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

bergevinplan

“Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make” ~ Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck, October 1948. Veeck first came up with this quote after his Indians won the World Series without making any trades as other teams had done.

PENTICTON, BC. – Now used as a cliché, the old saying is still very much valid today. How often, in modern NHL, have we seen teams jeopardizing the future of the organization for a chance to win the elusive Stanley Cup? Yet, although several teams overpay at trade deadline each year, or on July first at the opening of the free agents’ market, only one team each year wins the Cup, meaning that the moves have not paid off for the others.

One of the best quotes this year came from non-other than the Canadiens’ General Manager, Marc Bergevin, when he said:

“If you look at history in the NHL, the biggest mistakes are made in early July. Worst contracts, guys who underperform. The biggest mistakes are July 1st. You have to be careful.”

From reading on the web here and there, it seems like a lot of Habs’ fans are upset thinking that Bergevin is ignoring the team’s biggest issue: the lack of scoring. People were/are expecting him to throw big dollars at someone, anyone, in hope to address this need. There is such a level of desperation amongst some of the fan base that names like Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Semin are on some people’s desired list.

That alone is not knowing Marc Bergevin. He has worked very hard to successfully change the culture of this team, to bring back pride in wearing the uniform. Players do want to play in Montreal now, something that hasn’t always been the case. Some were (and still are) laughing at the Habs’ GM when he kept repeating that he wanted character players, but in most cases, that’s what he’s brought in… and the results speak for themselves!

Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Brandon Prust… those guys didn’t want to leave Montreal. They loved the team, the city, the direction this organization was taking. Funny how taxes, language and weather are no factors when the team has a sense of direction, with a GM who is recognized and respected around the league, with a team that has a sense of direction and is winning.

So what is keeping Marc Bergevin from improving on his top-six forwards and address the scoring needs of his team? He did add more depth to the defense. He did sign Jeff Petry, a great addition to Carey Price’s front guard. He did add more depth to the bottom-six forward positions. Heck, there are even a couple of websites, who shall remain nameless, who make a headline to the effect that the Habs “missed out” on a free agents’ signing. Not so much the case if you ask me.

Bergevin has a plan. While some might think that he’s done his shopping, I am convinced that he’s not. If anyone has watched him work since taking over from Pierre Gauthier as the team’s GM, they would know that. Bergevin is not one to overpay. Oh this doesn’t mean that he won’t make mistakes, every GM in the league does. But he also does have a plan and part of his plan is to not stray away from it. Some will find a way to put a negative twist to it, calling him overly conservative but that would be jumping to conclusions without knowing his plan.

Bergevin has at least one, perhaps more players in his target but unlike the GM’s on the other side, he has time working in his favour. You see, Bergevin is watching the Development Camp and he sees that Nikita Scherbak now weighs over 200 lbs. He sees that Mike McCarron has grown another inch and is about 235 lbs. He sees that Charles Hudon is taking great strides in his development. He sees that Mark MacMillan and Daniel Carr are done College and are mature young men. He knows that Sven Andrighetto and Connor Crisp are close to being ready.

If push comes to shove, Bergevin would not be opposed to starting the season with lots of cap space and giving one of those young guys a chance to see what they can do in a scoring role with the big club, like he did with Brendan Gallagher a few years ago. If it fails, it’s a long season and players will be available later on. Remember that he did the same with Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu a year ago, and when he saw that they weren’t ready, he traded for Bryan Allen and Sergei Gonchar.

In my opinion, Bergevin has offers out there but the asking price is still too high for his liking, whether it’s through trades or a UFA signing. The more he waits, the more the pressure is on the other parties. UFAs will want a contract and will realize that they might have to ask for less money or term if they want to find a place play. Other GMs, seeing that Pittsburgh is out of the running when getting Phil Kessel, or signing other UFAs, will have to drop their asking price if they either want to get under the desired salary cap, or address other needs on their team.

Bergevin is sitting in a good spot right now, whether some fans and bloggers agree or not. Don’t let a few negative Nancys tell you otherwise. Guys like Galchenyuk and Gallagher have gained another year experience and are ready to take the next step. Young guns like Scherbak, McCarron and company will be pushing to make the team and stay with the big club. The Habs have cap space and they have assets to trade if or when the right deal comes about.

