The firing of Marc Bergevin’s foxhole-friend, head coach Michel Therrien, when Claude Julien became available solidified this idea for many. But first there was The Trade, which many analysts took as a sign that Bergevin was willing to sacrifice the future of his team with the “win now” mentality.
So when the dust settled after 3:00 PM on March 1 and the Canadiens looked remarkably similar to how they had the day before, there was understandably some consternation.
However, a closer look at the moves Bergevin made — and perhaps at the moves he didn’t make — could prove the GM had a successful deadline once again.
On the phones
Despite the lack of a splashy move, Bergevin was kept busy in the days leading up to the deadline.
While it was widely known that Bergevin was actively shopping bubble defenceman Greg Pateryn, Bergevin still managed (with the added incentive of a fourth-round pick) to get a quality return in the steady Jordie Benn, who is under contract for two more years for just $1.1 million. In just a couple of games with the team, Benn has emerged as a smart and solid partner for Nathan Beaulieu and looks to remain consistently in the lineup.
The next day, Bergevin was able to flip another player who was no longer receiving regular duty. David Desharnais and his expiring contract were shipped to Edmonton for young, inexpensive defenceman Brandon Davidson; an upgrade of half a foot and 35 pounds on the diminutive forward.
That would prove to be the theme of Bergevin’s trade deadline, as he continued to add size to the Canadiens’ roster by turning two 2018 picks and Sven Andrighetto into Steve Ott, Dwight King, and Andreas Martinsen.
Few of the big names rumoured to be on the market actually moved. Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, and Radim Vrbata all ended the day in the same cities they started it in, the asking prices for that kind of talent reportedly higher than any teams wanted to pay.
Some offence was moved, with P.A. Parenteau heading to Nashville for a 2017 sixth-round selection and Thomas Vanek going to Florida for a pick and a young defenceman; prices none too steep for the potential goals of the two experienced forwards.
The Canadiens, however, had been down both of those roads before and found the destinations significantly lacking. Once bitten, twice shy, as they say, and Bergevin found it wise to avoid those particular additions.
So the Canadiens’ GM addressed his team’s needs through a different approach. As Bergevin noted in his post-deadline press conference, the Habs “added size to [the] team without sacrificing speed.” For a team continually maligned as too small and easy to play against, having a roster that combines both size and speed seems the ideal combination.
With the acquisitions of Ott, King, and Martinsen, the general manager was able to increase size up front, making the team more difficult to play against by adding players that will wear down, or at least occupy, the opposing team’s defence.
And that was the key premise underlying most of Bergevin’s moves; this team has goal-scorers already. With the offence in such a miserable slump, that fact can be hard to remember, but a fact it is nonetheless. With offensive forwards too costly to add at the deadline, Bergevin did the next-best thing and acquired players that will let his team’s already potent offence have the time and space to score.
Given that the price for legitimate scoring help was a significant portion of the organization’s future, Bergevin’s best move then may have been the one he didn’t make. Many fans are anxious after the deadline, feeling as though the Canadiens aren’t set up for a real run at the Cup as the team sits smack dab in the middle of a theoretical contending window. But the general manager sees things differently.
Asked about said window, he was quick to reply. “I don’t believe in that.” In fact, the GM has been adamant since the beginning of his tenure that his intention is to make the Canadiens perennial contenders.
He doubled down on that just weeks ago, reiterating that while he’s always looking to improve the team, it won’t be at the expense of the team’s future. The Canadiens may not have ended the trade deadline with Duchene or Vrbata, but they did end the day with Alex Galchenyuk and Mikhail Sergachev still productive members of the organization.
In the end, while we as fans have a multitude of information at our disposal and an equal amount of opinions to go with it, as Bergevin clearly stated last summer, he has all of the information about his own team, his own players, and the true cost of making a major move. He has a clear vision of what he believes will bring this team the ultimate success and he will continue to work to improve the team in that vein.
While the hallmark Bergevin deadline surprise didn’t come to pass this year, the Canadiens ended March 1 a better, tougher team. One ready to play until June.