By J.D. Lagrange, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

bergevinplan

When viewing fine art, it is often recommended to take a few steps back in order to truly understand and appreciate the creation in front of you, allowing us to see the entire piece all at once. Come to think of it, managing a hockey team can also be called an art as well.

PENTICTON, BC. – Following the Zack Kassian incident, the Montreal Canadiens found themselves in a situation which they were not expecting when making their final roster decisions. While the crisis may have changed the numbers on the jerseys, it didn’t change the plan that General Manager Marc Bergevin and his team had for the upcoming season.

As we know, Bergevin took two relatively low risk gambles this off-season. He signed Alexander Semin to a great one-year contract with minimal cap hit, then traded fan favourite Brandon Prust to the Vancouver Canucks for young forward Kassian.

While experts agreed that the balance seemed to be tilted in the Canadiens’ favour in that trade, some might change their mind after Kassian was entered into stage two of the NHL’s substance abuse program a few days before the start of the season. But that did not change Bergevin’s plans for this upcoming season, something we’ll touch on a bit later.

CAMP WINNERS AND LOSERS

If fans and media have listened to Bergevin since he took over the job in Montreal, he has always repeated that players make the decisions for him, challenging the young prospects to force him to make room for them. Young Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher did just that three years ago and Bergevin kept his word.

This year, only one prospect shone more than the veterans and that is why goaltender Mike Condon made the team at the risk of losing Dustin Tokarski to waivers. Condon totally outplayed his counterpart who allowed eight goals on 37 shots in exhibition games.

Another example of that is veteran Thomas Fleischmann, who was offered a PTO to attend training camp and who won his battle, earning himself a one-year NHL contract with the team. He outplayed rookie forwards Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron, Charles Hudon, Sven Andrighetto and Christian Thomas, amongst others.

Jarred Tinordi (Canadiens.com)
Jarred Tinordi (Canadiens.com)

One exception might be Jarred Tinordi who, as we know, would have had to clear waivers in order to be sent to St. John’s, something management (and many experts) felt the former first round pick would not have cleared without being claimed by another team. Between the two, they preferred risking losing Mark Barberio, who had a good camp, to losing an asset like Tinordi.

THE PLAN

But what is Marc Bergevin’s plan? When the team announced that they had claimed diminutive centre Paul Byron from the Calgary Flames, Twitter exploded with fans questioning the need for another small player, especially that the announcement was followed by the news that Jacob De la Rose was sent down to the IceCaps. The claim was that many of the team’s prospects were better than Byron (and they are right), and questioned why not give a young player a chance?

The answer is quite clear. Had Kassian not acted irresponsibly as he did, De La Rose would have still been cut. It’s Fleischmann who stole his job. It’s Lars Eller working out on left-wing beside Galchenuk and Semin, who stole his job. It’s not Byron.

You see, Byron is 26 years old and he is a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Further, he counts for $900,000 on the cap and since Kassian’s salary ($1.75M) doesn’t count against the cap while he is suspended, the team is saving the equivalent of $850,000 pro-rated in the meantime.

But that’s only one of the reasons for picking him up. He was one of the last players cut in Calgary and while he’s no All-Star, he can play. The main reason however is that the Habs’ brass prefers having guys like Byron and Brian Flynn as the 12-13th forwards and see their young talents have quality minutes in the AHL. That is why, in my opinion, they picked-up Byron.

Further, according to our friends at Capfriendly.com, this cap saving means that the team is starting the season with over $3.6 million below the salary cap, good for 17th in the NHL. This leaves tons of flexibility to Bergevin if a player becomes available during the course of the season to make a major acquisition if the situation presents itself, something not all contenders can do.

Which leads us to Tinordi… he has not impressed at camp, at least not enough to earn himself a spot on the Canadiens’ blue line. By keeping him with the big club in order not to lose him, the Habs will be starting the season with eight healthy defensemen, including young Greg Pateryn. As Bergevin has shown that he doesn’t like sitting young players in the press box for extended periods of time, this could easily lead us to believe that he might be looking at trading someone. It might be Tinordi, but I wouldn’t be so quick at jumping to that conclusion. Although coach Michel Therrien seems to like him, Tom Gilbert could also be a trade bait although the return wouldn’t be that great. Let’s not forget that right-handed defensemen seem to be in high demand around the league these days.

This seems to be the roster to start the season but remember folks: it’s a long season and Bergevin is always looking at ways to improve his team. Stay tuned and enjoy the ride.

Go Habs Go!

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J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.