Cornwall Ontario – It’s been a disastrous two years for Habs GM Marc Bergevin. When owner Geoff Molson fires him this season he won’t be able to say that he wasn’t given every opportunity to win in Montreal.
Five seasons with no true improvement in the roster during the cap era is not good for a GM’s resume. Finding garage sale stars like Paul Byron is a “condiment” not the foundation of building a champion franchise.
While some could point to teams like Edmonton or Pittsburgh that endured losing seasons to fill their roster with blue chippers, Montreal has had it’s opportunities. It’s had a few seasons to draft in the top ten, but then frittered away a prospect like Sergachev for a forward who didn’t seem wanted by Steve Yzerman and who threw a tantrum.
Yzerman kept his cool and hoodwinked Bergy who has a trail of chum not seen since the movie Jaws was out.
Bergy’s first real season was 2012/13. His roster had a still productive Plekanec, Pacioretty, Subban, Markov; Brendan Gallagher and Lars Eller had productive seasons, Gionta still was over .50 points per game (Subban led the team with .90) Desharnais had .58 ppg. And there was some good enough supporting talent. And of course one Carey Price in net.
A young Alexei Emelin, Nathan Beaulieu, also had tastes with the big club that had just drafted a young Alex Galchenyuk with the 5th overall pick. Charles Hudon was the 5th round pick for the team. He made no major trades that season.
The team had Subban, Price, and Pacioretty as stars. Markov, and Plekanec were first line/pairing players. And they had a young stud in the minors. The team was on solid footing to move forward. It’s biggest negative was it’s coach, Michel Therrien.
Hamilton didn’t make the playoffs under Sylvain Lefebvre and there were no top six players other than Gallagher and none with over 40 points. 1st rounder Jared Tinordi had a good AHL season and showed some promise to be a big body mid to bottom pairing D man.
Patches led the team with 39 goals and .82 ppg. Seven Habs had over 40 points. Even Desharnais had a good season. Tomas Vanek was a productive late season pick up although he ran out of gas in the playoffs. Gallagher progressed as a young player and some of the baby Habs had tastes with Tinordi and Beaulieu getting over 17 games each of ice time. Alex Galchenyuk was oddly enough started out on wing where he had some success.
Raphael Diaz was traded for fan fave Dale Weise. Vanek only cost the team a 2rdr. The team went to the conference final.
Montreal had a good if not spectacular draft with all seven still either playing in the team’s system or making the NHL. Michael McCarron was the big bodied centre of the future chosen in the first round. He was a high risk pick and may make it ultimately as a 3rd or 4th line big body. The Habs had 3 second rounders picking Zach Furcale, Arturri Lehkonen, and Jacob De La Rose. Furcale seems stalled out, but Lehkonen has shown promise and potential.
The Bulldogs, still under Lefebvre, again finished out of the playoffs meaning the baby Habs did not get any playoff experience. The only real star season was Dustin Tokarski who would move up to the NHL.
Bergy stepped up and after two seasons decided to move his team forward; or at least try. A slew of trades included:
Picking up Torrey Mitchell for essentially a 7th rdr
Brian Flynn for a 5th. I still don’t understand these two moves other than that both were Centres.
Picking up Jeff Petry as a rental for a 2nd and 4th which was an interesting if not solid pick. Petry of course was signed up at $5.5m long term after the season.
Dumping a beaten up Josh Gorges for a 2nd which was a good deal for both teams.
Louis Leblanc, one of the oddest 1st rounders in Montreal under Trevor Timmons was dumped to Anaheim for nothing as the conditions of the trade failed. This was a first red light that the team was not doing a good job of developing talent. The pick also reeked of that special “chez nous” factor that the Habs seem to endure instead of focusing on winning?
Patches again led the team with 37 goals and .84 ppg. Plecky had 60 points, as did PK, Markov added 50, Gallagher and Galchenyuk were both over 45 and now officially NHL players. Beaulieu played over 60 games, and Price had a stunningly good season that he again couldn’t translate into playoff gold.
