With a bye week starting, the Montreal Canadiens are once again at a crossroads. The team is seven points out of a playoff spot, and that number will have grown by the time the team plays its next game on Saturday.
Understandably, the majority of pressure will fall on Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin heading into the bye week. He's taken responsibility for the team's shortcomings.
The last time the Canadiens had a bye week, they fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien. The team saved their season and made the playoffs, even if it was a difficult decision for Bergevin to fire his friend and the first coach he hired in the capacity of GM.
Should it be decided that the team needs a shakeup after a poor first half of the season, who are the options to be removed?
Consider, for a moment, the future of Bergevin.
When it was announced that he’d speak on Sunday evening prior to the Canadiens' game against the Vancouver Canucks, there seemed to be a general air of apathy settling in.
Bergevin ended up speaking to the media for 30 minutes. While he admits he hasn't "thrown in the towel" on the season, he also feels there isn’t anyone he could bring in who could turn the team around. He was quick to mention players like Karl Alzner not living up to expectations since joining the team. Bergevin’s parting shot to the press horde was that, in a perfect world, Jonathan Drouin would play wing and not the centre position that was reserved to him before training camp started.
The general manager is clearly stuck, in large part because of moves he made and depreciating tradeable assets like Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk. It has previously been proposed that he might not be the right fit to save this team at this point.
Waving the white flag on the Bergevin era, and letting someone else run the show in the interim until a sufficient replacement is found, may be the right call.
The Canadiens’ captain has been subjected to trade rumours over the last few weeks. He's not necessarily playing at his peak, having gone the full month of December without a goal, though he does currently have goals in back-to-back games.
The biggest factor in the decision to move him may be that he has no chemistry with Drouin, the prized acquisition of this past summer, and the one tasked with carrying the offence for the foreseeable future.
Pacioretty, however, cannot be fully blamed for the dip in his production. He's had players who've contributed greatly to his tallies taken away from him.
Max Pacioretty's problems can partially be explained by the loss of Alex Radulov who had a massive impact last season, as well as the loss of the majority of players who helped him score in the past four seasons. #Habs pic.twitter.com/MOFPqxMajv— Andrew Zadarnowski (@AZadarski) December 29, 2017
The fact of the matter is that Pacioretty still has an attractive contract at $4.5 million that doesn't expire until 2019. Many contending teams would be interested in adding the forward for a playoff run or two, and for a bargain price.
Of course, a team in need of goals giving up a goal-scorer doesn't look so good.
Well that's a good way to go into a bye week I'd like to think.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 8, 2018
(Please don't trade Max Pacioretty)
One person who wasn't really mentioned during Bergevin's presser was head coach Claude Julien.
No media in the room has asked #GoHabsGo GM if he’s satisfied with his head coach Claude Julien...— Peter Yannopoulos (@PeteYannopoulos) January 7, 2018
Julien guided the Canadiens to the playoffs in 2016-17, but was also dealt a first-round exit against the New York Rangers. He likely won’t be able to get the team to the post-season this year.
However, he's in his first full season with the team and is still working with assistants from a previous era. His leash is a little longer than most in the organization, and it would be a surprise if he was let go between now and the end of the regular season.
The young forward is tied for second on the team in goals with 10; a modest achievement. We all know about him going back and forth from centre and wing, and he hasn't been immune to trade rumours either.
Despite the Canadiens diminishing his value in the past, having him up and down the lineup, he's at least been productive as of late, scoring seven points in his last 12 games.
He probably wouldn't mind a change of scenery elsewhere, but is his value anywhere close to its highest? What could he fetch on the market? Similarly to Pacioretty, dealing him away could create a hole at the scoring position without a large enough return to justify the move.
There is also this option, where everyone stays and nobody moves. It might not be the most ideal move, but it also wouldn't be the most surprising considering the team's current predicament.
The Canadiens won't be playing until next Saturday. It could be a long few days for several members of the organization.