Several of my followers on Twitter are asking if I think that Bergevin will trade before the season starts? To be honest, I thought that he would have by now. I genuinely thought that his target was Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks. But now that they’ve traded away Brandon Saad, I’m not so sure that they’ll be willing to trade Sharp as well. Or I could be wrong and the asking price for the veteran might be too high for Bergevin’s liking and he’s waiting for the asking price to drop a bit. Time will tell.

I’ve stated in more than one occasion that I personally feel like the Canadiens cannot start the season with Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Lars Eller as their top three centres. It has not worked for how many years now, two of the three disappear when the going gets tough and in the playoffs. They need an improvement at that position. Yes, I would personally like to see Alex Galchenyuk be given a shot at centre but if he does, it creates a hole on left wing.

My personal targets would be, in order:

1. Eric Staal
I don’t know if he’s available. I do know that Ron Francis was meeting with him a few weeks ago to see if Eric wanted to be part of a rebuilt, as he only has one year left to a contract with a cap hit of $8.2 million. At 30 years old, the 6-foot-4-inch centre had a disappointing season with only 54 points in 77 games last year, but he didn’t have much to play with in Carolina either.

2. Patrick Sharp
While his $5.9 million cap hit for the next two years is a bit high, and Sharp’s production has been on the decline, he had lost a lot of playing time to Saad last year and we saw in the playoffs how useful he truly was. Sharp is also only one year away from a 34 goal season and in Montreal, he would be given a top-6 position for sure.

3. Eric Fehr
I’m actually quite surprised that no one has signed Fehr to a new contract, unless he is looking for too much money and/or too much term. The 6-foot-4-inch winger managed 19 goals last season with the Capitals and he is responsible defensively.

None of those may happen and honestly, I’d be fine with that. Immediate help would be good, but not at any price. The NHL has become a young men’s league and at some point, the team’s young offensive talent will need a chance to show what they can do.

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.
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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.

  • Wayne McCrae

    Great article JD, patience is lacking in Hab land but I for one have full trust in MB. I would not be unhappy to stand pat and fill voids from within. Realistically we only need one surprise from the up and comers and personaly I think MB and staff will have a choice to make between two or three of them. Go Habs Go

    • J.D. Lagrange

      Thank you Wayne. I fully agree. We sometimes think too much of last year without looking at the big picture. Every young player, including prospects, has gained another year maturity and get closer to making their mark at the NHL level. Patience and a plan are two things that have been missing from management in recent years and it’s refreshing to see that we have someone at the helm who has both those qualities.

      • BB

        Great article JD but every team in the league has young players and prospects who have also matured and are ready to take the next step. So that’s not enough to take us to the next level. We need a pleasant surprise from our prospects or MB has to make some magic happen.

  • Great article!! More patience is needed by the cellar dwelling internet geeks.

  • Please trade Eller for offensive help.

  • VJS

    In my opinion, this is a worthwhile and mature assessment of the situation with the Habs. Bergevin’s approach is based on Dale Tallon’s model in Chicago. The problem is that he has a goaltender who continues to deny him high draft picks to match Toews or Kane.
    I agree that Bergevin is going to make a move in a couple of weeks. He has two alternatives – go for it all now or build for the future. Going for it now would be preferable since Price is not going to play forever. Therefore, I believe that targeting both Staal brothers and Semin would move the team into the elite group.
    Salary cap considerations would require moving Plekanec, Pacioretty, Eller, and throwing in Tinordi and Tokarski, Eller is a bust and a change of scenery could help him (?). Pacioretty is too fragile and too much of a garbage collector. His value can be assessed by the fact that the team won the last 3 games in the regular season without him after losing the previous 2 with him.
    Finally, I am amused by the armchair GMs and Analytics “gurus” who undervalue Desharnais. This “little” guy has worked his way from oblivion to the bright lights of Montreal. For someone who was never drafted, he has outperformed many who have been, including Eller. He is the one responsible for much of Pacioretty’s achievements from Hamilton to Montreal. Erik Cole has also benefited: he had his best season playing with Desharnais.

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