When Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin was hired, he stated that he wanted to add quality depth at all positions and the best way to do that was for the team to draft and develop their own prospects. Bergevin has since traded very few of his draft picks, allowing Trevor Timmins to work his magic, and he has put the emphasis in hiring quality people in helping overlook those young players’ development.
PENTICTON, BC. – Last season, the Canadiens were very fortunate by escaping major injuries to key players for extended periods of time. The same cannot be said this season and the first huge test was losing league MVP Carey Price for two weeks. The team barely missed a beat in his absence, going 6-2-2 under some solid performances by rookie Mike Condon and the team in front of him.
Soon after, others fell in combat including top-4 defenseman Alexei Emelin, utility player Torrey Mitchell (5 goals, 10 points in 20 games), Devante Smith-Pelly and more recently, Brendan Gallagher who could be out for several weeks with two broken fingers.
Even more amazing about how the team has kept winning so far in spite of the injuries, is the fact that they are doing it without any production from two newly acquired forwards in Alexander Semin (one goal) and Zack Kassian (substance abuse).
WHERE IS THE SUCCESS COMING FROM?
Who in their right mind would have predicted that, after 22 games:
- David Desharnais would have 7 goals and 17 points?
- Tomas Fleischmann would have 7 goals and 15 points?
- Dale Weise would have 9 goals and 14 points?
- Torrey Mitchell would have 5 goals and 10 points?
- Lars Eller would have 6 goals?
- Brendan Gallagher would be on pace for a 70 points season?
- Mike Condon would be undefeated in his first 6-7 NHL games?
- The team would have a goals differential of plus-25?
- The team would be third in the NHL on the power-play and second on the penalty kill?
- The team would be 6-2-2 without Carey Price?
Those are key factors mentioned above, no doubt, but it’s more than that. It’s Condon stepping up when Price went down. It’s Nathan Beaulieu stepping up and playing quality top-4 minutes with Jeff Petry when Emelin went down. It’s Greg Pateryn stepping in and playing outstanding hockey when inserted in the line-up. It’s Paul Byron playing some solid hockey, especially on the penalty kill, when asked to come in.
And there is still Sven Andrighetto who has shown some good things in the one game that he played against the Islanders. There is still Jarred Tinordi who has yet to play a game this season. There is recently called up Bud Holloway who is third in the AHL in scoring with 20 points in 18 games. There is Michael McCarron who, as a rookie, has 17 points in his first 18 games as a pro in St. John’s, tied for eighth in the AHL in scoring. There are also defensemen Mark Barberio (14 points) and Morgan Ellis (9 points) who are doing well for St. John’s. Even Zachary Fucale is 6-2 in his first year as a pro.
The loss of Gallagher is as big as the loss of Price was on the team. With Max Pacioretty, he is the only top end forward on this team as we speak, with Alex Galchenyuk on the verge to break out. You can’t replace his production with one player so it will take others to pinch in more than they have so far, most notably Alexander Semin, Devante Smith-Pelly (when he returns from injury), and even Lars Eller, while hoping that Andrighetto, Holloway or whoever they call up can pinch in a bit as well.
BERGEVIN ON THE PROWL
Reputable insiders Elliott Friedman, Bob McKenzie and Pierre LeBrun have all reported recently that Marc Bergevin is the most active GM out there and he’s looking for top-6 help for the long term. The names of Eller and Tinordi have resurfaced in the rumour mill and Bergevin has been seen scouting the Ottawa Senators for a few games lately. One would think that for Bergevin to attend games, it wouldn’t be for some third or fourth liners. While he’s having a good start to this season, what would be the odds that the Senators would part ways with otherwise underperforming winger Bobby Ryan, who carries a cap hit of $7.25 million until 2021-22? Would Bryan Murray be bold enough to pull off a trade of such magnitude within his own division?
According to our friends at Capfriendly.com, the Canadiens have about $2.5 million in cap space available, which means that technically, they would have to send about $4.5 million the other way to acquire a player costing as much as Ryan, cap space that most top teams in the league don’t have. Cap-wise, Eller ($3.5M) and Tinordi ($900k) would do it… although it would likely cost more.
Perhaps the loss of Gallagher might force Bergevin to pull the trigger now, even if the price might be a bit high for his liking, especially if the team starts slipping without the feisty winger in the line-up. Definitely keep an eye on the Habs in the next week or so.
After years of listening to fans claiming that the Canadiens’ success were solely due to Carey Price, it is nice to notice a swing in people’s thoughts on the topic, especially since the team’s performances when he was injured. Broadcasters from opposing teams and coaches going up against the Habs have all stated, in one way or another, how difficult this team is to play against and how tough of a defense this core is.
I have my theory about it and it goes through Jeff Petry. Since he was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline last year, Petry has been a force. In Edmonton, he was asked to be a player that he isn’t, play a role that he’s not comfortable with. In Montreal, he has P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov ahead of him so he can focus on being the second pairing’s go-to guy, still playing key minutes but sharing the duty with the top pairing. Further, he has made his defense partners better. Alexei Emelin was struggling before being paired with Petry and he’s a transformed player with him. We also can notice how Nathan Beaulieu is playing being paired with Petry and that’s no coincidence.
The former Oilers is a good skater, makes a good first pass and usually makes the right decision in his own zone, while being able to support the attack from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, he will never be mentioned in Norris Trophy discussions but what he brings to the Canadiens is quality depth. By having him there also allows Tom Gilbert to be an excellent third pairing defenseman this season, he who performs just as well on the right side or the left side. With Petry in the line-up, the Canadiens have a very good and solid defensive core.
Go Habs Go!!!