TORONTO, ON. — The nightmare that is the 2015-16 NHL season continues for the Montreal Canadiens with their next game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. On Thursday, January 21st 2015, Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin spoke to the Montreal media after the Canadiens practice. It was a pretty smart move by Bergevin to come out an update on goalie Carey Price who has been out for nearly two months with a suspected meniscus injury.
Bergevin faced the music, taking all sorts of questions. In my opinion, he did what any good leader would do. Bergevin took the heat off his players and coaching staff meanwhile placing the entire blame on himself. Bergevin knows he hasn’t been able to provide Michel Therrien with six top six players to help the scoring woes. Bergevin mentioned that it is still very hard to make a trade acquiring a top player and that he is actively trying to improve his squad but he won’t panic and sell off a long term youngster for a short term fix, which was quite refreshing to hear.
Bergevin said that the entire coaching staff is safe for the rest of this season, which begs the question what happens if the Canadiens manage to miss the playoffs? Is Michel Therrien going to be sacked? Are Therrien’s assistant coaches going to be the ones to lose their jobs? Something will have to give.
Perhaps the most grave news from Marc Bergevin’s presser was that he mentioned that Carey Price is behind schedule and will be out for another three to four weeks. This puts his potential return right at the trade deadline area. It doesn’t give Bergevin enough time to evaluate his roster as he said he wanted to with Price in net. By that time, the Canadiens may very well be well out of playoff contention. However if the Canadiens manage to turn things around then Bergevin has a huge decision to make.
Selling assets and shutting down Carey Price
The worst thing the Canadiens can do is rush Carey Price back before he is 100 per cent healthy. For any player, a meniscus injury is devastating but for a goalie, rushing back with an injury like that could have awful career implications. The Canadiens must bide their time with Price even if it means shutting him down for the year to ensure that he is more than ready for the start of the 2016-17 season.
This year is very interesting so far as there are perhaps one or two teams designated as clear sellers. Many teams are still within range of making the playoffs. I believe this year will be a seller’s market which bodes well for the Canadiens if they fall out of the playoff race. Teams will be looking to add versatile utility players who can play up and down the lineup if needed.
The Canadiens have a few of these guys up front with Tomas Fleischmann, Dale Weise and Paul Byron coming to mind. Now the return in a seller’s market on these players would likely be attractive. Others who could be moved could be Tom Gilbert, Brian Flynn, Devante Smith-Pelly and even Victor Bartley.
If the Canadiens choose to go down this road, the purpose would be to get as many young assets and draft picks in preparation of a quick retool in the off-season. This could even lead to the Canadiens exploring the trade route in the cases of David Desharnais, Lars Eller, Alexei Emelin and even Andrei Markov.
Desharnais having just one year left on his contract could be an attractive option for a team with cap space that needs some offensive flare. His $3.5 million cap hit isn’t hard to swallow either. While there has been zero interest in the past, there may be a market for him. With how strong the unrestricted free agent (UFA) corps are this year, the Canadiens are bound to make some moves to open up some cap space in order to pursue some scoring help.
Marc Bergevin said the right thing yesterday when he said he won’t sell off long term pieces for short term fixes. That statement alone should instil confidence in Canadiens fans after the past two months. GM’s can be prone to rash moves if their team starts to struggle.
Could Bergevin have given Zack Kassian a shot to prove himself? Definitely, but that is in the past and the acquisition of Ben Scrivens has raised both his and Mike Condon’s performance with healthy competition.
There is one way that the Canadiens buy at the deadline and it’s if the club plays about .600 hockey from now until then. And if Carey Price comes back before the deadline at 100 per cent. That may be a lot to ask for.
Who could they look at adding? Obviously Kyle Okposo and Mikkel Boedker would be at the top of the list as they are UFA’s and would be able to be signed down the road. However if Bergevin wants to go with cheaper, more experienced UFA’s then Radim Vrbata and Jiri Hudler are sensible targets. They wouldn’t be too expensive and are safe bets that will produce and potentially resign if the Canadiens decide to offer contract extensions.
There are a ton of if’s surrounding the Montreal Canadiens right now, however I urge fans not to give up. Either way the Canadiens are in a decent spot regardless if they make the playoffs or not.
If they finish low enough they have a shot at a top pick. If they make the playoffs with a healthy Price, anything can happen, especially if the Canadiens acquire a scoring re-enforcement.
A big piece to the puzzle will be coach Michel Therrien. His usage of Alex Galchenyuk will be a key factor. Let’s hope that Therrien can get back to the lines and tactics from the beginning of the season and leaving Desharnais in a third line role where he thrived.
The Canadiens are not as good as their 9-0-0 record to start the season indicated however they are nowhere near as bad as the last two months have shown. Since the news conference General Manager Marc Bergevin has placed all the pressure and heat on his shoulders. He has a huge decision in front of him which could have implications on the long term future of the team. As long as he stays true to his word and doesn’t panic, they will be fine.
What option would you like to see Marc Bergevin take? Let us know @CHatzitoliosMTL and @AllHabs
After Bergevins news conference, what is your outlook for the season?
- Habs will be lucky to make the playoffs. (51%, 600 Votes)
- Tank for Matthews, Puljujärvi or Laine! (48%, 566 Votes)
- This is the year the Habs win the Cup! (1%, 11 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,177