Rabid Habs

So Far, So Good for the Habs!

Habs Lars Eller Being Cheered by Fans

Hey everyone, it’s been a while since my last blog, I know, had a very busy summer. I hope yours was as good as mine fellow Habs fans, but here I am, and as the Montreal Canadiens are getting ready to start their training camp in a few weeks, I think the time has come to talk about this year’s edition of our favourite hockey team!

I think it goes without saying, that Marc Bergevin and his crew had a very busy, and somewhat controversial, off-season, so let’s take a second to take a look at some of what he’s done:

1- The Josh Gorges trade

If you’ve read my blog before, you already know that I am not the biggest Josh Gorges fan. Don’t get me wrong, the guy leaves it all on the ice, game after game, within the limits of his talent. Unfortunately he does not have enough (talent) to be paid $3.9M a year with the salary cap being set at a little under $70M. The fact of the matter is, the Habs are trying to build a puck moving team much like the Blackhawks are built, and Josh Gorges just doesn’t have the skillset to play as a top 4 defenseman in such a team. I also realize that many feel that Gorges’ shot blocking abilities might create a hole in our defense and might expose Carey Price to more rubber this season. Let’s be honest here, Gorges blocked 2.68 shots per game; I think Price can handle a couple more shots per game, don’t you? Besides, it’s not like there will be an open space where Gorges used to be; other defensemen will step in and do the job, but they will also move the puck out of our zone much better this year for better breakouts.

The problem with Gorges is and always will be his puck moving skills, which are far below the standards of any top 4 defensemen in the league who earn a similar salary to the new member of the Buffalo Sabres. Furthermore, if we take a quick look at the young and talented defensemen coming up in our system, such as Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu and with Alexei Emelin coming back to his natural position on the left side – it was becoming increasingly clear that Bergevin would have to make a move, and move he did. I had predicted that the Habs would trade Gorges, and I was right, but it doesn’t mean I don’t wish him the best of luck, never that. He was a warrior on the ice and a mentor off the ice, best of luck Josh, you’re a classy fellow and we appreciate all the hard work you did for us!

2- Oh Captain, my Captain! (I had to put this in as a tribute to the late, great Robin Williams, RIP Mr. Williams, you were truly a comedic genius, the world is just not as funny now that you’re gone.)

Although I expected it, Brian Gionta‘s departure still came as a bit of a shock, but even more shocking was the contract he managed to get from the Sabres, $4.3M/year. This is just outrageous for a player who’s better years are way behind, and for 3 years to boot! In this case, the Habs might have liked to keep him on for another year, but there was no way they would match Gionta’s demands. With Subban’s contract that was due, as well as Eller, Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Beaulieu, Bournival and Tinordi’s contracts all up for renewal next year – there was just no room left for the captain. Hockey is a business ladies and gentlemen, and the math just didn’t add up in Gionta’s favour.

3- The Subban signing

I think most Habs fans were starting to sweat as the deadline for arbitration was edging closer for PK Subban and the Canadiens. As everyone was fearing the worse, thinking that the whole arbitration process would create a rift between the star defenseman and the team and that he would eventually want to leave the organization. Well fear not friends, PK Subban is now a Montreal Canadien for the long run, at quite a hefty price however. Although I like the length of the contract, the price tag, in my opinion, is a little high. I was expecting him to get an average of $8M/year, and with the whole Geoff Molson controversy in this story, it seems that maybe Marc Bergevin didn’t feel Subban was worth $9M either. But that’s all in the past, now it’s all up to our number 76 to prove he deserves that kind of money.

4- Welcome to the team Mr. Gilbert!

In an effort to bring some balance to the blue line, and to improve our d’line’s puck moving skills, the Habs signed right-handed defenseman Tom Gilbert to a 2 year contract at reasonable $2.8M/year. Although Gilbert has kinda flown under the radar for many years in the NHL because of his playing for non-playoff contending teams, he is a very mobile defenseman with a good puck moving skillset who is strong in the offensive zone. Chances are very good that he’ll be paired up with Alexei Emelin on the second pairing, which would make for a good mix of brute force and finesse at the blue line in my opinion. Although Gilbert might have some weaknesses on the defensive side of his game, he will come in very handy when the time comes to keep up the pressure in the offensive zone, which is something that has been sorely lacking for the Canadiens in the recent years. Good puck control in the offensive zone means good offensive pressure, which leads to more offensive production from the team. I like this signing!

5- Lars Eller for 4 years

I guess we can say that this signing has come as a surprise, since, apparently, Marc Bergevin was offering $1.65M/year, only to end up signing Eller for 4 years for an average of $3.5M per season. What prompted this hike in MB’s offer, I couldn’t say, but with the way he played in these last playoffs, I can’t say I’m not happy the kid is with us for the next 4 years! The scary question is, however, which Lars Eller will we see for the next 4 years? The one we saw in the playoffs? Or the one we saw struggling during the regular season? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, he’s not lacking the potential to become a solid forward in the NHL, he just needs to work on his consistency.

Although there are other changes to be talked about, which I will do in my next blog (coming soon), these first 5 moves/signings are, in my mind, very promising, mostly because they show us what direction Marc Bergevin wants to go with his hockey team. It’s quite obvious that he’s looking to build a fast skating, puck moving team, which is what you need in this day and age in the NHL, if you wanna have success that is.

I’ll be back soon! Until then, thanks for reading!