Marc Bergevin’s First Mistake?

If there is one single person to credit for the Canadiens season so far it is Marc Bergevin. Marc has done a remarkable job in his tenure. Clearing cap space by any means necessary, trading deadweight contracts and by collecting a huge stockpile of prospects via the 2012 NHL entry draft are the immediate trademarks of the Bergevin era. Marc brought pride back to Montreal, he even went as far as not allowing his players and coaches to step on the Habs precious logo. But on March 15th; over 10 months into his tenure as GM, Bergevin finally made his first mistake, and it was a big one.

Photo: David Duprey/ AP

Photo: David Duprey/ AP

Early this morning, Bergevin and the rest of his management team agreed to terms with David Desharnais on a new contract worth $14 million over 4 years. By signing the francophone pivot to this deal, the Canadiens are now committed to $55.9 million for next season, so you can kiss your pipe dreams of Corey Perry goodbye. Even with Tomas Kaberle bought out at seasons end, the Habs need to fill the roster with their leftover money.

This deal cripples the Canadiens down the middle for years and years. I’m sure you have heard of the ripple affect, and that is exactly what this deal does to the Habs.

Montreal already has the centre position locked down for the future, so this signing of Desharnais is the worst thing that could have happened. Tomas Plekanec is locked up until 2016, Lars Eller is signed until next summer and Alex Galchenyuk is on the first year of his entry level contract. The Canadiens also have a huge number of centre prospects with White, Dumont, Bournival, Pribyl and Vail. Call me an idiot, but how the heck does David fit into this team next year, let alone for 4 more years?

This deal severely cripples the Canadiens for cap space and flexibility. The thought of adding a Corey Perry, Ryane Clowe, David Clarkson or Chris Stewart is now almost impossible. The Habs currently are only committed to 18 players on the active roster next season. One can argue that some of the Bulldogs will graduate to the NHL next year to fill the void, but that argument is ridiculous. The money gift wrapped for Desharnais is the money Bergevin was supposed to spend on a big name free agent. This deal screams a message to the rest of the NHL: “we are a small team, and a small team we will stay”.

David is one of only 3 Habs forwards with a negative plus/minus rating of minus- 2 (Moen and Armstrong are the other two). A “top” centre is expected to produce points, win key faceoffs and play well defensively, Desharnais has been producing, but his defensive game and faceoff skills are in desperate need of improvement. Could the small centre be better used on the wing? Gionta and Gallagher are effective short wingers, I believe David’s skill set is better suited for the wing.

Lars Eller has been a man on a mission since being scratched by Therrien after the first game of the season. Eller has been given less ice time, lesser skilled forwards, less power play time and lesser faceoffs, and even in a smaller, limited role, but Eller has been the far better player compared to David. Desharnais currently has one more point than Eller in two more games played, so don’t count on Eller being behind David for too much longer.

Alex Galchenyuk has been snubbed of playing his natural centre position because of the overuse of Desharnais at centre. Alex does not have a better faceoff percentage than David, but his plus-8 rating is 10 better than David’s minus-2. Galchenyuk has been sheltered by Therrien by only giving his young star about 12 minutes per game. Now Galchenyuk is a rookie yes, but to simply give the reigns to Desharnais ahead of Alex, or Lars Eller for that matter is wrong.

Desharnais simply put, cannot play defense. Last time I played hockey, the number one responsibility I had as a centreman was backchecking and playing good defense. Some players are better at that job than others, but when both of your wingers beat you on the backcheck, there is a problem. Numerous times this season, Desharnais has been caught, while the opposition has gone down in transition and scored. A minus- 2 rating on a plus- 19 team calls for a significant change. David cannot be the centre of the future for the Habs with his poor defensive game. “No Excuses” is the slogan for the Canadiens this year, and it seems as though Desharnais has no excuse for how bad his defensive game has been. How many times can Therrien “forgive” David for poor effort on the defensive side of the puck? I believe David’s leash is far too long.

It’s a shame that there is still “racism” in the Habs locker room. What I mean by that is this, Desharnais is the only francophone centre for the Canadiens, and ever since the scratching of Lars Eller, Therrien has proven many times that he will not punish David no matter how poor his play has been.

