NHL Draft (Photo by Icon Sportswire)

by Trege Wilson, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine 

At the end of the season presser, Geoff Molson reaffirmed his support of Marc Bergevin  as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. Bergevin will conduct a comprehensive assessment at all levels of the organization.

At the children’s charity event in March, Molson said, “We all know it’s a very difficult season for us in all areas, Marc and I are talking about it all the time. He knows that team performance at all levels is unacceptable and we have a plan to fix it. I’m talking about all areas: leadership, development, recruitment, players on the team.” 

Molson added, “We need to improve, we must become better. We have not been able to do that this year. We will succeed, I trust Marc to manage this transition, but he is aware that it needs to improve.”

This means that Molson is apparently sold on whatever plan Bergevin has to improve this team in the off-season. It also means that there are some jobs that are probably not very safe anymore. Molson has said that they have to look at all areas including scouting, player development, and coaching.

Molson also hinted that the team will be looking at getting a franchise player, saying they probably need one and that he sees an opportunity to get one. He mentioned how he likes the amount of draft picks they have. As for making the playoffs next year, Molson seemed hesitant with his answer, stating they want to make them and win, but was unsure of how to express himself with his answer.

In an interview Molson said “This year is a bad year and I recognize that. Not everything was working and we’re going to make sure we do everything we can to make sure it all comes together better next year.” When asked if it doesn’t, Molson simply said, “We will see.” 

Now with Molson having his say, this leaves Bergevin with the task of executing his plan. What is this plan, exactly? Well, that is the million dollar question or 11.9 million dollar question, which is the projected cap space for next season according to Capfriendly.com. Bergevin also has ten draft picks: one first round, four second round, one third, and three fourth-round picks. That’s 10 picks in the first 124 selections in next year’s draft.

Bergevin also has a number of holes to fill. He needs a number one and number two centre and a top-four puck-moving defensemen. The obvious plan is to fill these holes with the right players.

The odds of Bergevin trading for a number one centre are slim. The price is high and the Habs don’t have the top-level prospects needed to land one.

If the Habs must look to the free agent market then there are a number of centers available, most notably John Tavares, and Paul Stastny. Stastny isn’t a number one centre but could fill in the number two spot. This leaves Tavares as the only true top center.

If Bergevin’s plan is to get Tavares then he’s counting on Tavares deciding that the Islanders didn’t do enough to warrant staying. They could draft a centre but this year’s early draft selections are mostly defensemen and wingers. The top centres according to Hockey Prospect are Oliver Wahlstrom (6), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (10), Rasmus Kupari (12) and Isac Lundstrom (20).

The other hole that needs to be filled is a top-four defenseman. Last year, the Habs revamped their defense and it didn’t work out. Bergevin did get the top free agent available, namely Karl Alzner, and then signed a handful of bottom-pairing players.

This year, however, there are a couple good puck-moving defensemen. Either John Carlson or Mike Green could greatly improve the team’s struggling defence providing the team with much-needed offense from the backend.

The draft could also be a source of answers to the Canadiens need. If Montreal wins the lottery then drafting Rasmus Dahlin is a no-brainer. Beyond Dahlin, there are still a number of skilled young defensemen to choose from such as Adam Boqvist (4), Quinn Hughes (7), Noah Dobson (9), Evan Bouchard (15) as ranked by Hockey Prospects.

If Bergevin can somehow manage to sign Tavares, Carlson, and Stastny then he will solve almost all of his problems overnight. The odds of that happening are pretty much zero unless he makes major moves to free up more cap space.

Even signing Tavares and Carlson is a stretch, though it is possible. The best case scenario is Bergevin signs Tavares and drafts a young defenseman. If I were a betting man, I’d say he signs Statsny and Green while also drafting Boqvist or one of the big three wingers, Zadina, Tkachuk or Svechnikov. Bergevin won’t have his top center but he will greatly improve defence and get his number two guy.

If Bergevin doesn’t get his top centre then he also has the option of trading for a top centreprospect. Max Pacioretty’s name has been thrown around since the trade deadline as a good asset to help the GM land a top centre and defence prospect. He could also use his multiple second-round picks to address some needs.

Molson has stated that improvements need to be made all through the organization. With the Canadiens dead last in the penalty-kill and near the bottom of the league in goals for and against, it is obvious that changes are needed not only on the ice but behind the bench. With the exception of Kirk Muller, Stephane Waite and Claude Julien, the rest of the coaching staff could be replaced in the off-season.

It seems to me that both Molson and Bergevin are committed to improving this team at all levels of the organization. Bergevin says he has a plan, Molson seems to like it.

Your move Marc.