The trade deadline came and went on Monday with a large quantity of trades from the Habs but none really involving impact players. Was that the right approach for Bergevin to take? Our writers weigh in with their thoughts.
On top of their commentary, each writer provided a grade for Bergevin’s moves and the focus was on the week leading up to the deadline, beginning with the Marco Scandella trade. You can pick your grade by voting in our poll on the home page.
Terry Costaris: To be blunt, Bergevin served Montreal’s fan base with a big fat nothing sandwich. This is it when it comes to inspiring hope until June folks. Enjoy the filler draft picks that the GM served us.
I’m trying to fight the delusional thought that maybe just maybe, Bergevin, this summer, will finally perform the necessary surgery that will truly reset this moribund franchise but the rational side of me remains highly sceptical.
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, Marc Bergevin could have made some bold Masai Ujiri-like moves and properly set the Habs on the right path. Instead, the fans got more lunch bag letdown.
February 24th was an incredibly wasted opportunity to finish the long and painful “reset” that we’ve had to endure. The Canadiens failed to snag extra first-round draft picks in what is being hailed by many as the deepest draft in a decade. They also failed to land near or ripened, young Nick Suzuki-like talents in exchange for its aging core players.
As a result, my fear is that Groundhog Day came on the 24th. Post-1993 history just might keep repeating itself.
I’m saying all of this with zero behind the scenes knowledge of what happened. There might be a very good explanation that helps makes sense of what appears to be senselessness. I would love to hear from Montreal’s PR department what truly transpired. With the lack of insider information that I possess, I’m unfortunately left to speculate that there are four theories on what possibly went down.
One is that the deals offered to Bergevin were simply not good enough for the Canadiens’ long term interests. The optimist in me hopes that this theory is true. After all, New York did not trade Chris Kreider. Maybe the market went flat. Who knows?
Why trade Tomas Tatar, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber or Carey Price for pieces that leave this franchise in the wilderness for another four or five years? A trade for a trade’s sake is silly.
Another theory is that team owner Geoff Molson wants playoff revenues next year and will not allow Bergevin to make the necessary gutsy moves that are required for long term success. If this is true, then he is being incredibly short-sighted. The Habs will remain a middling, insignificant, early exit playoff team with zero star power – basically, the Minnesota Not So Wild of the Eastern Conference.
The third theory is that Bergevin has been told that he will be fired at the end of the season and was forced to pull a Pierre Gauthier and just trade off some tertiary assets for the next GM to work with. Alternatively, maybe Bergevin himself is fed up with the crazy fan base and media and plans on quitting but did the right thing by setting up his successor. See what limited insider information can generate!
The fourth and final theory is that Bergevin refused to do the right thing. His actions were selfish. They were intended to save his job by acquiring a few more draft picks hoping to hit the jackpot here and there and he plans on stringing together a roster this summer that’s good enough to squeak into next year’s playoffs. His hope is to delude most of the fan base into believing that better times are ahead and all will be forgiven.
If this is true, then Molson needs to have some secretive back-channel discussions with Ottawa’s Pierre Dorion, as his current GM does not have the best interests of the Montreal Canadiens at heart.
These are my four uniformed theories. From my outsider’s perspective, the transactions leading up to February 24, 2020 appear to be squandered opportunities in asset management.
Marc Bergevin has left us with hardly anything to munch on for the next four months. Most fans have little incentive to watch this season’s remaining games followed by a long two-month lull until draft day. The only thing that could turn the growing negativity around, beyond a draft lottery miracle, is for this organization to provide some honest, reasonably verifiable information.
Now, then, would be a good time for the Montreal Canadiens’ PR department to “leak” stories about the lousy deals that were offered by other GMs.
Failing to communicate with its fan base is feeding into negative speculation. This is never a good thing. Now is not a good time for Bergevin to be in his foxhole. The fans, and those of us “working out of our basements”, deserve to hear some answers. And for the sake of this franchise, they better be good ones.
Allan Katz: Being a Habs fan is very hard these days. While the future looks promising it’s easy to get really down about it too. Our best prospects all have issues. We have a Finn superstar-in-waiting picking up assists in Laval. We have (based on his rookie debut last year) Gretzky’s successor projected to score 240 goals this year not even scoring at the AHL level. We have a 12-year-old 5’2 wunderkind doing okay on an awful college team and our Primeau goaltender prospect is posting “okay but not great” numbers with the Rocket. So what do I personally conclude about all this? “NICE ASSET MANAGEMENT.”
Now I have never been accused of not appreciating a nice asset and while the odd nice asset can turn my head it does not necessarily mean success is anywhere near guaranteed… BUTT it doesn’t hoyt either. — At a funeral service a pastor was interrupted by an elderly attendee, “Give him some chicken soup,” She calls out, “Give him some chicken soup!” the Pastor explains that the chicken soup won’t do any good, the man is dead. The woman replies, “It wouldn’t hoyt.” — So while the actions of the GM (whose name will not be spoken or written) were well played they garner absolutely no excitement or guarantees. So the next question is, “Are the Habs dead in the water (or on the ice, or in the ice)? It’s always safe to predict doom in sports. So I’m going to say, “The Habs might turn around this sinking ship, but it’s been a painful slow grind.”
Question for the reader – What is your first thought when you hear the headline, “Peca for Luchuk!” — My response was, “Darn, hope they threw in a 7th round draft pick!” The excitement never ends.
Despite having 2 post high school degrees I hated school. My goal was always to get at least a C. Getting a C involved no significant risk, effort, or intelligence. It was bland and safe, providing little hope for anything besides getting through. My grade for this silly season – “C.” [I do give myself a C+ for prolifically mixing my metaphors with a Harry Potter reference and a number of silly play on words.”]