The team made the semi finals.
Trevor Timmons only had six picks, missing a second. He managed to Nikita Sherbak and Brett Lernout ( I really like Lernout).
Lefebvre again missed the playoffs. That means three season of no playoffs for the Baby Habs which is a crucial part of player development.
Hudon put up 57 points and the team had more veteran AHL players which led to some more scoring but not enough to get the team to the playoffs. Carr, Andrighetto, and Dumont all showed some promise which playoff hockey would’ve helped.
At this point the Habs deficiencies are clear. They have strong assets, most not acquired by Bergy. They are not building a strong AHL squad of future Habs; and seem to have a failure in moving forward at that level while burning up productive years of their NHL stars while playing near the cap as well.
The team simply isn’t building up its core and seem to be using retreads and bandaids at both the NHL and AHL level.
Disaster of Titanic proportions. One of, if not the, worst NHL seasons by the Habs. Carey Price’s injury, which huge, should not have seen the team tank as they did. While some have suggested on purpose it was ugly to watch as a life long Hab fan.
The team though still was in a position to turn it around or move forward.
Patches still led the team with .78 ppg, but only 30 goals. Gallagher was injured. PK was injured but still put up 51 points in 68 games, good for 4th on the team. Galchenyuk and Plekanec both had over 50 points, Petry was injured, Desharnais in decline. Hail Mary signings like Alex Semin and Zach Kassian were ejected quickly even though the team was winning with Semin, and Kassian would go on to find a home and success in Edmonton while being the exact type of player the Habs needed, grit to protect the smaller players while still putting some offense up.
40 skaters played that season which is never a good sign. It was plug and play and the most glorious franchise in the NHL was starting to look like a Rotisserie Hockey team. There were leaks of frustration coming from the dressing room and some suggested that Price was simply using the injury to get rid of Therrien and there was a metric ton of finger pointing at Subban who essentially at times seemed like the only Hab upset by the circus and not winning.
Clearly this was the epic fall and fail of Marc Bergevin as a GM, but owner Geoff Molson stood by him, even while Bergy was still standing by Therrien.
Weise and FA pick up Tomas Fleischmann were swapped out for Danault and a 2rp which turned out well for him.
Bergy also embarrassed himself by being partners for the strange John Scott All Star debacle trade.
The Habs only had 5 picks and Noah Juulsen was nabbed with the first. It was a bit unusual and the jury is still out on Juulsen.
Sylvain Lefebvre again missed the playoffs with the team moving to Saint Johns. The one bright spot is that most of the team that scored well were in fact up and coming Habs with Hudon notching 28 goals.
At this point Bergy had proven that he couldn’t make the “Big Deal” or acquire a centre for the first or second line.
He was flailing away looking for diamonds in the rough. He was running the NY Yankees of Hockey like it was garage sale find time. The baby Habs repeatedly not making the playoffs was a disaster that would have long term impact.
Look at the Toronto makeover for example. Young players need to play in all situations to maximize their value.
Bergy had failed. Yes Geoff Molson have him another chance because Bergy was about to make his first big trade which would be his his first or second worst as GM.
Nashville saw him coming and he swapped out future Hall of Fame D man PK Subban for Shea Weber. Weber, a great player, but aging and going against the grain of a NHL that was becoming faster and more mobile; exactly what PK Subban was. Nashville would go on to have their greatest playoff run with PK playing a major role.
Lars Eller was swapped to Washington for 2 second rounders. One would be used for Joni Ikonen and the other part of the Drouin deal.
2 second rounders were then sent to Chicago for UFA Andrew Shaw. One of those turned into future stud Alex De Brincat which again is a player the Habs could use as they struggle with scoring. Shaw was given a far too generous contract and turned in a Brandon Prust + type season. Way too high a price ultimately to pay for essentially a good 3rd line player.
