As all Montreal fans know, the Canadiens have won more Stanley Cup finals (23) than any other hockey club across the league. However, Montreal fans are equally aware that they have not seen their team hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup since 1993. Not to worry—new general manager Marc Bergevin is well on his way to directing the Canadiens back to their first Stanley Cup final in nearly two decades.
Bergevin took over the Canadiens' GM duties in early May, and has since orchestrated some deals that will be key to Montreal’s success. He revamped the coaching staff, bringing in new head coach Michel Therrien, as well as assistants Jean-Jacques Daigneault, Gerard Gallant and Clement Jodoin.
Bergevin also made a couple key personnel moves, such as signing goaltender Carey Price to a six-year, $39 million contract extension, and drafting 18-year-old OHL standout Alex Galchenyuk with the third overall pick of the 2012 NHL draft. Bergevin has also made some underrated roster moves, re-signing some of last year’s pivotal role players, as well as bringing in forward Brandon Prust on a four-year, $10 million deal.
While Bergevin seems to be on the right track, a lot of work still needs to be done before October. Highlighted in this article are the top five things Bergevin has yet to cross off his offseason to-do list.
Brandon Prust will bring toughness to the Canadiens' lineup.
While establishing an identity may weigh more heavily on the Canadiens coaching staff, there’s no doubt Bergevin will have a say in it. Whenever a team is in a state of rebuilding, regardless of the sport, a culture change comes along with it.
Right away, the Canadiens need to find their identity as a hockey team. Will Montreal be a fast-paced, run-and-gun-style team that does a lot of scoring? Or will the Canadiens preach tough, hard-nosed defense first? If they do not decide before the season starts, Bergevin’s squad could find itself in the midst of an identity crisis before season’s end.
Judging by the personalities Bergevin has already brought in, it looks like Montreal is headed toward a gritty, defensive identity. Prust is a perfect example; he totaled 156 penalty minutes, in addition to notching 17 points in 2011-12.
If Bergevin’s Canadiens really are headed toward a defensive-minded makeover, it would be smart to lock up the team's best defender, restricted free agent P.K. Subban. According to a Dave Stubbs report from The Gazette, the Canadiens have every intention of offering Subban a contract extension; however, talks seem to be moving in slow motion.
Bergevin showed his priorities by taking care of Price before any other important free agents. Subban should be next on his list. In spite of a last place finish in the Northeast Division in 2011-12, Subban posted a positive plus-minus (9). He also produced 36 points for the Canadiens last season.
A lot goes into crafting a new contract, but Bergevin should reward Subban’s defensive efforts with one as soon as possible.
Center Scott Gomez is not the player he once was. With the Devils (1999-2007) and Rangers (2007-09), Gomez was an offensive performer, consistently scoring 55-plus points per season. In 2009-10, his first season with the Habs, Gomez was still an efficient scorer, totaling 59 points.
Things have changed since then. The following year, Gomez only scored 38 points, and, last season, he only managed 11 points. That’s clearly not enough production to warrant his current contract, which has him earning $5.5 million in 2012-13 and $4.5 million in 2013-14.
So Bergevin has a decision to make. According to Luke Fox of Sportsnet.com, the Canadien’s GM has the option to buyout Gomez’ contract, which would cost $6.67 million over four years.
However, Arpon Basu of LNH.com does not believe that scenario is very likely. Instead, Basu believes that Bergevin could send the 12-year veteran down to the minors to start the 2012-13 season.
Bergevin can add offensive firepower by adding Alexander Semin.
Before free agency started, Mike Boone of HockeyInsideOut.com raised an interesting possibility for the Canadiens in 2012-13. Montreal needs a scoring threat on their second line to play alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. Boone suggested bringing in P.A. Parenteau, a left winger who has broken out with the Islanders over the past two seasons.
Montreal missed their opportunity to bring in Parenteau. The Colorado Avalanche swept in and scooped him up on the first day of free agency. With Zach Parise, this year’s top free agent, off the board, Alexander Semin is one of the only available LW scoring talents in this year’s free-agency class.
Semin will not come cheap, but if Bergevin is willing to spend the money to bring in a legitimate scoring threat, the Russian winger would be a great option.
Perhaps the most difficult task for Bergevin and the Montreal coaching staff will be getting all the moving parts to work together. With so many new players and coaches, the Canadiens need to be patient—things will not come easily right away.
As the season wears on, everyone will have a chance to feel each other out and discover their teammates’ tendencies. If it does not work perfectly in the beginning, Montreal should not panic. Instead, they should unite under a common identity and get the team moving in a forward direction.
While a lot of this will come from practice and the coaching staff’s guidance, everything starts with Bergevin and the team he pieces together in the offseason.