David is a talented player with some slick hands. His passes and shootout moves are highly skillful. He also had a breakout year last year with the Habs, scoring 60 points with a plus- 10 rating. His numbers last year were exceptional considering where the Canadiens placed in the standings, but was David the one running the offense, or was he perhaps blessed with good line mates? Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole both had career years last year, and both outscored David. I would say Desharnais was just the benefit of good linemates rather than he benefiting Cole and Pacioretty.

We can all nickle and dime the season last year, as I’m sure we all have our own personal opinions, but fact is, last year was last year, and this year is a new one. Max Pacioretty has again found himself leading the Canadiens in scoring (Ryder leads the team with 23 points but has only 9 in a Habs uniform), Erik Cole got shipped to Dallas, and David has found himself producing at a lower rate than last year. It seems as though Desharnais had a good year last year but does not seem poised to repeat his success. Tomas Plekanec has had a terrific year so far, so has Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk. If Lars and Alex continue to improve and come back even stronger next year like we all know they will, how the heck does Desharnais fit in the Canadiens depth chart? In my opinion, he has no place on this team next year.

As I said, we can all argue over the logistics of this deal and whether or not it is a good or bad signing by Marc Bergevin, but in my opinion, this is clearly step in the wrong direction.

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21 Responses to Marc Bergevin’s First Mistake?

  1. Good analysis IMO Desharnais is cheap keep if you consider he’s contribution and 60 pts player for 3.5 Mil.. sweet deal to me. At 5’7 he keeps proving most people wrong. 99 pts /157 gp. I have to agree on winger position could improve he’s skill type. Can’t argue +/- and faceoff lacks lately. I’m now questioning Gionta’s future in Montreal…

    Séabstien March 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm Reply
  2. Well it’s obvious Bergevin knows what he’s doing, but I must admit the term bothers me a little. Like you said, Montreal has a plethora of centres waiting for their chance; I see Desharnias as a placeholder until they are ready. As long as we keep rolling the way we are, I can’t complain. However I can definitely see this coming back to haunt us.

    Jackson Scarrow March 15, 2013 at 4:03 pm Reply
  3. Thank you Sebastien! Gionta has definitely been here way too long. He has been producing offensively as of later but on most nights he is invisible. He has no leadership and his size again is way too small. He doesn’t lead the team. Gorges is poised and ready to take the C on his sweater

    Colton Di Stefano March 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm Reply
  4. i agree Jackson. I love what Bergevin has done, but this deal is a huge mistake in my opinion. But like you said, maybe he is just signed on until the need for the up-and-comers are ready, the only problem with that is that I highly doubt bergevin would agree to a long term 4 year deal with Desharnais only to trade him. We all saw the way Marc and Subban took that neotiation, so I doubt bergevin trades Desharnais.

    Colton Di Stefano March 15, 2013 at 6:13 pm Reply
  5. bon bon yé trop ptit yé si yé ca bla bla bla s était un des 3 seul joueurs a avoir jouer toute la saison l an dernier tout les autres avait lachez en cour de route pis crisse ca n en prend des francos pour parler au partisans y en a 2 pis 1 en fin de carriere vous aimer mieux un moen qui fou rien mais yé gros ou un white qui nous a couter 2 match a date mais yé gros bravo ma gang de champion vous aller voir dans 2-3 ans combien de points par saisons desharnais va faire et surtout enlever desharnais a paccio et il va moins produire ca c est sur !!!!!!!!!!!

    pat gaudreau March 16, 2013 at 7:04 am Reply
  6. I think you are way off the mark here, compare stats and you will see that by his production, he is a bargain. The story of how he made it to the NHL and they type of heart and soul guy he is can mean a lot, and in David’s case it does. He epitomizes hard work, dedication and on the ice he is a fierce competitor. David is the reason Cole scored a career high 35 goals last year. Obviously, you attribute size to being an effective player, which is ludicrous, and who gave you the idea he has to be a defensive stalwart on an offensive line? The racist remark is also simply and utterly ridiculous as well, you must be from Toronto…

    Mark March 16, 2013 at 7:30 am Reply
  7. Mark, Cole scored 35 goals last year because he had a terrific year, so did pacioretty, those two wingers made Desharnais look way better than he is. Davids story of perserverance is a great story for sure, I’m proud of him for sure, but yes he is too small, he has skills but we do not need his skills with the play of Eller and the limitless potential Galchenyuk has. No I am not from Toronto, and yes it is racism. Eller never deserved to be scratched, David did becayse he was terrible in the first 8-9 games, but Therrien wouldn’t scratch him simply because he was french. That is racism. The Habs or any team for that matter should never play a player because of where he is from, that my friend is ludicris. A player should be played if he deserves to play, regardless of where he’s from.

