Early Winners and Losers of the Montreal Canadiens' Offseason
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The 2013 offseason has had its fair share of ups and downs as far as the Montreal Canadiens are concerned.
For example, general manager Marc Bergevin had the chance to sign hometown hero Vincent Lecavalier to the delight of many. He instead got to sign Daniel Briere to the delight of, well, an $8 million-richer Daniel Briere.
Nevertheless, the Habs have been able to address most if not all needs they might have had this summer, with the acquisitions of Briere and enforcer George Parros inevitably set to form ripples up and down the team’s roster.
Here are the early winners and losers of the Habs’ offseason as result of those and the team’s other moves.
Winner: Daniel Briere
Former Philadelphia Flyer Daniel Briere (right).
The two-year, $8 million deal that Daniel Briere signed with the Habs two weeks ago was undeniably a good deal…but really just for Briere.
He’ll be 36 in October and has had two consecutive subpar seasons, indicating his career is undeniably on the downswing. Additionally, his 5’10”, 179-pound frame doesn’t exactly address the Habs’ lingering size issues, or more accurately issues with a lack thereof.
Nevertheless, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin opted to go after the diminutive center/winger after falling short in the Vincent Lecavalier sweepstakes.
Whatever his reasoning for reaching out to the Flyers cast-off, Montreal fans can’t help but want to throw up at some of the stories written since. Take this Postmedia News story (via The Gazette) for example: “Daniel Briere’s lifelong dream comes true,” complete with a headline that ignores how it could have come true six years ago had Briere not snubbed Montreal to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers instead.
Briere can wax poetic all he wants about how his “heart was with the Canadiens even back then. But this time around it’s good timing,” because in a sense he’s right, and not just about the change in direction the franchise is taking. Briere is now six years older, out of his prime, close to retirement and probably realizing this might be his last chance to cash in.
Admittedly, it may not all be about the money for Briere, because he did reportedly accept less to go to Philadelphia a half-decade ago. However, he had better readjust his expectations if he truly believes the boos Habs fans have been sending his way every time he visited Montreal as a Flyer will now magically become cheers. He has to earn them.
Montreal fans do admittedly have short memories and will most likely “forgive” Briere the second he steps on the ice as a Hab for the first time, if that’s even necessary, seeing as he technically didn’t do anything wrong. However, the first time he finds himself in a scoring slump, that “dream come true” will turn into a nightmare pretty fast.
So, Briere may be an early winner now, especially with the funds he received from the Philadelphia buyout, but the jury is still out on how he will perform as a Hab. This could get ugly pretty fast.
Losers: Brian Gionta and David Desharnais
Montreal Canadiens David Desharnais (left) and Brian Gionta in happier times.
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With captain Brian Gionta out of the lineup to start the season, chances are good that Briere will takes his spot on the second line. Should Briere have as much left in the tank as he claims, it’s very possible he ends up stealing it by the time Gionta returns.
Granted, that would have about as much to do with Gionta’s diminishing returns as a top-six forward as it does the reading on Briere’s fuel gauge, but the point stands that Gionta should consider himself on thin ice.
On the off chance Briere fails while presumably playing with center Tomas Plekanec, head coach Michael Therrien may try him out as center on the first line with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher instead, at the expense of David Desharnais. Such is the cruel reality of Briere’s versatility.
Desharnais is, of course, coming off a disappointing season in which he scored just 28 points. That’s just not good enough for the $3.5 million he’ll be making this season.
Since that deal was Bergevin’s brainchild, Desharnais is likely going to get the benefit of the doubt. However, Bergevin also decided to sign Briere…but for $4 million, meaning Briere’s likely going to get about $500,000 more of one.
Winner: Brendan Gallagher
Former Florida Panther George Parros (right) and Toronto Maple Leaf Colton Orr.
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You can also add Briere, Desharnais and Gionta to this slide, with the latter two still coming out as losers overall. Nevertheless, trading for the 6’5”, 228-pound George Parros will help to protect Montreal’s lucrative, small-sized investments like the 5’9”, 178-pound Brendan Gallagher (who has a curious and impressive knack for standing up for himself anyway).
By signing Briere, Montreal will have as many as four top-six forwards 5’10” or shorter and 180 pounds or lighter. That is not generally a recipe for success. As such, Bergevin just got himself an insurance policy that excessive liberties will not be taken against any one of them or anyone else for that matter as Parros immediately becomes the biggest member of the Habs.
