There is a firestorm growing across Montreal. Everything is tightening up and so too is the pressure cooker when God knows with how the season started and how the team was supposed to look at this point, it never should have come about. Alas, here we stand and the reality of the scenario that the Canadiens find themselves in is settling in rather uncomfortably.
Does it come at just the right time? Perhaps, ironically. How does that pan true for a team that has won 17 of their last 40 games heading into Thursday’s collision with the Coyotes? Simple: they are still holding onto top spot in a division that lacks relative competition. Comfort and confidence in knowing that they should still be in a playoff spot and yet realizing that just two months ago it looked like an absolute guarantee. For such lesser, unexpected competition nipping closer to their heels, this is the sign that the Canadiens need that while they do have answers in house for their issues, they must look elsewhere for immediate needs.
There is a grand deal of waking up that needs to be done but the smell of the coffee in Montreal comes not from one particular place, rather all across the map. Those comfortable with such a fact will trek on as we look at what that might just entail.
First & Foremost: if one or two –maybe even three or four– players fail to perform, that is the fault of the players; if the entire team –or close to it– fails to perform, the problem is the coach(ing staff). Little more needs to be said than that before running the risk of talking in circles about a problem that has plagued this team for years now.
While the ironic time to make a move might be when things are rolling strong, the constant fear is upsetting the balance of chemistry in a working formula. Why is it worthwhile to do so? Because –eventually– this is what happens. Who would have guessed that Phil Danault is not a full time first line center but rather more likely to find steady success in a lethal third line Nick Bonino-esque spot? Who would have guessed that Alexei Emelin cannot justifiably play 20+ minutes per game? Who would have guessed that if Shea Weber is not bringing the thunder through physical domination that he cannot stand upon the foundation of an unsustainable scoring rate a la his October output?
Talking about the foundation and not mentioning Carey Price is as good as impossible. The curious case of Carey Price would be best suited be detailed in a column of its own but the simple synopsis is that he is not currently the best goaltender in the world. He is not even an average goaltender at this given time. Al Montoya starting a game instills more confidence at this point but he could well be considered the best backup in the world. In the big picture, Carey Price is still as good as it gets. His problems are not with the new equipment measurements and standards nor with anything else physical. He is making mistakes that a young Carey Price that lost the starter’s job made. His problems are purely mental. Some continued work with Stephane Waite and a jolt in this team’s roster should hopefully do something to fix that but again, this will be further examined at a later time.
What is there to upset now? What kind of foundation or balance is there to be upset?
Upsetting the foundation is not only acceptable right now, it is an outright necessity.
The expected outcome if nothing is done right now is that the Habs likely find themselves in a playoff spot. From there, they throw up their hopes for enough guys to get sporadically hot to ride it out as long as they can but realistically end up dead in the water out of the gate. If there is not some kind of roster altering nor some form of coaching staff adjustment, Stanley Cup dreams for 2017 quickly come to an end.
Is anyone else as uncomfortable with every contending team’s general manager citing that their goal is to win a Stanley Cup while Marc Bergevin continues to cite that his goal is just to make the playoffs?
Yes, to acquire the necessary talent (e.g. Matt Duchene, Nick Leddy, Martin Hanzal, etc.) this team must part with assets that everyone from ownership and management all the way to the fans may not be comfortable in parting with. However, there is a new wrinkle in the fabric of the NHL trade market and the value of each asset therein: the fact/guarantee that someone from their team will be on their way to Vegas come June and they will not be coming back to them.
With each team’s allowance to protect three defencemen, Jeff Petry’s no movement clause locks up one player that would be protected anyhow, Shea Weber obviously joins him thereafter and then –of all other applicable defencemen– the decision likely comes down to either Nathan Beaulieu or Greg Pateryn; the decision within being Nathan Beaulieu’s higher potential ceiling versus his unfairly limited play this season having him look like he will never pan out with this team up against Greg Pateryn’s lower potential ceiling but perhaps a lesser likelihood that he draws the same value in a trade as Beaulieu.
The point with this being that Colorado is in search of a young defenceman, a young goaltender or both among more but those two factors being perhaps the most prominent and that if the Canadiens were not willing to part with any particular applicable party beforehand, they may want to do so now or else run the risk of losing such for nothing in return at all.
Nathan Beaulieu certainly looks akin to the type of player that Colorado would covet, as well as there being no secret that he is the type of player that would likely flourish more readily on a team like the Avalanche as he would find himself with more opportunities as a result of certainly garnering more minutes. Those across the Canadiens landscape are certainly not pushing Beaulieu out of the city limits but they are most definitely, for a small handful of reasons, becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of moving him if the return was considered sufficient.
Could a package consisting of someone like Nathan Beaulieu, perhaps Michael McNiven and more catch Colorado’s intrigue in attempt to lure Matt Duchene away from them? Time might just tell.
What else such a move as this might consist of is the transfer of a young forward such as Daniel Carr, Jacob De La Rose, Charles Hudon, Sven Andrighetto, Connor Crisp and so on. There already exists a logjam of forwards to be protected, namely with awaiting how Alexander Radulov’s contract situation by then could look and the reality of the situation is that a number of these names will be put forth. Placing one’s self in the shoes of Vegas, the likelihood –at this juncture– of drafting Tomas Plekanec over the likes of Charles Hudon would seem to be essentially nil.
Reality says: some of these young studs that would otherwise find themselves a consideration of a begrudging loss should find themselves more readily available for a trade to a team that would sooner possess the ability to protect their contract(s) come expansion draft time. If one should find a favorite prospect of theirs wearing another team/farm team’s jersey come deadline time, consider that the alternative is nowhere nearly as desirable.
Current problems run deeper than the February funk. Current problems run deeper than who’s on which line. Current problems run deeper than needing any particular player. Current problems are a messy little hybrid of a few pressing issues that have not all been properly addressed. Marc Bergevin is notoriously involved in everything as soon as any given player is talked about even remotely possibly being on the move. That said, such has been the situation since his tenure began and his tangible action has been minimal.
The reality for Marc Bergevin says: now is the most likely and most necessary time to pull the trigger. In the event of failure this year, this administration finally finds themselves under the microscope in the eye of ownership.
All this and so much more to look forward to. Uncertainty, hope, up and down, projection and a glimmer of calculated optimism.
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