Brian La Rose: I liked the Scandella trade as most did. I’m not surprised that Ilya Kovalchuk only fetched a third-rounder as his play was starting to decline and if they do want to bring him back in the summer, letting him pick his destination certainly doesn’t hurt their chances.
I’m also not sure where this grand certainty that Tatar could fetch an elite return is coming from. Did they really miss an opportunity to add franchise-altering pieces? The list of lottery-bound first-round picks that moved is, well, non-existent. The list of top prospects that moved at the deadline is also pretty much non-existent. I like Tyler Madden and Nolan Foote (who moved a week before the deadline) but there were no Nick Suzuki’s in play and none like him that moves. Do you want to know why top wingers with term didn’t wind up moving? There’s your reason.
Having said that, the deadline was still a bit underwhelming which isn’t that surprising. Bergevin’s confidence in this roster is still pretty strong (regardless of whether or not anyone agrees) so the expected play was that he’d stick with it and just nibble at the margins. His track record is that the bigger deals come closer to the draft and I think it’s fair to expect this summer to have another one of those.
I didn’t like how Laval was treated at the deadline. They were considerably weakened on paper and Bergevin’s unwillingness to add any players in trades (preferring picks instead) means that the Habs are going with a minimum roster the rest of the way. Any injury, minor or otherwise, means someone’s leaving Laval, who also received no help of consequence with all due respect to Luchuk. If the goal is developing prospects down there, bringing in players to help them in Laval (or at least keep them there by adding a roster filler veteran or two), should have been an obvious path. It clearly wasn’t. They’ll pay for it down the stretch.
I didn’t hate this deadline activity in large part because the big moves to really prioritize the youth movement weren’t realistically available as the top price that was being commanded wasn’t met by anyone (aside from Julien BriseBois in Tampa Bay who parted with late first-rounders for depth players for cap reasons). Top prospects weren’t in play and unless you want another pick in the mid-20’s to add another Ryan Poehling or Nikita Scherbak to the mix (and that’s not that exciting of a proposition), missing out isn’t that concerning. Those picks will still be in play in June if they want one of those.
The time for relative inactivity is coming to an end, however. This roster is good enough to be in the mix if enough goes well and they stay healthy but more is needed to bolster those efforts. With those moves not happening here, they’ll need to happen before the puck drops on next season.
Kevin Leveille: If one were to look at the deals that Bergevin made leading to this year’s trade deadline, one would be pleased to see all pending UFA’s dealt for whatever he could get in a season that no longer holds any playoff aspirations. However, it is the trade that Bergevin did NOT make on Monday that earns him a grade of F and has this writer believing, for the first time in his tenure, that Bergevin needs to be replaced as general manager of the team. Leading up to Monday, I disagreed with fans and media who wanted to unload Petry and Tatar. The trend in recent years has been overpayment in the weeks leading up to the deadline, but more reasonable prices on the day itself. So wanting to take the summer to see the contract demands and to puzzle together the team for next season was fine.
What happened Monday was that prices remained ridiculously high. So high that Bergevin is all but guaranteed to not be able to get that asking price in the summer. Once that became clear, Bergevin needed to adapt his plan and take advantage of this scenario that would help speed up the “reset” process. Trading away Petry remained a task not worth undertaking. No one is able to fill his role now or next season; pass. But the Habs have more than the minimum 12 forwards that are NHL-ready (or close to it) without considering the possible returns of Kovalchuk and Thompson: Danault, Suzuki, Kotkaniemi, Evans, Gallagher, Armia, Vejdemo, Weal, Drouin, Domi, Byron, Tatar, and Lehkonen.
Consider the prices paid, trading Tatar or Artturi Lehkonen would have been worth a prospect close to the pedigree of Nick Suzuki (if not more). Is Bergevin so in love with depth players like Lehkonen that he won’t adapt the plan to take a shot at another Suzuki? Are the Habs that close to being contenders? They really aren’t, so while the proposition of fighting for a playoff spot in 2021 is fine, it makes little sense to not be willing to alter the plan when an opportunity such as Monday presents itself. This is an indication that Bergevin has fallen in love and overvalues certain depth players on the team. It also explains why he thinks he can compete next year with the exact same roster that hasn’t been to the playoffs in over two years now. Major trade deadline fail for Bergevin.
Norm Szcyrek: I feel the Kovalchuk trade was inevitable and the return was about as I expected. Perhaps if Ilya was more consistent in scoring he may have gotten a 2nd round pick. Unfortunately, he had a six-game scoreless streak before his last game as a Hab when he managed one assist.
The Scandella trade return far exceeded what I thought he was worth. The Blues loss of Jay Bouwmeester escalated their need for him and the price to pay.
Thompson and Cousins were useful as fourth line players but were expendable. Their returns were average. Moving the minor league players for anything is fine considering they were rumoured to be disgruntled due to a lack of playing time.
Dave Woodward: More middling deals by a middling team. The deals, in isolation, are fine. Fair value given and received. The Scandella trade actually transformed a fourth-rounder into a second and possibly a fourth-round pick. Nice work.
Bergevin has proven that he can win or at least do fairly well on trades. However, he cannot build a team (or at least has not done so to date). In the most recent press conference, Bergevin spoke of building through the draft. Is he really up to the task? The Canadiens have developed very few of their picks during his tenure.
There is simply no clarity on what this GM is trying to accomplish. Is Bergevin trying to rebuild, reset, or trying to compete now? You cannot do more than one at a time. By steadfastly holding on to the same core players that have failed to make the playoffs for four of the last five years, Bergevin is acting as if this group can succeed next year despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The team’s management has not decided what its objectives are. The result is perpetual mediocrity. Bergevin has had (and is continuing to have) his chance. Rhetoric and dapper suits aside, what is the plan?