The Habs Future needs to be decided now

Published November 17, 2021 at 10:47 PM

The Montreal Canadiens are in a very tough spot and it's likely to only get tougher as the season rolls on. When the season started the Canadiens were riding high off their Stanley Cup appearance and many felt like an upward trajectory was the likely only course of action for the Habs, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.

Over the past two seasons the Canadiens have made the playoffs and in both cases many fans of other teams alluded to the fact that these were «COVID induced playoff appearances» and it was often stated «in an 82 game season Montreal wouldn't have made the playoffs in each of the last 2 seasons.» I'm not going to try and take away from the Canadiens success last season as they came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Maple Leafs, swept the Jets and beat the Golden Knights before finally running into the juggernaut that is the Tampa Bay Lightning, but what I will say is that Stanley Cup appearance may have clouded the Canadiens ability to assess their franchise and players objectively.

The Canadiens started the off-season by breaking some very important news in regards to their Captain Shea Weber. It was revealed that due to multiple injuries that the Habs would not be protecting Weber and there was potential that his career might be over entirely, which would later be all but confirmed by the organization.

This was eventually followed up with shutdown center Philip Danault departing Montreal for a very lucrative deal with the LA Kings, which seemed all but academic after Marc Bergevin couldn't get a deal done with the center during the season. This was followed up by the Carolina Hurricanes deciding to enact a little revenge for the Canadiens previous offer sheet of the Canes' Sebastien Aho by offer sheeting Jesperi Kotkaniemi. This was a blessing for the Canadiens and their management team as their compensation was the Hurricane's unprotected 1st round pick in the upcoming draft.

Not matching the offer sheet was a no brainer and the Canadiens made the correct decision, but that's where things get complicated. The Canadiens' GM has been in charge since May 2012, but his contract is currently expiring and according to the Habs they would not be speaking about the deal until the conclusion of the season.

Now here's where the problems arise, when you get into a situation where your GM is playing with house money you can often live to regret it. This problem isn't unique to the Canadiens or even hockey, for example during Alex Anthopolous last season with the Blue Jays he knew he was on an expiring contract and he used the Blue Jays' prospect capital to make a run for the playoffs that ultimately set the team back years and all because he knew whatever happened next would fall on the shoulders of someone else.

Don't get me wrong I'm not advocating for the departure of Marc Bergevin as the primary option, but I do believe a team should know which direction their heading beyond this season especially in a situation where your future is on the line.

That's why what comes next is so important.

The Canadiens and Marc Bergevin decided the best course of action would be to trade one of their 1st round picks to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Christian Dvorak to help fill the void left by Danault, but up to this point that hasn't worked out they way the Habs had hoped.

The problem with this trade is that the protection details of the 1st round pick would see Montreal transfer the better of their two picks if both picks fall outside of the top 10 to the Coyotes. The only saving grace in this deal is that if one or both of the draft picks fall in the top 10 then Montreal would retain the better of their two 1sts to finalize the trade.

Today though Elliotte Friedman shared in his 32 Thoughts that Montreal could be in the market for a puck moving defenseman, which should be the last route Montreal is looking to take right now. If anything Montreal should be looking at ways to ensure they're finishing in the bottom 10 because finishing anywhere from 11th-18th would be an unmitigated failure for the organization.

Montreal is in a desperate need of top line talent and at this point the easiest way to acquire that sort of talent is through a top draft pick, but if Marc Bergevin isn't going to be your GM beyond this season he shouldn't be the man planning your strategy for the trade deadline and beyond. That task should fall on the shoulders of whoever the Molson family decides is responsible for managing the team in 2022 and beyond.
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