The implications of the Montreal Canadiens acquiring Thomas Vanek

Harry How

No, it's not a fancy stat post, just some thoughts on Thomas Vanek and what his acquisition means.

There were a lot of people yesterday who requested an analytical look at Thomas Vanek and what he provides for the Montreal Canadiens going forward, but due to the back-to-back games and trade deadline frenzy, there won't be one coming out from EOTP for at least another day, but rest assured that one is coming.

What I do have time for is to opine a little bit about the implications of the acquisition of Vanek, and what it means for the Habs.

Last season Marc Bergevin made it abundantly clear that he was not willing to sacrifice any futures for a big deadline addition unless he felt his team could win the Stanley Cup. Last season it was obvious that he didn't feel that they could, and the Canadiens weren't involved at all at the deadline, with almost no rumours circulating involving them.

This season, Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien have been adamant that the focus is making the playoffs, and seeing what will happen. Therrien continues to repeat that it's a grind to even make the playoffs, and the Habs will have to battle for every point.

With all this said, actions will always speak louder than words. With the Canadiens comfortable sitting on a nine point cushion over ninth place, and continuing to win games with Carey Price out of the lineup, it seems that Bergevin has had a change of heart with his expectations for this season.

A lot was made yesterday about what a low price Montreal paid for Vanek, and relative to other deadline years, this is true, but relative to this year, it's not. Marc Bergevin has been notoriously cagey about giving up high draft picks, so losing the second rounder is a pretty big deal, but on top of that, Sebastian Collberg was the Canadiens' top forward prospect in their system.

Montreal is lucky to have a fantastic amateur scouting division headed up by Trevor Timmins, who has drafted players like Artturi Lehkonen, Sven Andrighetto, Charles Hudon, and Martin Reway, who have a similar talent level to Collberg, albeit only Lehkonen has a similar ceiling.

The Canadiens dealt from a position of strength, but make no mistake that this was a high price to pay for Marc Bergevin. He didn't want to part with that player, or that pick. It wasn't in his original plan. As of yesterday, there are new expectations.

What it means

The expectations for this season according to most have always been just make the playoffs. You don't acquire Thomas Vanek and trade away a very good prospect and high draft pick to make the playoffs, you do it to go deep. Last season Bergevin was disappointed with the first round knockout after a great year, but there was very little criticism for his team outside of Michael Ryder and Carey Price.

This year, Price is the MVP, and Ryder's replacement is a Bergevin hire, being largely misused by his head coach, also a Bergevin hire.

Bergevin isn't going to come out and criticize himself if the Canadiens lose out in the playoffs early. He brought in Mike Weaver for defensive help, he traded away Raphael Diaz because Therrien didn't want him, he brought in Douglas Murray because Therrien wanted a more physical defense, he extended Therrien's best buddy Francis Bouillon, he traded for Vanek, and he bought goaltending insurance to boot.

If the Canadiens don't do damage in the playoffs after Bergevin stuck his neck out to trade for the biggest horse available, heads are going to roll, and it won't be his. Vanek's acquisition is as much a statement of belief in his team as it is a shot across the bow for Therrien. Bergevin wants to compete with the big dogs, and he wants to do it now. If Therrien can't get this roster to do it, and Bergevin knows it's a good roster, he'll be out the door.

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