Call Of the Wilde: Bergevin's Price Tag
Marc Bergevin is seen in Brossard, Que., in this May 2, 2012 file photo. (Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press)
I thought it was possible, but I am not surprised. Habs General Manager Marc Bergevin was not able to get it done. He wasn’t able to greatly help the Habs lineup by putting some goal scorers in it.
He was active. He pushed hard for Avs forward Matt Duchene. He knew he needed this talented player and he tried his best but sometimes at the end of the day you just don’t have a willing participant working with you. The Avs elected to stay with what they have right now to try to regroup their failing line-up in the off season.
You can say that Bergevin blew that, but you would be wrong because you just simply cannot accept to be taken advantage of by the Avs GM at any price.
Same for the Arizona Coyotes whose GM set a bar high for his unrestricted free agent Radim Vrbata. Bergevin would have loved to add the solid scorer who has been hot lately too. Vrbata could have fetched a second or a third in the tight market, but the Coyotes GM decided to not lower the bar. He held firm and strong.
Now that sounds so bold and courageous, but come on, he got nothing for the player. That is not bold GMing. It’s stupid. There is no way to put a positive spin on this pig. John Chayka blew it. He got nothing for Vrbata and Vrbata has no games of significance remaining in the contract he signed. That isn’t bold strength. It’s false pride.
My bottom line is you can criticize Bergevin for not getting Vrbata, or Duchene, or Landeskog, but then you have to criticize the 20 other General Managers who think they have a playoff shot for not improving their scoring. If the Arizona and Colorado GMs set the bar so high that 20 other GMs who would love to improve their line-up say ‘no thank you, you’re crazy’, then you can’t criticize Bergevin for not being the incompetent one who actually steps in and gives too much.
Bergevin said “you can’t lose four years of development” to try to improve 21 games and the playoffs. It’s hard to hear this as Habs fans.
Habs fans are smart. They know that their team has three players providing the goals right now and three out of 18 is an absolutely terrible percentage. There is no reason to believe that they can go far in the playoffs unless at least four more guys step up and start scoring goals too. I have no idea who those four players might be. It should be Gallagher, Plekanec, Lehkonen, and Byron. Do you feel that they can find the net?
This leaves a lot of pressure on Carey Price, the defense, and the defensive structure that Claude Julien is able to implement into the line-up to get the puck down the ice quickly and efficiently in hopes that at least some of the scoring touch can be found from players not named Pacioretty, Radulov and Galchenyuk.
Price will have to be sensational. The club will have to play with structure. Three scorers can not carry the load with no support. I have never seen a club go far in the playoffs with three working offensive weapons. Never.
Bergevin did a good job in the way that he naturally does. This is his bread and butter. He gets pawns to help but no one wins at chess with pawns. The acquired players are fine. The best of the five players he acquired this week is Jordie Benn. It is apparent that this is an NHL caliber defenseman. He had a tremendous first game and I expect it to continue. The three players on offense have little offense in them. Quick math tells me that it appears Bergevin has 64 third and fourth liners on his roster and three first and second liners.
We are five years in here on this mission from Bergevin. He’s had a conference final and it all looked like it would build beautifully from there. Since then he has made the trade that could mark his tenure -- where Shea Weber better find the fountain of youth for that deal to look good in three years. Bergevin’s greatest credit is he hasn’t made the big mistake. There isn’t a Gaborik on his ledger. Sure Emelin signed for a big deal but he’s still serviceable. Plekanec's offensive dropoff is cliff-like, so there was an error there. The error is not a Scott Gomez catastrophe though so he receives a strong grade for not hamstringing the team for seven years with any choice that he has made.
However, it’s year five at the helm now.
Five years later, the top six forwards are not one lick better than when he started this adventure except one year of Alex Radulov. He still gets a good grade. The caution that he shows by instinct means that he hasn’t gone for it. It also means that that same caution has saved the desperate deal that can kill a team for years.
But did I mention it is five years now?
It’s time to get a top six forward in the off season somehow. The prospects that he has except Sergachev are not going to win a Cup as lead pieces. In fact, I believe the prospects that he has are the same type of guys he seems to be able to trade for whenever his heart desires. So move them while their value is high.
He’s done well but it’s going to take something bold now. It’s time. It’s past time.