So Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic and assistant GM Chris McFarland were apparently in attendance Sunday in Boston for the Bruins’ 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens, which makes sense since both teams have been linked to the Avalanche in the Matt Duchene/Gabriel Landeskog sweepstakes.
With the Canadiens falling flat into their bye week, it’s as good a time as any for GM Marc Bergevin to take a hard look at his roster and decide what he’s going to do leading up to the trade deadline. And when he looks at his team, he’ll see a group that is fundamentally flawed, one that has been a below average team that has received, at best, average goaltending since its torrid start.
Consider that the Canadiens have basically been a .500 team since they began the season 13-1-1. In the next 43 games they’ve accumulated 43 points. If the playoffs were to start today, the Canadiens would have home ice advantage over the New York Rangers and fewer points. To go 1-5-1 in February is one thing – with the only win coming over the lowly Arizona Coyotes – but that came on the heels of a 5-5-1 stretch and they were shut out three times.
What’s worse, the Canadiens look like they’re wasting what could be a career year from Max Pacioretty and frittering Shea Weber’s first season with the team. And that’s very important because Weber is a declining asset, a player with whom the Canadiens must win now if they have any hope of reaping the benefits of trading P.K. Subban. This trade will likely not work out well for the Canadiens in the long run, so it has to be better in the first couple of seasons. Oh yes, and they’re also blowing a renaissance season from Alexander Radulov, who has earned a big-money, long-term contract that may make him, let’s say, a little less hungry in the future.
Bergevin could do one of a couple of things. The first would be to take the bold step of firing coach Michel Therrien, something that looks almost unavoidable at this point. Whether that happens in the near future or after the season, it’s increasingly looking as though the Canadiens will not break through to the truly elite teams of the NHL with Therrien behind the bench. And with the likes of Claude Julien and Ken Hitchcock on the market, the time might be right immediately. Those moves have certainly paid off for the New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues and Bruins and it would undoubtedly placate the fan base.
Or he could swing for the fences and make a deal for Duchene, which would give the Canadiens a 1-2 punch at center of Duchene and Alex Galchenyuk. That looks pretty good.
But what if Bergevin doesn’t do either of those things? Well, from here it looks as though while a Duchene deal would be nice, what the Canadiens really need is secondary scoring and they need it desperately. With the exception of Pacioretty and Radulov, the Canadiens have received virtually nothing from their forward corps because of either poor play or injury. The numbers are, in fact, dismal.
Brendan Gallagher is back in the lineup, which is a good thing, but he had only six goals in 39 games prior to returning Sunday against Boston. Tomas Plekanec has one goal in his last 15 games. Andrew Shaw was acquired from Chicago to bring over a winning culture, but in order to win you need more than one goal in 19 games – and a penchant for taking bad penalties at inopportune times. Artturi Lehkonen has one goal in his past 16, Paul Byron two in his past 20. Torrey Mitchell had five goals in his first 10 games and while nobody expected him to continue at that pace, he has two in 48 games since then – both in the same game – and zero in his past 31.
The Canadiens’ bottom nine forwards have contributed almost nothing to the cause. Which makes one think that perhaps what Bergevin needs to improve this team is not another blockbuster trade, but a series of smaller deals that will give the Canadiens some scoring depth. Getting a motivated Thomas Vanek back wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. What about Martin Hanzal, Patrick Eaves or Patrick Sharp? Heck, even former captain Brian Gionta has 12 goals this season.
Whatever happens, the Canadiens cannot come back for the stretch run with the same group that left for vacation sometime during the Boston game. This team is too flawed and not nearly good enough to take advantage of its assets and make a serious run in the playoffs.