Without a doubt, this summer will ultimately define Marc Bergevin’s tenure as GM of the Montreal Canadiens. It will be the ultimate test of his mettle.
Using a Toronto sports analogy, both the pieces and circumstances are there to allow Bergevin to emulate gutsy Toronto Raptors’ President Masai Ujiri. The key question though is does he have the same boldness and genius in him?
Last offseason, everything that Bergevin touched turned to gold. The previous year, though, was an unmitigated disaster.
From the outside looking in, Bergevin seems to be the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of hockey general managers. So this summer should show us, much like his acquisition of Jonathan Drouin, if he has finally learned his trade, made all his rookie mistakes, gone through all of the necessary growing pains, and truly moved to the superstar level of his craft.
The possibilities under a great GM to instantly move this franchise from a bubble playoff team to a Stanley Cup contender are there for the taking. They’re also mind-boggling in terms of how to exploit them.
You really need a supercomputer-like brain to make everything all work out and then pray intensely that all your brilliant moves are not nullified due to injuries.
To quote Bergevin from the past, “This is not PlayStation”.
Each move that he theoretically makes automatically sets in motion a series of dominos for him to then address. Just in salary cap considerations alone, for instance, Bergevin needs to be mindful of both the immediate consequences and the long-term ones in order to secure his emerging young core. He also has to factor in both team chemistry and strategically plan for the upcoming expansion draft with Seattle. Each of these variables are like floating naval mines that he has to carefully navigate through.
Will Bergevin use some of Montreal’s high picks to lure a much-needed high end left defenceman? Will he sign free agent Erik Karlson and trade either Jeff Petry or Shea Weber for an LD? (The Karlsson ship sailed about five minutes after this was initially submitted for editing…)
Will he deal some of his promising young prospects in order to get the Habs into immediate contention? He had such an option with Ryan O’Reilly last summer and opted to pass.
Will he get his much-needed high-end backup goaltender? Or will he trade Carey Price to free up cap space, acquire more young talent and gamble that Cayden Primeau becomes the next rookie Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy of Stanley Cup drives? Nah. That’s crazy. Right?
Will Bergevin sign free agent centre Matt Duchene which would then force the Canadiens to move out some key veterans in order to free up cap space?
Will he trade Andrew Shaw who is at peak value in some form of a package deal but then lose some leadership and grit in the process? The same goes for Paul Byron on the leadership front.
Is ownership on board with any of these risky moves or is it instead looking for consistent playoff revenues over the long haul?
For most of us, what lays ahead of Marc Bergevin would lead to paralysis by analysis. There are far too many variables here to work with for my likening.
Again, this is not PlayStation. Going bold can set this franchise forward to the promised land or back to the desert. Doing little but maintaining the present course will likely mean years of first or second-round playoff appearances. From a business model, this is the safest bet.
Very soon, we are going to see how decisive and enterprising the Habs GM really is. Does he have the Ujiri temperament and courage to make a square peg fit a round hole?
If 2018 is an indication, the answer is yes. Bergevin rolled the dice last summer and went Vegas style literally and figuratively in his club’s retool and he almost beat the house.
This past season, EVERYTHING went right on the trade and draft front. And other than the absence of Captain Weber for the first few months of the season, the Canadiens were injury free. Unfortunately though, Montreal just barely missed getting into the playoffs despite reaching an NHL record for most points while still not making it to the big dance.
I should remind those of you who are in the all-in camp that statistically speaking, an extremely bold offseason by Marc Bergevin may still amount to disappointment. After all, when it comes to sports, the proverbial house almost always wins.
The house, for example, beat the “unbeatable” Tampa Bay Lightning this spring in the first round. Mind you, it paid out big to the St. Louis Blues and all the gambles GM Doug Armstrong made in the summer of 2018.
It is my belief that the playoffs are like the NHL draft lottery. That is, if you’re a top tiered team, you have at best a 20% chance to win it all. Injuries and other intangibles make it extremely difficult to win four straight rounds of playoff hockey.
Injuries alone can strip a serious contender’s odds to zero. By the Final, your stars are playing with cracked ribs and broken jaws. Going bold then is not a guarantee of success. Just ask Columbus Blue Jackets’ general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. Going too bold could also lead to an Alex Anthopoulos Toronto Blue Jays-like mess.
Have you noticed that I have not made any suggestions in terms of moves yet? What can I say, paralysis by analysis here folks. To do so is beyond my pay grade.
There are simply too many moving parts to consider. I am not privy to all the details going on behind the scenes to blurt out a bold plan of action.
No. I’m going to get me some popcorn, sit back and watch what unfolds and expect the unexpected from Marc Bergevin.
All that I can confidently say is that Montreal has a great chance to go all in with its youth core still intact and pull a Masai Ujiri. Even then, with injuries and intangibles thrown into the mix, the odds of ending the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup drought will at best be a 1-to-5 gamble.
One thing is for certain though, Canadiens fans are in for a very interesting time. Our Twitter feed here at HabsWorld is going to have many of its users refreshing it over and over again during the next few months.
The summer of Marc is about to begin. Here’s hoping that it will lead to his breakout season.