Jordie Benn was picked up later in the season for a 4th and Greg Pateryn, another young Hab mishandled in his development. Desharnais was dumped to Edmonton for Brandon Davidson. You can never have enough 7th or 8th D men the writer typed tongue in cheek…
And the the weirdest of the weird, with the team having a good bounce back season thanks to Carey Price, Bergy picked up not one, but three meat heads. Now this writer is no vegan. I support having some muscle, but it felt like Bergy had simply failed to acquire a centre or fill a real need and shot some poo at the wall to keep the writers busy. It was an epic fail and the Habs were bounced ugly in the first round.
Patches again led the team with .83 ppg and 35 goals but tanked as usual in the playoffs.
Alex Radulov, who I wrote the team needed to pick up last year, was signed for only one year. RaduLOVE had a great season and playoff and cashed in signing long term with Dallas leaving the team with a huge hole to fill.
There were very few bright spots of the 38 skaters the team used that season. Arturi Lehkonen put up 18 goals. As hard as it is to get excited about 18 goals the youngster showed some moxie in the playoffs.
Having gone all in as Bergy was quoted as saying the team cashed out early. Michel Therrien was finally fired when former Hab coach Claude Julien became available. While a better coach I’m not sure that he’s the solution. Claude is signed to a lucrative 5 year deal.
Lefebvre finally made the playoffs bowing out also in round one.
Hudon notched 27 goals in only 56 games adding 4 points in 4 playoff games which led to many asking why he wasn’t brought up late in the Habs season? Brett Lernout and goalie Charlie Lindgren stood out for Saint Johns, but the team still had no real studs ready to help the NHL squad.
The one stud the team did have was 1st rounder Mikhail Sergachev, but it looks like there’s a Russian pogrom in Hab land as Radulov was allowed to leave as well as long time stalwart Markov who was simply allowed to leave the club as he headed back to the KHL. Markov just couldn’t see himself wearing any other NHL jersey than a Habs.
Bergy was quoted as stating that if you wanted loyalty, buy a dog. Oddly enough Geoff Molson has been far more loyal to Bergevin than Bergy has been to his players.
Of course that normally would lead to a firing, but instead he traded the future D1 who put up 43 points in 50 games with Windsor in the OHL while getting lots of playoff time. He was traded for Jonathan Drouin. There are conditional picks based on Sergy playing 40 games with Tampa where Steve Yzerman actually understands the concept of loyalty. Just check the hometown deal that Steve Stamkos signed with him.
The irony is that Jordan Eberle was available for a lot less than Sergy and scored about the same amount of points as Drouin. Oddly enough the media considered that a bad season while Drouin was made to sound like a star. Drouin was signed long term at $5.5m per while Eberle had two years left at $6. You simply don’t trade potential franchise D men for a winger, even one as talented as Drouin.
Bergy’s only other major off season move was signing Carey Price to a monsterish and untradable eight year $84M contract at a cap hit of $10.5M per that starts in the season Carey turns 30.
As good as Price is, he simply has never had the success in the playoffs that he has had in the regular season.
What you have is a team of clearly diminished value with $8+m of cap space available. While there are a few potential trades out there for a Centre, ultimately the habs are a team of moderately talented players, many with over priced contracts.
In five seasons Marc Bergevin simply has failed to fill the one area most people agree needed filling, a top line centre.
There simply isn’t that much left to trade away which leads this writer to think that Montreal may simply be playing for the draft pick this season which is a tragedy for a franchise like Montreal with its amazing and loyal fans.
While the team still has some assets they are in a very difficult hole now and far worse than when Marc Bergevin took over the squad.
Gone are the days of buy low,sell high Sam Pollock. Or even the good old days of Serge Savard who’d make an awesome interim GM if Molson pulls the trigger early before more damage is done to his investment.
It’s time to truly focus on what this franchise is supposed to do; win. Can you imagine if the Leafs win a cup before Montreal does?
What do you think hab fans? You can post your comments below.