The absolutely wild and unpredictable National Hockey League playoffs have Canadiens fans thinking, what if?What if Habs general manager Marc Bergevin had made some bold moves at the trade deadline, brought in a couple of quality players and given his team that extra push to make it into the post-season? It wouldn’t have taken much.Think about it. The Canadiens finished only two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, the same Blue Jackets who embarrassed the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning with a sweep in the first round. And Montreal was only three points behind the Carolina Hurricanes, who toppled the Stanley Cup-champion Washington Capitals in Game 7 this week. The Habs were only four points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that was officially anointed a Stanley Cup contender by the Toronto media cheerleading squad when it acquired John Tavares last summer.
Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price stops Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson alone in front of the net during second period at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Feb. 19, 2019.
Dave Sidaway /
My point is that Montreal could’ve easily been in these playoffs and they probably would’ve made it if Bergevin had brought in some reinforcements. And if they had made it, who knows where they’d be today. Bergevin’s mantra is get into the playoffs and anything can happen. Often that’s not true. In fact, usually the best teams go deep.But not this year. The 2018 Cup winners are gone. The two conference winners are gone. All the division leaders are gone. Most of the superstars are already on the golf course. In short, the road to the Cup is wide open and just about anyone still left standing has a shot at winning it.If Columbus and Carolina, the two wild-card teams in the East, were able to make it out of the first round, there’s no reason to think that the Canadiens couldn’t have made it to the second round, too. We could be right in the midst of a Habs-Bruins second-round series as we speak. How cool would that be?But instead Montreal ended the season with the worst-case scenario, finishing ninth, just out of the playoffs, and that resulted in the team nabbing the worst possible draft pick of a non-playoff team (15th overall). Montreal just needed a nudge to get into the post-season, but president Geoff Molson and his right-hand-man, Bergevin, remained as stubborn and conservative as usual.
Boston Bruins centre Charlie Coyle celebrates after beating Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for the winning goal during overtime of Game 1 of their second-round playoff series on April 25, 2019, in Boston.
Charles Krupa /
They say it’s all about building for the future, but who’s to say things will go better next season? Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. All you know is what’s happening in front of you and the fact was they were right there at the door of the playoffs. I am on record as saying, in February, that Bergevin should make a move. But he didn’t.Instead he went to his go-to position, which is snooping through the junkyards of the NHL and buying, on the cheap, interchangeable players like Dale Weise, Jordan Weal, Nate Thompson and Christian Folin. (I also can’t believe he re-signed Thompson on Thursday. That is a step backward.)Imagine if he’d snared, say, Charlie Coyle? Coyle was the hero Thursday in Boston, scoring with just under five minutes left in regulation to tie the game against the Blue Jackets before potting the winner early in overtime.The Bruins picked up Coyle just before the trade deadline in return for Ryan Donato and a fifth-round pick. Donato is a second-round pick from the 2014 draft (56th overall) and was not a key player for the Bruins. In other words, a prospect who had yet to work out for them. They didn’t give up a first-rounder or a superstar-to-be.Related
So in theory, the Habs could have acquired Coyle. Bergevin also could’ve landed a genuine backup goalie for Carey Price and that surely would’ve won the team an extra few games. Can someone explain why the GM did not bother to get another goalie given the fact the team had clearly lost all confidence in Antti Niemi? So weird.Why didn’t Bergevin do anything at the trade deadline? In my view, there are two possibilities and neither is very comforting. One is that he simply made a mistake, that he didn’t realize good managers change their plans when the situation changes.The other possibility, just as bad, is that he didn’t do it because Molson didn’t want him to spend any of the US$8 million in cap money he had. This is the second straight season that the team has left about $8 million on the table because it didn’t spent up to the NHL salary cap.Was it a cost-saving move that cost the Canadiens a place in the playoffs? Over to you, Mr. Molson.email@example.com/brendanshowbiz