    Colton March 16, 2013 at 8:36 am Reply
  8. Dude. Je suis vraiment pas sûr de ton analyse.

    Tu dis qu’on a bcp de centres. Je suis d’accord. Mais avec Galchenyuk, Eller, Plekanec et Desharnais, on est en char côté skills. Et au total on n’est pas si petit grâce aux 2 premiers.

    Tu parles de faire de la place pour des “prospects” comme White, Dumont, Bournival, Pribyl and Vail… WTF? Personne là-dedans peut aspirer à monter plus haut qu’un 3ème trio. Tu t’empêches pas de signer Desharnais pour eux!

    De toute façon, bin mal pris, y’a toujours moyen de bouger un de ces centres-là à l’aile. Ou de faire des échanges… y compris pour Desharnais!! À 3,5M pour 60pts, ça devrait pas être dur de trouver preneur.

    Guillaume St-Onge March 16, 2013 at 9:08 am Reply
  9. I agree your racist comment is ridiculous and short sighted, either that or Colby Armstrong’s french must have got really good for him not to get srcatched since the beginning.What do you think about that? Follow me here? If Armstrong was french you would assume that it is why (unless you think Armstrong deserve the roster spot). Same with David but you just cant assume that that is why, it takes all credibility away from everything else you write and makes me figure that you dont know what you are talking about, because you dont obviously.

    come on March 16, 2013 at 9:14 am Reply
  10. This is not mistake, you’re so stupid

    Guillaume March 16, 2013 at 10:38 am Reply
    • You have a right to disagree with how he views the deal. However, to call him stupid because of it is just sad on your part.

      Michael Gomez March 16, 2013 at 10:54 am Reply
  11. @come on, Colby Armstrong has always had a good relationship with Michel Therrien ever since his days in Pittsburgh. Therrien likes armdog for some reason which baffles the mind because like you said, colby has been terrible so far this season. And to Guillaume, sorry you feel that way. Desharnais earns his new money, 3.5 million is a good price, but a 4 year deal is a mistake. It holds back our other centres like Eller and Galchenyuk, they can develop playing the 3rd line or playing the wings, DEsharnais has no place moving forward with the Habs.

    Colton Di Stefano March 16, 2013 at 11:19 am Reply
  12. Just by watching the Canadians play this year, im startin to doubt if we need to sign any of those big free agents. With young players that are starting to prove to us that their gonna be very good players, im not very worried about our futur and missed oppertunities to sign players like Corey perry and players alike. I think Marc bergevin knows damn well what he is doing. GO HABS GO!!!!!!!!

    Binsley March 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm Reply
  13. At face value this is a great deal. 3.5 million for a second line centre? Yes please. Especially since players like Grabovski, Lombardi, Upshall, etc. all have the same or higher cap hits than Desharnais.

    But past that, looking at the long terms effects of this contract, it looks quite a bit worse. I’m really torn on how I feel about this contrat. Personally, I think you touched on almost every concern quite well. Great article, but I don’t necessarily agree with some of your arguments, particularly on Galchenyuk.

    I think the biggest reason for this contract is that it takes the pressure off Galchenyuk. With the way he’s played, it’s hard to believe he’s not even a year removed from being drafted. Playing him on the wing lessens his defensive responsibilities. I don’t think we’ll be seeing the best of Galchenyuk in 4 years, and that is big reason why I like this contract.

