Bergevin Has Let His Players Down

Sometimes, inaction is an action that speak louder than anything. It can be a good thing, or it can blow back in your face. Admittedly, some inactions are however better than bad actions. In some case though, inaction can be the equivalent of becoming stagnant, even taking a step back in a particular moment, especially when those around you have all moved forward. If you’re standing still and everyone else is moving forward, you still have lost ground.

All through summer, Marc Bergevin was on the hot seat. Not only had he failed to bring his team to the next level but according to some, the team had regressed. At the start of the season, even after the moves that he made in the summer, fans and media were sceptical about his acquisitions. After all, he had traded his top two goals’ scorers for guys whose production was nowhere close to them. He hadn’t improved his porous defense. The expectations? What expectations? The once glorious Montreal Canadiens were going to be a lottery team with good odds to get the 1st overall pick, everyone thought.

Well this group of players, led by captain Shea Weber, his assistants Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron, and room leader Carey Price, decided otherwise. They took matter into their own hands and they were going to prove everyone wrong and that, they certainly did. To the point where at the trade deadline, they found themselves in a playoffs’ position.

History repeats itself

Trade deadline comes and players are secretly hoping to get some help, a bit of a reward for their had work, for their dedication. Something to get them over the hump. What did they get this season? Fourth line help and a seventh or eighth defenseman. Yes, Christian Folin, Nate Thompson, Dale Weise and Jordan Weal were added to the roster by Bergevin. Players are looking at this knowing full well that their biggest needs were someone to help spark their anemic powerplay, and a left-handed defenseman to eat up big minutes on the top-4. The got nothing, nata.

Canadian country music star Terri Clark once said:

The best thing to do is stare it in the face and move on. We have to face our fears and plow through. I think taking chances takes a lot more courage than staying stagnant and doing what’s safe and comfortable.

And this is not the first time that Marc Bergevin is playing it safe at the trade deadline. There seems to be a pattern here and players aren’t stupid. They see it. At least those who were here when it happened before.

The 2014-2015 season was the last time Bergevin gave them some substantial help. With his team sitting second overall, he acquired Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers, to play behind P.K. Subban. As is his trademark, he also fortified his fourth line by adding Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell. Results? They lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the playoffs but that wasn’t because Bergevin did nothing.

Carey Price and Shea Weber could have used some much needed help.

The following year, Carey Price injured his knee and only played 12 games to start the season. With Price in the line-up, the Canadiens were sitting seventh in the NHL’s overall standings. Bergevin waited to December 28th to get help and instead of getting a quality goaltender, he traded for… Ben Scriven. He never addressed the need, never adjusted all season long and that was a huge let down for the players. No one can replace Price, everyone knows that, but to expect Scriven to come anywhere close the the All-Star netminder’s level of play is mind boggling. The Habs finished 22nd overall that year, well out of a playoffs’ spot.

In 2016-2017, the Canadiens were sitting in eighth place overall by trade deadline day with 78 points in 64 games. At the deadline, here’s the help Bergevin gave his players: An aging Steve Ott, Dwight King, Andreas Martinsen, Brandon Davidson and… Jordie Benn. With deficiencies covered by the play of Price (who had a strong finish to the season) the Habs managed to maintain their pace but were eliminated by the New York Rangers after Chris Kreider took Price out of the series.

Last season, the Canadiens suffered a huge loss when it was announced that Shea Weber had broken his foot in the very first game of the season and was shut down for the season after only 26 games into it. How did Bergevin react? He waited, picked up Mike Reilly by the deadline and… became a seller. Only the Buffalo Sabres, the Ottawa Senators and the Arizona Coyotes finished the season with a worse record than the Habs.

Jump to February 25th, 2019… The Canadiens are battling for a playoffs’ spot. Claude Julien‘s team has won only two of its last eight games, allowing on average almost four goals per game and their powerplay sits second last in the NHL with a 12.7% success rate. Their recent slump has allowed the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins to distance themselves, when the three teams were nose to nose just a few days back. What did Bergevin do? He went and changed his fourth line. The powerplay help didn’t come and the blatant hole on the left side of the defense is still has gaping as it has been all year.

In the meantime, the teams battling with the Canadiens bolstered their roster. The players see that…. and it could very well cost them to miss the playoffs when it’s all said and done.

Having said all of that, While it’s okay to be upset to see that the Habs didn’t add any major asset(s) at the deadline, we do need to remind ourselves that they also didn’t give away any major asset(s) either. Also, rest assured that Bergevin has planted important seeds in the last few days and sometimes, those come to tuition in the off season. Nothing lost, except a playoffs’ appearance in my opinion, and some valuable playoffs’ experience for the young players on the team. Let’s just hope that the players don’t give up on Bergevin the way he sort of did on them. Go Habs Go!

