Why Now is Not the Time to Panic

“Three” has been a familiar number to the Canadiens all season long. For much of the 2013-14 campaign, the Habs have been seeded third in their division, right behind the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. But in the passed couple of days, the number three has meant something else for the team known has “Les Habitants”. It no longer shows where they sit in the standings, as they are now in fourth place, but rather how many games they have won in the past ten contests.

3-6-1. The unflattering record that the Canadiens sport over their last ten match-ups tells the story of the team’s recent play. The Canadiens have lost four in a row now, falling out of the top three in the Atlantic Division, and now find themselves hanging on to a wild-card spot. Many fans have called for the head of Michel Therrien; others feel that Marc Bergevin may be the one to blame. But all of the Canadiens have to relax and realize one thing: this is not a team built to win now.

Bergevin has been quoted in saying, “You don’t build a championship team through free agency, it’s never happened and never will”, (Sean Gordon, theglobeandmail.ca). It’s hard to find a truer statement than that. The Montreal GM has done a fantastic job in re-building this team since he took over in 2012. He drafted Alex Galchenyuk, a probably future first line center, as well as developing young stars Brendan Gallagher and Lars Eller into regular NHLers. PK Subban is already a top-end defender, and the likes of Nathan Beaulieu, Alexei Emelin and Jared Tinordi are all projected to be top-four blue-liners in the coming years. Not a bad core going forward.

But despite all of the promise, fans still aren’t pleased. They want the Habs to win “Now”. Unfortunately, fans who feel this way are mis-guided. Now is not the time for the Canadiens to make block-buster moves for big-name players. The Habs are a re-building with a bright future who have over-achieved in regular season hockey. As shown in last year’s playoffs, they are no where near ready to compete with big-time teams in the post-season. But the fact of the matter is this: they are exactly where they should be.

Teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Los Angelas Kings and Chicago Blackhawks were not built over night. There were many “dark years” for these four franchises before they all went onto being cup-contenders. They were all bottom feeders of the standings in the early 2000s (nhl.com). But eventually, through drafting smart and being patient with their prospects, all four emerged from the bottom to become arguably the top-four teams in the NHL today. Would Penguins have got Crosby and Malkin is they were good all those years? Would Chicago have been able to draft Toews and Kane if they were in the playoffs? No. To get better, you need to have some seasons that will not be the most pleasant to watch. But unfortunately, as proven by history, it’s necessary.

For the Habs to acquire a top-six forward or a top-two defense man they would be forced to give up a young prospect. This is an absolute taboo for a team which is re-building. If anything, Bergevin should be looking to move veterans Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta to teams looking to add rental players for a playoff run. These kind of moves would allow the Canadiens to acquire draft picks and more young prospects to add to their already promising core. Bergevin can not afford to make a “blockbuster” trade right now with the risk of stunting the necessary re-build of his club.There will come a day when Bergevin will look to add a “big time” player to his roster to help push the Habs to a cup-contender, but this will come when all of his prospects are NHL regulars.

Marc Bergevin has kept his word to this point on what he wanted to do. His re-build has gone better than expected, and great things are still on the horizon for Bergevin’s Montreal Canadiens. Fans must be patient, because after all, the Canadiens are still a re-building team.

 

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