I was thinking the other day about how I have not written an article in quite some time. “If only I had something to write about,” I said to myself. Moments later, I read about a massive press conference that GM Marc Bergevin held in Vancouver, where the Canadiens are playing tonight. He said a lot of things that indicate how he feels about the 2019-20 Canadiens.
Romanov In - Probably
Firstly, Marc Bergevin told a group of reporters (which did not include me, much to my dismay) that blue-chip defenseman Alexander Romanov will most likely be with Les Boys next season. Romanov is currently playing for CSKA Moscow in the KHL. As well, Romanov met with Bergevin to discuss an NHL contract, and he made clear to Bergevin that he wishes to play in the NHL next season.
This will be a much-needed boost to the Canadiens’ defense corps next year. Romanov is that smooth-skating, puck-moving left-shot defenseman we have all been waiting for since the dawn of time. He may not be able to step into a top-pairing role right away, but if he is playing well in the second-best hockey league in the world, I can see him doing fine in the NHL at the start.
Sorry, Brendan Kelly – No Massive Trades This Year
Marc Bergevin has also decided to hold off on massive trades that mortgage the future for the benefit of the present. “I don’t believe that I could make a trade today or tomorrow to get an asset that would make us a Stanley Cup team,” said Bergevin. He also talked about the importance of looking ahead and not being too shortsighted.
The noise you hear is Montreal Gazette columnist Brendan Kelly seething with anger.
Kelly, through his overly negative, often-fallacious column What the Puck, has long advocated for Bergevin to pull the trigger on a massive trade. This is something that I do not understand, because Kelly considers Bergevin to be an imbecile who deserves to be fired. Surely, if Bergevin were such an imbecile, Kelly would not trust him to make a good big trade?
Many would be inclined to agree with Kelly on this issue. Why, they would ask, would Bergevin not pull the trigger on a massive trade to propel the Canadiens to contention? Why not bring in a great left-shot defenseman, or a sniping forward, if the goal this year is to make the playoffs?
The reality is, Bergevin did not rule out any of these trades. He only said that there is nobody available right now who would make his team an instant contender. If a no-brainer deal opens up for the Canadiens, Bergevin would take it in an instant. Marc Bergevin knows that the Canadiens must make the playoffs this year. He knows that the Canadiens haven’t missed the playoffs for three straight seasons since the 1920’s. He knows that he will be fired if the Canadiens don’t make the playoffs. Still, Bergevin does not make big in-season trades. It is simply not in his nature.
It is not as though the Canadiens are in dire need of help. They are in a surprisingly weak Atlantic Division, and many teams in front of them, such as Florida or Buffalo, are very streaky and could go on a cold spell that would derail their season. It happened to both teams last year. The Canadiens aren’t in a tanking position, either. They currently sit just one point out of a playoff spot and three points out of second in the division.
The Canadiens have been plagued by injuries, and it is a testament to the depth of this team that they have kept pace through the injuries to Jonathan Drouin, Victor Mete, Paul Byron, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Matthew Peca… you get the idea. Maybe Bergevin is counting on the Canadiens to play better, and subsequently rise up the standings, when players get back from injury. Drouin is expected back by January-February, and the rest are expected back earlier than that. Maybe that is why Bergevin won’t make a big splash, because he feels it is unnecessary. Maybe – and this would be very exciting if it were true – maybe Bergevin has inside knowledge that Cole Caufield will join the Canadiens once the NCAA season is over. Caufield is currently tearing it up on a very bad University of Wisconsin team. If Wisconsin doesn’t make it very far in the NCAA tournament, we could see Caufield in bleu, blanc et rouge by March. This would be the equivalent of acquiring a slightly shorter Evgenii Dadonov. That’s a big splash, and it wouldn’t cost Marc Bergevin a penny. All he would have to do is sign Caufield to an entry-level contract, and then tell Coach Claude Julien to pencil him into the lineup in time for the next game. Imagine a second line of Drouin-Domi-Caufield. Not bad, not bad at all.
Keep in mind that this is all speculation. Caufield has indicated that he wants to make the jump to the NHL in the near future, but by March? We’ll just have to wait and see. In any case, I’m not against Marc Bergevin adding somebody mid-range, like Erik Gustafsson, to boost his team, but any big-ticket trade will probably cost the aforementioned Caufield, so forget about it.
Canadiens Good Fit for Kovalchuk?
The Score published an article that speculated on a new home for newly minted free agent Ilya Kovalchuk. Citing the Canadiens’ need for more scoring, The Score put Montreal as a likely destination for the former Los Angeles King. Should the Canadiens sign him?
If Kovalchuk had become a free agent eight years ago, I would have signed him in a heartbeat. Now he is old, slow, and defensively irresponsible. His only asset is his shot. The problem is, you can’t have someone in your lineup just to park his butt at the faceoff dot on the power play and rip one-timers. For a team built on skill and speed, this is a huge no-no. I’d rather Bergevin trade Max Domi for a bag of pucks than sign Ilya Kovalchuk. If he was made a healthy scratch on a not-very-deep LA Kings team, he will not make it in Montreal. Done. Case closed.
Prayers go out to Canadiens legend Guy Lapointe, who will be undergoing treatment for oral cancer. May he have a speedy recovery, and only good health moving forward.
Go Habs Go.
Signed, Le Bo