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Are the Habs a science experiment?

With many of our readers heading back to school soon, it’s time to get scientific about our favourite hockey team.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

So, is Marc Bergevin insane or just a misunderstood mad scientist?

As much as initial reactions to the moves made this off-season may make one lean towards the former, a deeper look from a perspective that considers the things the Montreal Canadiens as an organization value most may help shed some light on the possibility (though maybe not one of a high probability) that there is some mad science happening with this team at the moment.

Let's get scientific about this though so we can come to a logical conclusion. I'd like to look at this from Marc Bergevin's point of view. With his cards clearly on the table now, it's safe to assume we can make an attempt at understanding what his plans are for his hockey team.

Problem: How do you put together a winning hockey team?

Hypothesis: A team with the right mix of talent and character will win. A team that "hates to lose" will win. A team that is absolutely cohesive and moving in a single direction will win.

Weird Science

If you are not familiar with atoms, they are made up of a single core of protons and neutrons surrounded by electrons. Positively charged (protons) and neutral (neutrons) particles inhabit the core of the atom (the nucleus) bound together by the strong nuclear force. On its own, a nucleus has too much energy and is unfocused, so it requires negatively charged particles (electrons) to reign them in and make them stable.

So, with that quick science lesson out of the way, here is how the Montreal Canadiens shape up from an atomic point of view:

Everyone Leads

The players are the main ingredient of the hockey team. While management and coaching play a pivotal role in bonding the team, the players are the positive charge that drive the team's direction.

Last season, Michel Therrien alluded to the fact that he expects every single one of his players to be a leader. This is basic atomic science as a stable atomic core is a mix of positive and neutral particles. Positively charged particles "lead" and neutrally charged particles follow with no resistance.

The exit of one core player and entrance of another immediately gives the Canadiens a different atomic shape. On one hand, P.K. Subban was a dynamic player, at times too potent to harness within the team’s bounding structure. Shea Weber is a different breed of player who will fit in immediately with the low-risk nature of the Therrien system.

It’s hard to let go of the unbound dynamism Subban brought to the team. From a fan perspective, his type of play makes you tune in and wonder what he is going to do next and is both an effective and entertaining breed of hockey. Shea Weber, on the other hand, is someone who gives you exactly what you expect him to every single night and uses power and size to deliver consistent performances.

Keeping in mind that Bergevin represents a single electron of the team's identity, his place in the organization is not as absolute as he has at times made it seem. An electron translates an atomic core's electrical state into a solid form. Sticking to this metaphor, it's obvious Bergevin — as well as Therrien — had difficulty in translating Subban's electricity into a stable form, and thus opted to trade out one proton for another.

Principle of Conservation

The Canadiens organizational culture is definitely not the most advanced in the league. The Habs depend on tradition to fill the seats, drawing on years of glory that are long past, leading to a conservatism that many progressive fans have had to suffer.

In isolation, the Habs are still a glorious organization. It's easy to remain enamoured with the past, and avoid risk in order to conserve energy. The only problem is the Habs are one team of thirty. So, the question is, how does this atom react to the presence of 29 different others?


Going back to what is Bergevin's evident hypothesis, the core he has in place right now matches his expectation of what it takes to win. However, in relation to other teams, the Habs will have their work cut out for them.

Cohesion in itself is not enough to win. The parts must all perform against outside pressure. While the Canadiens seem to excel at creating internal pressure, beyond such a controlled internal setting, it's hard to predict whether or not the core can stand with the others once it is no longer isolated and has to react to external pressure. This could lead to a meltdown if the bonds are not strong enough.

What Bergevin is expecting is that it is possible to create something in isolation and have it succeed in an uncontrolled environment. Is it? The answer to that question is what this next season will answer. It's one thing to create a blueprint of success. It's another to put it to the test. The real experiment begins in October.