    I agree that Desharnais is better suited for the wing. He likes to cut across the top of the ice and pass pucks to middle or back across, very similar to how wingers play. Being on the wing his defensive responsibilities would be cut substantially. Also, his lack of agility and acceleration wouldn’t be as much of a detractor as he has more room to skate in a straight line up the wing. My one concern with playing him at wing would be…who do you play with him at centre? Plekanec and Desharnais could be a possibility, but then who playing third line centre? Do you break up Eller and Galchenyuk? Or do you try Dumont or Bournival as a third line centre?

    You mentioned the effect this has on future acquisitions, and that’s a very real concern as we could potentially be in cap hell come July 2015 with Subban, Markov, Eller, Gionta, Diaz, Emelin, Leblanc and Pateryn all needing new contracts. Plus if Ryder leaves this offseason, we need a top 6 winger and no one in Hamilton is ready to fill that. It’s going to be tight, for the next few years, that’s for sure.

    There’s good and bad with this contract. It really wouldn’t surprise me to hear that Bergevin wanted something shorter, but Desharnais wanted a long term contract so that had to meet in the middle. For the length is biggest concern, but we could always trade him.

    Mitch Brown March 16, 2013 at 1:24 pm Reply
  14. Your points to why Desharnais was a bad signing make little to no sense. First you mention the fact that, that money could go to big free agents signings but those are the worst moves a team can make! On the free agent market you end up way overpaying for a player and that hurts you in the longterm. Corey Perry will probably make around 8 million, close to double what Patches makes and yet they both play a similar role of power forward. Second you completely discount any prospects coming up next year to fill out the roster but then speak about how many good prospects we have coming up. The Habs have a young team with some good talent coming up, guys like kristo, leblanc, dumont and bournival could easily help fill out the bottom of our roster and Pateryn, tinordi, Ellis and Beaulieu can fill out the bottom d pairings. Finally, Desharnais isn’t being paid as a first line center even though you keep referring to him as that. 3.5 mill is a good cap hit considering what kind of offense he brings to the lineup and that’s not mentioning his work ethic. If Eller and Galchenyuk do make huge strides this summer the fix is simple, trade Desharnais. Bergevin has shown he is not afraid to trade and Desharnais at 3.5 mil has trade value. Although we are a small team, other teams might want a second line center who can bring offense and skill to a bigger team. The fact is he signed at a reasonable rate and it gives up flexibility to make trades from a position of power.

    jason March 16, 2013 at 4:15 pm Reply
  15. Stupid article. Waste of my time. Desharnais deserves this contract. You make no sense at all. You suck.

    Oliver March 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm Reply
    • A lot of people do not like the contract. They have the right to feel that way.

      Michael Gomez March 17, 2013 at 5:31 pm Reply
  16. Thank you Mitch! You my friend are spot on and make great points on both sides of the coin. No body in the system is ready to take the vacant top 6 spot when Ryder leaves in the summer and clearly Corey Perry would help our team, but thats past the point. Desharnais can be moved easily with this deal, but i highly doubt Bergevin is one to quickly trade a guy he just signed to a lengthy deal, Bergevin has too much class to do that IMO. as for Jason and everyone else who doesnt like my article, please read Mitch’s comment and then, simply watch a habs game for yourselves and stop giving Desharnais the benefit of a doubt. Stats are not the whole story

    Colton March 17, 2013 at 7:53 pm Reply
  17. You are an idiot! Desharnais has great skill and puts up good number with Max Pacioretty. Open your eyes and realize that Lars Eller, although a great 2 way player, does not have the offensive mindset that David does.

    Gary March 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm Reply
    • I disagree in regards to your point on Eller. If Eller had the luxury of having the top power forwards on the team last season, his numbers would’ve been great too. Yes, I do believe Desharnais has fantastic offensive vision but Eller is right up there

      Michael Gomez March 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm Reply
  18. I’m surprised you overlooked something here. Desharnais is tradeable. And these days, 3.5 just isn’t a lot of money. So even if he doesn’t work out over time, there’s a place for him in the league and the Habs can get something decent in return. I think you’re making a tremendous number of assumptions about unrealized potential – and at the end of the day, a guy who can produce points is worth a fair amount to any club. I’m like you – I don’t like players this small, and he’s not a center, I agree – but patience, my friend. It’s hardly a disaster for this team.

    Gary Kanofsky March 18, 2013 at 11:35 pm Reply

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