Rabid Habs

The Forum: Assessing Bergevin’s Summer… So Far

Radulov is gone, Emelin is gone, Sergachev is gone. Your Montreal Canadiens have added Drouin, Hemsky, Alzner and Schlemko. Markov – as of this writing – is still TBD. Galchenyuk has signed a three-year deal. Oh, and Carey is locked up for 8 years at $10.5-million per. So, we asked our contributors how they were  feeling about Marc Bergevin’s work so far this summer.


Kyle Roussel (@kyleroussel) – I don’t have a problem with Price’s deal. If you want the best, you have to pay them. But I do have concerns about building a team around a high-priced goalie when every indication is that you should invest that money in scoring. I get why Bergevin did it. Price IS the Habs. He is plan A, B, C, and D. In order for this to work out, guys like Hudon have to be productive, and more importantly, more common in the farm system, something the Habs have been utterly incapable of doing.

As for the loss of Radulov, Emelin, Sergachev, and possibly Markov, it’s the first time I notice a mass exodus (or purge?) of Russians. I wonder if that’s irked Markov and that’s partly why he doesn’t seem like he’s coming back? Tin foil hat, I know. But in all seriousness, I don’t know what Bergevin is thinking. He is not in a position of strength. He desperately needs what Markov can do. If he doesn’t sign him, he has to spend assets that he doesn’t have, or can’t afford to part with in order to replace him…and that’s IF he can replace him.

Overall, I am very unimpressed with the Habs so far. Drouin replaces Radulov, Alzner replaces Emelin. Where’s the improvement up front? Who’s playing centre? Are they going to eat crow and suddenly move Galchenyuk there because there’s no other choice? Who’s going to be the first pair D to move the puck, and quarterback the powerplay? I know it’s only the first week of July, but I don’t see Bergevin having that much leverage, or assets to improve the team. I’m scared, to be honest.

Antoine Mathieu (@HabsoluteTruth) – Things can still change, but the last few days have made me very sour on our management. I really think they dropped the ball on this one. If you isolate every move (Alzner, Schlemko, Hemsky) one by one, they are not bad by any means. Bergevin has done a fine job over the years of finding underrated guys or role players that can be serviceable (Benn, Weaver, Fleischmann, Weise, etc.) but it’s becoming quite clear that Bergevin has no clue as to what he’s doing.

1) The Radulov situation: Our offense is very underwhelming and the fact that we didn’t keep Radulov is a huge mistake in my opinion. He drove the offense last year and yes, he will not be worth his contract by year 4/5 but this negative aspect is being over-analyzed by some. Our team won’t be a contender four years from now given how lackluster our prospect pool is and the deal we just gave to Price (plus Pacioretty needing to be re-signed). We won’t be able to patch those holes via free agency. Sure we traded for Drouin, who will most likely replace the offense provided by Radu, but in doing so we also traded away Sergachev who a) was our long term replacement for Markov b) filled a huge need for us in terms of PMD and c) was our best trading chip to finally fix our problems down the middle. Now we are left with secondary pieces like Juulsen, Mac, Lindgren or picks which won’t get you a quality centre (just look at the price Arizona had to pay to get a player like Stepan, who’s a fringe first line centre in my mind). I find it very worrisome that Bergevin isn’t willing to pay the price to keep one of his best players, but has no problem giving six years to Shaw and five years to Alzner, two players who’s style of play will inevitably lead their bodies to break down and become liabilities cap wise (see Gorges/Prust). Especially considering these two don’t really fill needs for us compared to the offense Radulov was bringing.

2) Defensive squad: I feel we are moving backward in time instead of adapting to the NHL. Sure you don’t have to be a copy cat and go with the flavor of the month but no one can deny that our current defense is going to have a hard time moving the puck in our own end. If the plan is for Alzner to play with Weber and replace Markov, may God have mercy on our fanbase. I’m sure Julien’s system can help mask these problems but it’s a fact that Beaulieu and Markov were big pieces of our transition game and beside the acquisition of Schlemko (who at the end of the day is nothing more than a #4/5 D), we are rolling the dice with question marks like Morrow and Jerabek. I don’t think there is a proper way to build a winner but I find the current look of our team to be very questionable. No quality centers and a lack of puck moving defensemen is not what I have in mind when I think of a formula to win the Cup, even when you have Carey Price in net.