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NHL 32 Teams Revamp

With the announcement that the National Hockey will finally welcome Seattle into its folds – a much overdue addition – the league will finally have two balanced Conferences with 16 teams in each one. The Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association won the Cup in 1917, beating the National Hockey Association’s Montreal Canadiens. The NHL was founded later that year. Time will tell if the ownership group will chose to build on the City’s hockey history or not but either way, it will generate excitement in the Pacific Northwest.

And with the expansion, what better time for the NHL to revamp and balance its schedule to make the league more equitable for everyone? Since the arrival of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the odds of making the playoffs have been higher in the West than in the East, with one fewer team not making it to the Stanley Cup rounds. It’s also very difficult to balance a schedule with an uneven number of teams, let’s admit.

Regular Season

While I’m sure some NHL executives would go along with that plan, many others would be totally against it… for revenue purposes, but here is what I would personally love to see. So regardless of the naysayers, hear me out on this one.

First thing’s first: get rid of the divisions. Back in the days when you had 4-5 teams per division, there might have been some benefit of having divisions, in order to create some rivalries. But with eight teams per division, it’s not the case so much. Rivalries in today’s NHL are built in the playoffs. So you go with two Conferences, no divisions. So far so good?

Each team would play two (2) games against each team of the other Conference. One at home, one away, as they are currently doing. This allows for fans to get the opportunity to see each and every team in the league at least once. So two games against 16 teams would result in 32 games played.

On the current 82 games schedule format, this would leave 50 games to play within your own conference… but for any given team, there are 15 other teams in their Conference. It takes no mathematician to figure out that you 50 doesn’t divide equally by 15 so by keeping the number of games as it stands, it would create some complications.

If the NHL wanted teams to play 4 (4) games against each conference rivals (2 home, 2 away) it would total 60 games (4×15). Add the 32 against the other Conference and you have a 92 games schedule. That’s not going to happen. The season is already too long and the NHLPA would never go for that… and rightfully so.

Now if they play three (3) games against each team in their own Conference, it represents 45 games (3×15). Add the 32 extra-Conference games and you would have a 77 games schedule. Ideally, this a more feasible solution and it would allow room to squeeze in the World Cup and the Olympics, each one every alternating 4 years. This means that every two years, there would be an international tournament within the NHL season. The only imperfection is that teams would be playing two home games and one away, and vice-versa, against any given team within their Conference.

But wait… a 77 games schedule? That’s five games (82-77=5) where owners are losing revenue. They’re definitely not going to go for that, right? So in order to satisfy that revenue loss by the owners, what if we were to cut their biggest expense? What if we clawed back the players’ salaries and the salary cap by six percent (6%), which is the equivalent of 5 games over 82?

Playoffs

The NHL season is long and grueling. Why not make it mean something – or at least more than what it means under the current format – by rewarding the players for their hard work? The best teams in the regular season should have a clearly defined advantage and mostly, not be penalized for being in a tougher division! The playoffs’ format as it stands today makes no sense to both NHL teams and their fans. The playoffs should be sorted by Conference and the higher you finish in the standings, the weaker your opponent should be (on paper) based on the regular season.

Eastern Standings Feb.7/19

Not accounting for travel, the ideal format would be to ignore Conferences and go with the old 1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, 3 vs 14, etc, and allowing for a chance to see an Edmonton vs Calgary, Los Angeles vs Anaheim, Philadelphia vs Pittsburgh, Montreal vs Toronto Stanley Cup finals. But due to unfair travel time and costs, that’s not going to pass with neither the Board of Governors or the NHLPA. So the next best thing to do is to go with the overall Conference standings. First place in the Conference faces the eight place team, 2nd vs 7th, 3rd vs 6th, 4th vs 5th. For subsequent rounds, reseed the teams based on the regular season.

Shutout the shootout

Can we please finally get rid of this shootout gimmick?!? It should have never been there to start with. You don’t see the NFL decide games with quarterbacks throwing footballs through hoops, MLB with a homerun competition or the NBA with free throws. If teams are tied after 60 minutes, play five minutes at 4 on 4. If they are still tied, then play five minutes at 3 on 3. If still tied after 70 minutes, it’s a well deserved tie game by both teams.

I did some research in the BCHL a couple of years ago and over a period of six years, only 2% of all games ended in a tie game. I have attended games ending in a tie and with this format of OT, everyone was happy, including the fans. The OT is spectacular and extremely entertaining and that, even if you had the most boring first 60 minutes. Assuming the same ratio, this would mean 25 games in the NHL would result in a tie on an 82-game season.

Last but not least, lose the loser point. Winning team gets two (2) points, whether it’s in regulation or overtime. The losing team gets nothing, they have lost game! No room for consolation prize here, it’s professional sports. Now if teams are still tied after the second OT, the game ends in a tie and each team gets one (1) well deserved point.

The league has made some good choices, but some pretty bad ones too in recent years when it comes to the tradition of hockey, with the Instigator rule change being the biggest mistake. It’s time to give the game back to the fans, give them what THEY want. Afterall, we know that Gary Bettman will lockout the players again soon, as he’s done every time.