NOVEMBER 16, 2021 – What an odd situation the Habs are in. The team is as bad as last year; but for different reasons. Like many pundits I enjoyed the Habs miracle run to the finals, but I’m no wearer of rose coloured glasses.
There were no real positives or moving forward for the team last season. No resolution of major issues. In particular:
Dvorak and Hoffman replace Daneault & Tatar. I still prefer the replacements, but it’s not a huge win.
Habs failed to resolve Price/Weber cap situation. While Weber is on LTIR and not counting against the cap, Price still is with the team. Here’s the deal on this. If the Habs management were totally unaware of Price’s condition they failed. If they knew and didn’t trade him after the playoff run they failed. Short of a miraculous recovery, which with this team looks unlikely it makes the prospect of trading his contract more difficult without retaining salary.
The Centre position still didn’t move forward. There were some options in the off season. Montreal failed to pick up a veteran center with some gas in the tank. While Evans has replaced KK it still hasn’t moved the needle enough to count.
The D corps is a mess. Poor Jeff Petry looks like he’s playing wounded and is not his normal self. He needs some help and some rest. Ben Chariot is in a contract year and even with his failings is putting together a strong season. Savard frankly is an embarrassment of a signing. He’s not a 3-4 D man any longer. At least a good one. While he’s the replacement for an aging Weber, the Habs didn’t need to replace Weber, but to use those resources on a puck moving D man which were available, and desperately needed.
The Gallagher signing. It looked like the Habs chose Stumpy over Danault for a resign, but the contract is utterly leaded, and will most likely haunt the team as Brendan isn’t going to age like a fine wine with his style of play. Also, as his minutes diminish so will his results. Love the guy, but this contract will not play well. It’s already causing grumbles.
Bergevin is not the man to fix this team. He’s been here long enough to have proven that. A new management team is needed that can survive in this market. The team also needs to rethink it’s linguistic policies. If most of your players are not francophones it makes no sense to have a francophone coach other than making some of the reporters at le Journal happy.
Hab fans love winning. It’s their history. Winning overcomes language every day. In an ideal world the Habs would have a francophone coach, but having a winning coach is more important. Same with the GM position. As written previously this position isn’t about pooh poohing the base market of Quebec. It means ownership simply needs to do a better job of finding the right GM and Coach who can speak French rather than hire rookies without strong resumes to run the most storied franchise in NHL history. Hockey first. Politics never.
So what would I do? And I write this as the Habs first Analytics pro from back in the 90’s when I created systems that still haven’t been matched, and unlike the geeks in A land I don’t share my tools. 🙂
Total rebuild? This team doesn’t need a total rebuild in this scribblers opinion. They aren’t guaranteed and Season ticket holders deserve better. There are strong enough assets to not need one. There are glimmers of hope, especially if certain players are moved out. It’s core is simply too old right now. You can’t just trade most of your roster.
Stay the Course? No, the team still has too many holes to be a contender this season and will only be another year older next year. This roster is a summation of the failure of the Habs under Marc Bergevin. Whether the buck stops at Bergy or if he’s a victim of a meddling owner in Geoff Molson we may never know. But the bottom line is this team isn’t worthy as they stand. Too many band aids and bad contracts.
Rebuild. Yup. The team needs to get younger. It’s needs a stronger core.
As of this story I would posit that the core of this team is SUZUKI, TOFFOLI, PRICE, ANDERSON, PETRY, & DROUIN. Most of the main supporting cast are over 30 which in today’s fast NHL simply doesn’t work.
Future replacements are not imminent. Caulfield, & Primeau have core potential. Some of the D prospects should become NHLers . Not sure they’re core material yet.
The problem is for this scenario is that the Habs, with all their drama are only 7 points out of a playoff spot which isn’t the end of the world. The team needs to make a decision soon though.
As much as I like Chariot his trade value will never be higher than today most likely. He’s healthy and what a lot of teams need. At his age and the direction this team is going resigning him would not be a priority.
Finding a home for Price & Gallagher. There probably is a deal for Stumpy out there. It probably won’t be what it should because of his contract and the Habs may have to eat some to get any value. At his age he needs to be moved while he has value. Moving Price will be more of a challenge, but his time in Montreal needs to end for all concerned.
Jake Allen has amazing value now. If you’re doing a rebuild you grab that value. His results and low contract will be very attractive to competing teams this season with cap issues. Edmonton and St. Louis out West, but Toronto would really benefit from having Allen this season.
There are some other contracts that would be good to be dumped, like Savard and Drouin, but politics and numbers make that difficult to game.
The situation is dark for Montreal fans, but it’s never as bad or as good as we think. Reality is usually somewhere in the middle and as we saw last year, sometimes the puck bounces your way. If the team does move out some contracts this season a good draft in Montreal may soothe the wounds of this season.
The biggest crisis Montreal faces is getting the best possible people for coaching and management across the board. There is no cap limit on those positions and Montreal needs to choose & develop more homegrown talent.