3) Price extension: Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily disagree with this move but the way Bergevin handled the whole ‘dossier’ starting from last year was a total mess. Pardon my French but Bergevin really made it so Price had us by the balls. Blaming the fiasco of 2015-16 on the fact that Price was injured and that HE made the team gave Price’s agent all the leverage he needed. Giving 8 years to a 31 year old goalie is very risky, especially given Price’s past with injuries. Also, to play devil’s advocate, Price is being paid in the same range as guys like Toews, Kane and Kopitar. These guys have one thing in common: they have won the Cup on multiple occasions. Price has never been sensational in the playoffs and that’s a fact. You can even argue that he’s been outdueled by the other goalie 3/4 of the time. Yes it’s not all Price’s fault, he can’t score goals but when you give 15% of your cap on your goalie, you’re also handcuffing yourself a lot in terms of opportunities to fix you scoring problems.

Marc Bergevin made it evident in his last press conference that he’s in over his head. When you flat out admit that you don’t have any back-up plans for Radulov/Markov and that you’re relying on hope in terms of keeping them, it shows that you have no vision and don’t deserve to be a GM.

Zach Vanasse (@ZachDropsTweets) – Yup, it’s become apparent that Marc Bergevin has no plan, which is perplexing and terrifying. Actually, to be fair, I should say, Marc Bergevin no longer has a plan. I believe there was a plan, once upon a time, but our GM has lost the plot.

The good news is, if Markov returns, then your Montreal Canadiens aren’t that much worse off. Alzner is a marginal improvement on Emelin, Drouin can replace Radulov’s numbers, and we’re still screwed at centre.

And all it cost the Canadiens to maintain the status quo that earned them a first round exit in 2017 was Sergachev, aka our best prospect. Good stuff!

In the end, Alex Galchenyuk is the whole deal. If Bergevin and co. can turn him into a centre then the Canadiens might have a chance at achieving something in the MB-er. But that’s looking less and less likely all the time and so now it’s starting to look like the Habs are just spinning their tires, destined to become the next version of the current Vancouver Canucks.

Ian Boisvert (@Boisvertian) – I’ll start with the Price signing. I think getting him locked up long term will have an immediate impact on the psyche of this team and the city and its media. Could you imagine a season where Carey Price isn’t sure where he’ll be next season. After every loss, the takes would be scorching. There would probably be a bit on The Montreal Bias every episode called “Should I stay, or should I go,” discussing whether or not Carey Price stays with the Habs. That would have been unbearable, and it would have taken its toll on the players. We can debate the cap hit all day long, but Price’s impact on the team around him is not up for debate. This team needs him.

Not to throw cold water on the rest of the list, but it’s not worth its weight in dirt, as far as I’m concerned. You lose Radulov and Sergachev for a cheaper, younger upgrade on Radulov. Seems fair. You lose Emelin and replace him with Schlemko or Alzner. You pick. Either way, that’s about right. Maybe they even got a little better with these two defenseman instead of Emelin. I’m interested in the Hemsky signing, because I think he can be a real secondary scoring threat if he stays healthy. If. And if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.

To me, it all comes down to this: Markov is still not signed and Montreal still is without a top centre. The Habs need Markov. They’ve insulated him with players like Benn and Alzner who are capable of taking his penalty killing minutes, but no one on the team can take his power play minutes. Drouin’s name has been thrown into the mix, but Markov is better. You should want Markov first, and then shift to plan B.

When it comes to the lack of centres, I don’t think there’s much left on the market. The deeper we go into the summer, the more I think we see Alex Galchenyuk make a return to the centre position. Drouin might get a look too, but it would be wise to start with Galchenyuk, a guy you’ve already worked with.

