While most of the rest of us are watching the seven Canadiens playing at the Olympics, the team’s front office pouring over it’s scouting summaries and it’s game reports looking for that elusive franchise changing deal.
If Marc Bergevin wants to take action he will have only ten days from the time the trade window re-opens February 23rd and it’s closing on March 5th.
Having watched Bergevin through the first 20 months of his Canadiens tenure, I’m not so sure we should expect anything of a blockbuster nature. Bergevin may have done about all he’s going to do with his acquisition of Dale Weise from Vancouver for Raphael Diaz just before the Olympic trade deadline kicked in.
First of all, everything I’ve seen tells me, unlike the previous two Habs GM’s, Bergevin is not likely to sell the farm for a quick fix. In twenty months on the job he has made only three trades that involved the main Canadiens roster, only one of them – Michael Ryder for Erik Cole – was beyond what me might call the fringe. The others were defenseman Davis Drewiske for a 5th round draft choice and the Weise/Diaz deal.
Everyone, including Bergevin, knows the Canadiens need size, especially among their top six forwards. You don’t get that, even as a rental, without giving up a major asset in return. Bergevin’s history tell us he simply won’t do something like that. So the Habs will be going to the playoffs with what they have.
The inconsistances of the Canadiens 2013-2014 season may have been enough to drive Canadiens fans to distraction, but the team’s total body of work through the first 59 games of the season seems to have all but guaranteed them a playoff berth. That may sound overly optimistic but, unless there’s an absolute collapse, with only 22 games remaining in the season, the Canadiens will find themselves in the Eastern Conference’s top eight somewhere. They are in fourth place and seven points ahead of both Columbus and Ottawa who are just outside the last wild card spot now held by Detroit.
If the Canadiens were to play .500 the rest of the way, picking up 22 of the remaining available 44 points, Ottawa and/or Columbus would have to be in the neighbourhood of 15-7 to overhaul the them. Anything is possible, but the odds maker sportsclubstats.com lists the Canadiens with a 91.2% chance of making the playoffs while Columbus is at 57.2 and Ottawa only 26.7%.
How far they go from there? That’s something to talk about in mid-April.
SEVEN CANADIENS FITTING IN AT SOCHI
Things change almost daily as coaches try to fit the pieces together in the early stages of an international hockey tournament. We start with the coach’s vision on paper of the way things should be. Reality sets in by the end of the tournament’s second game and the changes begin.
– Right now P.K. Subban seems to be viewed by Mike Babcock and his Team Canada coaching staff as a seventh defenseman, meaning a power play specialist. In pre-tournament practices he’s been part of a fourth pairing with Vancouver Dan Hamhuis, who has injury issues. Will that be his role at the end of the tournament? Remains to be seen. International rules allow for 20 skaters in a game as compared with 18 in the NHL meaning a 7th defenseman and 13th forward.
– No question that Carey Price is very much in the Team Canada goaltending picture.
As for the rest of the Canadiens contingent –
– Max Pacioretty will be on the left side of a line with Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler and Chicago’s Patrick Kane when the US plays Slovakia on Thursday. Peter Budaj will be Jaroslav Halak’s goaltending backup for Slovakia.
– Czech Republic team captain Tomas Plekanec will have Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr as his linemates. The Czechs play Sweden Wednesday to open the tournament.
– Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin remain a defense pairing for Russia for their Thursday game against Slovenia.