t be putting up points on the board, but he is a very good skater with good size and an excellent defender. He can also easily log-in 20-25 minutes of ice time. One has to wonder if Bergevin is talking to the Coyotes about Hjalmarsson, if the name of local product, 22 year-old Anthony Duclair, is part of it… To be followed.

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The Canadiens have announced that they were loaning defenseman Victor Mete to Team Canada for the World Junior Championships over the Christmas break. Most fans and media members are in agreement that the decision is a good one for the development of the 19 year-old.

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Victor Mete

While he played over 20 minutes per game in four consecutive games back in mid-October, Mete’s ice time has diminished since then and he’s been a healthy scratch a few times as well. He has even played forward one game in mid-November. This tournament should do wonders for him, playing quality minutes at a very high and intense level of hockey.

Where fans and media are not necessarily in agreement, is if he should return to Montreal or be sent back to junior after the tournament. The Canadiens have made no announcements about it yet, as it is doubtful that they know at this point. A lot of it might have to do with where the team will be in the standings, injuries and player movement (trades, waivers…).

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It will be interesting to see what the Canadiens do with puzzling forward Alex Galchenyuk in the near future. The enigmatic and talented forward has not been a shadow of his old self since his injury early last season and while many were blaming former coach Michel Therrien for his utilization of Galchenyuk, it seems like he’s finding himself in a second coach’s dog house with Claude Julien. At some point, people will have to stop blaming the coaches and see the whole picture about the young forward. His lack of effort is, in my opinion, the biggest reason why he’s not getting more suitable ice time in the NHL and that’s solely in his own hands.

Will he understand that one day soon, or will the Canadiens lose patience with him first? Time will tell. He still has some value on the trade market because he’s under contract for a couple more seasons and he’s not that far removed from a 30 goals’ season. Let’s hope for the Canadiens that he finds his game as they need offense and Galchenyuk would go a long way in providing just that.

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While Mikhail Sergachev is making a name for himself in Tampa Bay, Jonathan Drouin is battling through injuries and trying to learn a new position as a NHL centre. Bergevin’s failure, this past summer, was to be unable to address the team’s biggest need: a true top-end centre.

Drouin has been good under the circumstance but as it stands today, it looks like the Lightning has the upper hand on this deal. But be careful folks, don’t jump to conclusions too soon. At 14:55 minutes per game, Sergachev is sixth amongst Tampa’s defensemen in ice time, with 1:50 of which coming on the powerplay. Ten (10) of his 21 points also came on the powerplay so that doesn’t (yet) speak of a top-pairing defenseman, folks.

The support cast for both players is also quite different. Put Drouin with the Lightning and Sergachev with the Canadiens and it’s pretty safe to say that the numbers wouldn’t be anywhere close to what they are right now and that, for both players. Let’s give it a couple of years before jumping to that conclusion, shall we? In the meantime… Go Habs Go!!!