So how do I feel? Definitely excited about seeing the new talent on the roster, but there are some gaps in this roster that may need to be filled internally. And if Markov doesn’t sign, that’s only going to make things worse.

The word I would use: anxious. There are good parts on this team, but, man, there are going to be some problems that need to be fixed soon.

Antoine Mathieu (@HabsoluteTruth) – Ian raises a good point about Price and avoiding some headlines/distractions during the regular season. However, I don’t agree that Radu + Sergachev for Drouin is fair. I don’t doubt that Drouin will be able to match Radulov’s production and maybe outproduce him this season but that’s not enough to justify trading Sergachev. Although I said that I was in favour of trading a Sergachev for a talent like Drouin during one of the previous editions of The Forum, I still think it was an unwise decision given the current holes in our line-up. The holes we have (#1C and #2LHD) are the type that cost a premium and given our contender status and empty prospect pool, we are screwed deeply.

That leaves one option: free agency.

The following players might turn UFA next year: Paul Stastny (will be 32), Mikko Koivu (will be 35), Henrik Sedin (will be 38 by start of the season), John Tavares (will be 27), Tyler Bozak (will be 32), Bryan Little (will be 30), Kyle Turris (will be 28) and Mikael Backlund (will be 29). In that group, there are four solid options: Tavares, Little, Backlund and Turris.

But as the saying goes, don’t count your eggs before they hatch. It’s really rare that all these guys end up testing the market. We’ll be lucky if two of those four names do. Now that’s where the Price situation will hurt us. At $10.5M a year, that severely limits us, plus there’s the tax factor in Quebec. A player will legitimately have to want to play here and believe that we are contenders. That’s without even adding Pacioretty to the equation. I hate to be that guy, but Bergevin really mishandled this summer. We are in no man’s land and as a Habs fan who lived in the Toronto area from 2003-2011, I am starting to feel like a Leafs fan from the the mid-2000s and it’s not fun at all.

Ian Boisvert (@Boisvertian) – For the record, I don’t think Radulov and Sergachev for Drouin is fair either, but I won’t complain if that’s how people compartmentalize it. As far as the Price contract is concerned, I’m not really sure how anyone can complain. If we didn’t sign him, we’re rebuilding. It’s that simple. You lose that player, you have no choice but to tear it down and restart. So I’m not really buying the whole “signing Price hurts us down the road.” Price is the car. Without him there is no use for the road, so you spend a ton of money to fill the tank, and you figure out the rest along the way.

Kyle Roussel (@kyleroussel) – Doesn’t that sound a bit like winging it? And it certainly underlines that Price is plan A-Z. Is that wise? I agree that the team as it’s currently constructed can’t survive without Carey; that’s on Bergevin for building a one-dimensional team. But then Bergy compounds that by ensuring the team’s one-dimensionality for many more years (though, admittedly, he’ll likely be fired before Price’s deal ends, leaving a old husk of a once-promising team to his successor to deal with).

It would be palatable to have this one trick pony club *if*, as Bergy had promised, followed through on his mantra of building through the draft, and supplementing Price, Weber and Pacioretty with cheap, productive talent. But he has done the exact inverse, while simultaneously leaving fatal flaws unaddressed (still no 1C), and possibly crippling the blue line by losing Markov.

Can you imagine this team trying to polish the turd by telling us that Alzner, Schlemko, or Jerebek are the solution to 1LD? I can imagine that, and it’s equal parts hilarious and terrifying.

Ian Boisvert (@Boisvertian) – It’s totally winging it, but like Zach said, there’s no plan anymore. Winging it could be fun before the inevitable rebuild happens. The Blackhawks have been “winging it” since they signed to Kane and Toews to their extensions. They’re consistently on a one-year plan that gets re-evaluate each year. You’ll start to see the same thing with the Oilers soon. This is the new model. You lock in your core and tinker around with the rest on an annual basis.

The plan is gone. Expect the unexpected.