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!!!

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Marc Bergevin Thinking Big With Cap Space

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While those having an axe to grind with Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin are all over him for not having improved his team enough during the off-season, only the Habs’ brass know what is really going on behind closed doors. The same culprits, who we constantly see on Twitter taking jabs at the organization any chance they get, are using the fact that Bergevin still has over eight million dollars remaining under the team’s salary cap to further put him down, cap space that no one around the NHL is used to seeing in early September for top spenders.

However, if you take a step back to look at the forest instead of focussing on the tree you’re facing, you will note that there are several unresolved issues involving a few teams around the NHL. For one, Matt Duchene is still a Colorado Avalanche, something few “experts” would have predicted. Then, with the recent signing of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl by the Edmonton Oilers, they are many who think that eventually, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will find another team to play for. And we have explored those possibilities and more in the latest Top Cheese edition. But then again, you have the rumblings about the future of John Tavares with the New York Islanders…

As one of the richest teams in the entire NHL, you can rest assured that the directive not to spend to the cap is not coming from Canadiens’ President and owner Geoff Molson. So this should tell fans and media members that something is up, or the strong potential of something happening is there. GMs usually move to their plan B rather quickly in the off-season as they are building their team. Bergevin didn’t do it, which should tell us that he wants to leave a door open… a big door that is.

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Alex Galchenyuk

A few days ago, on August 28th, former Islanders Mike Bossy, who is still very much connected with the team, said on 91.9 Sports that the Canadiens have offered Alex Galchenyuk to them. Bossy stopped short of saying who else would be included, but if Galchenyuk is involved, common sense dictates that it’s not for a fourth liner or a bottom-two defenseman. What Bossy did say however is that he had heard that Tavares declined a $84 million dollar contract from the Islanders, a contract which would put him in the same category as Carey PriceJonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think that money is the issue between Tavares and the Islanders. On ice, the team had one season when they looked promising, but then lost a few key players to free agency and return to their old selves in the off-season. Further, it is rather unsettling for a star player to not know where to base his home. The Islanders left Long Island to play in Brooklyn… but they now want out of the Barclays Centre. To go where?

If John Tavares was to hit the trade market, you would have 30 other teams interested in his services. There are two huge hurdles however:

  1. Per his limited NTC/NMC, you can knock a list of eight (8) teams to which Tavares won’t accept to be trade to.
  2. Not every good team has the combination of assets to trade (young talented players) and necessary salary cap to re-sign him.

Is it remotely possible that Bergevin has (or has had) serious talks with Snow and has the bases of a possible trade, but is waiting for the Isles’ GM to have one last kick at the can and talk his captain to re-signing? One thing that I know for sure, it’s that Bergevin wouldn’t be leaving that much money on the table for no good reason and that, in spite of what those who hate his gut might claim. The Canadiens currently have $5.5 million dollars more cap space than the Islanders.

Expect the unexpected“…

Tavares, who will be turning 27 on September 20th, is 6-foot 1-inch and tips the scale at 211 lbs. He finished last season with 28 goals and 66 points in 77 games last season with the Islanders.