The Canadiens traded their captain in the dead of night on Monday morning and if the timing seemed odd you have to keep in mind most robberies don’t happen in broad daylight.
The Vegas Golden Knights got five-time 30-goal scorer Max Pacioretty for the cost of a guy who usually finishes the season with about 45 points, a good if undersized prospect whose ability to play center in the NHL is very much up for debate, and a second-round pick that’s probably going to be in the late teens or early 20s.
Which is to say: This is yet another trade in which Marc Bergevin traded the best player involved and didn’t come close to recouping the value. And as a result, I don’t know how Geoff Molson can justify keeping the guy around, no matter how good he looks in a suit.
Let’s just look at the last few summers to assess all the Canadiens have given away and all they got back. An insanely popular Norris-level defender shipped out for a non-Norris-level defender in a baffling 1-for-1 that immediately kickstarted the Canadiens’ dizzying descent from “pretty good team” to “they gotta start rebuilding yesterday.” They traded their best player but apparently improved, jumping from missing the playoffs (because their All-World goalie played just 12 games, but that’s apparently neither here nor there) to 103 points. Bergevin looked like a genius until they inevitably lost in the first round; having an all-situations PDO north of 101 thanks your elite goalie will only get you so far.
Then in an attempt to upgrade their anemic offense — perhaps an acknowledgement that the team relied too heavily on Carey Price — they gave away a promising young defenseman for a disgruntled forward who they thought would be able to play center but, y’know, ended up not being able to do that. Carey Price, Pacioretty, and Shea Weber missed a bunch of time, Pacioretty also had a down year because he had absolutely no help and shot just 8 percent (versus a career average of 11.4), and the Sergachev trade seems to have not worked out. The Canadiens finished with just 71 points and it was clear more changes had to be made.
But those changes were, shall we say, panicked. Alex Galchenyuk, who can play center at the NHL level and has in fact done it well, was traded for Max Domi, who’s now a good playmaker without a high-level talent to make plays for, in another 1-for-1 that’s less baffling but still a net loss for Montreal.
And because the Pacioretty contract situation was apparently never going to work out, Bergevin just traded one of only 11 players to score 200 goals since 2011-12, one who scores as many goals per game as Jamie Benn and Patrick Kane and Brad Marchand, for a guy neither Detroit nor Vegas seemed to really want and a guy who is, let’s say, a year or three away from being an NHL player. The second-round pick, well, maybe you get lucky on that.
A word here on Nick Suzuki: Gotta love the junior production, for sure. He has 234 points in 192 OHL games, including 196 in his last 129. And the gap between his production and that of his teammates (31 points last year) puts Taylor Hall’s Hart Trophy season to shame. This is clearly a player that can fill the net in a way few others in his age group can, but there are plenty of questions about his ability to contribute at the next level.
Most of them, perhaps unfairly, revolve around the fact that he’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds, and we of course know that players under six feet generally get an inch or two added to their listed height. He’s not Johnny Gaudreau or anything, but he’s smallish. He has played all three forward positions in the O without much problem but there just aren’t a lot of natural centers in the NHL who are less than 70 inches tall.
Doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but if the Habs decided Drouin and Galchenyuk couldn’t hack it in the middle of the ice, the fact that you even have to have this conversation about Suzuki means it’s another trade made on speculation. We all know Tatar isn’t gonna play in the middle of the ice, so that’s $5.3 million against the cap for a guy that can’t play center and will only score 40-50 points next season. I’d bet a good deal of money Pacioretty (albeit in a contract year) puts up considerably more than that getting second-line deployment next to Paul Stastny in Vegas.
Bergevin might have some defenders still left fighting, the last defenders of a fort almost overrun. So let’s give them their space to argue on his behalf: Basically, what else was Bergevin going to do? He couldn’t enter training camp without trading Pacioretty, and he got a legit middle-six winger who’s signed long-term (albeit at too much money, but you gotta take cash back in a cap league), plus got a clear A prospect and another second-round pick. All from a relatively weak bargaining position since everyone knew Pacioretty was gonna get traded.
But Bergevin was only in a weak bargaining position because of all the stuff he himself already did. It didn’t become clear that Pacioretty needed to be traded through a series of events totally outside Bergevin’s control. Maybe none of this happens if you don’t trade Subban, but that was two years and four trades ago now. He set the snowball in motion, and the fact that it’s turned into an avalanche that buried his club isn’t some unforeseeable act of a cruel god.
So let’s just take an honest assessment here: Subban, Pacioretty, Galchenyuk and Sergachev out. Weber, Tatar, Domi, Drouin, and maybe Suzuki in. Clear downgrade on D, clear downgrade on the wings, and still no evidence at all that Bergevin has any idea how to get a center in either the trade or UFA markets.
King Arthur had a better time finding the Holy Grail.
The Canadiens are going to miss the playoffs again this year, because even if you like their chances better than most, you’d have to agree they’re still just the fifth-best team in their own division at best. And Buffalo improved a lot this summer.
One understands the compulsion of an owner to let his embattled GM try to negotiate his way out of problems, even if they’re problems he’s created. But Bergevin took a team that, if Price could stay healthy, would consistently put up 100 points to one that is pretty close to the bottom of the league.
Not bad work for three separate summers if he was trying to do a tear-it-down rebuild. The problem is that with each of the first three trades in this run, Bergevin thought he was making the team better. Taking the L in the Pacioretty trade is just reaping what he sowed.
Blah blah blah you never like to see anyone lose their job. But now, after all this and all the horror to come, how does Molson justify letting Bergevin keep it even one more day?
What We Learned: Summer roundup edition
Here’s another Hockey Culture problem: The Islanders are forcing Josh Ho-Sang to stop wearing No. 66, which is somehow “controversial.” All the white players who chose to wear, like, No. 19 because they loved Steve Yzerman, or No. 4 for Bobby Orr? Hmm, well that’s fine. A black guy doing it, well, let’s just say that everyone who thinks was cause for some grumbling probably had to go buy new sneakers this week. … Everything you need to know about Andrew MacDonald being out for six weeks is that the first response the Flyers got when they posted it on Twitter was, “Nice.” … Nice to see people getting too excited for rookie camps this week. Ottawa and Vancouver seem to be absolutely whaling on the competition. My theory is that this is what happens when all your good players are prospects and all the other team’s good players are on the NHL roster. … I’m really interested to see what the Jets think is the “next level.” They got to the Western Conference Final last year and got PDOed out of it. They’re gonna be really good because they were already really good. … What if T.J. Brodie was only ever good because Mark Giordano made him good? This is something no one in Calgary seems to have considered this summer.
Gold Star Award
It’s really exciting to see Elias Pettersson and Rasmus Dahlin coming into these rookie camps living up to all the hype. Seeing what guys like that can do is such a joy, especially after you haven’t been able to watch much hockey for three months.
Minus of the Weekend
Corey Crawford might not be ready for training camp. What a bummer.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User “ConnorMcMullet” is just planning for the worst.
If CBJ can’t resign Panarin and/or Bobrovsky
To Edmonton: Josh Anderson, Jeremy Bracco
To Toronto: David Savard
To Columbus: 2019 1st (TOR), 2019 1st (EDM, top 10 protected), Andrej Sekera (agrees to waive NMC)
At McDonald’s you can get a Krusty Burger with cheese. But they don’t call it a Krusty Burger with cheese.
(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
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