Parros notably went 4-4-1 in fights last season, according to HockeyFights.com. During his career, he has earned unofficial victories over such players as New York Islander Matt Martin, Toronto Maple Leaf Frazer McLaren, Phoenix Coyote Paul Bissonnette, Ottawa Senator Chris Neil and even the late Derek “The Boogeyman” Boogaard.
So, when former Habs enforcer Georges Laraque says, via TSN, “I’m sure when the Canadiens signed Parros, the Bruins and Shawn Thornton were relieved. In Ottawa and Toronto, they were relieved,” it’s somewhat laughable.
Firstly, one has to wonder if Laraque understands the meaning of the word “relieved,” seeing as Montreal didn’t really need to acquire an enforcer at all.
It’s not as if it had the option of going with Boston Bruin Milan Lucic and then out of nowhere Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon called, prompting Bergevin to shush everyone in the Habs war room and yell out: “Hold up on that Lucic for Desharnais deal! George Parros might be available!”
No, that would be ludicrous, on really a whole bunch of different levels. It’s also a rich assessment coming from the mouth of a guy who, in two seasons as a Hab, fought only 13 times. Parros, in 452 career regular-season games, has fought 149 times.
So, Laraque may have his opinions on the acquisition, but the fact of the matter is when all one has to do to answer for indiscretions on the ice is say, “No, Georges. I’m really not up for fighting you tonight. Appreciate the offer, though, ” you might be the one who isn’t all that intimidating.
Parros, on the other hand, will do just fine, thank you very much, and the Habs are unquestionably tougher now than they were at the end of last season. So, even if, say, the Leafs are happier that the Habs got Parros instead of someone else, they should still be fearing them to a greater extent.
Loser: Ryan White
Forward Ryan White must be crazy…and that’s just not in reference to his short fuse, with which Buffalo Sabre Steve Ott is incredibly familiar.
So crazy is Ryan White that he filed for arbitration with the Habs despite the aforementioned incident being more the rule and less the exception when it comes to his style of play. In fact, most nights he should have counted himself lucky just to get into the lineup, with the Habs counting themselves lucky in turn whenever he was actually able not to take a stupid penalty.
Considering he just signed a one-year deal worth $700,000 to avoid arbitration, let’s just assume he had a brief moment of clarity instead of coming to his senses altogether. Really, ol’ “White-Out” makes so many mistakes that the only way he could have thought an arbitration hearing would go his way in the first place would be for him to be clinically insane.
Now, the deal White signed is a one-way one, meaning he gets the same amount whether it’s in the NHL or the American Hockey League. So, in that sense, because he’s a fringe NHLer, White is a winner…but, overall, for the exact same reason, because he’s a fringe NHLer, not really.
Additionally, the acquisition of Parros and the actually decent defensive play of guys like Gabriel Dumont, Brandon Prust and Gionta makes him obsolete. Or at least it should. Dating back to last season, this contract constitutes about his fifth chance not to screw up as a Hab. There may not be a sixth.
Winners: The Montreal Canadiens as a Whole
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Ranked as the 35th-best North American skater by Central Scouting entering the NHL Entry Draft, Michael McCarron ended up going 25th overall to the Montreal Canadiens. However, he is nonetheless poised to fill a big need in Montreal: that of a towering power forward who knows how to use his body (better than Max Pacioretty currently does).
Sure, the pressure to perform as a result of being taken in the first round by the Habs of all teams could end up being detrimental to his future success in the NHL. Hell, maybe everyone but Lucic himself prematurely comparing McCarron to the Boston Bruins winger will have similar results. In the here and now, though, the pick looks like a winner.
Well, he actually looks like a man-child, but assuming those childlike bright eyes and naivety go away in time, McCarron does look like he will be a force of some kind in the NHL.
He may be projected as a third-liner at this stage of the game, but his decision to forego university and join the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights instead can only mean good things for his future career as a professional hockey player (not so much for his future career as a doctor, though).
Towering 6’6” defenseman Jarred Tinordi followed the same path to London, and he’s a likely winner in his own right as Alexei Emelin’s temporary heir apparent while he recuperates from a knee injury.
In addition, by getting projected starting goalie Zachary Fucale in the early second round, not only did the Habs add significantly to their nonexistent organizational depth at that position, but they also got a first-round talent that makes up for the earlier-than-expected selection of McCarron.
While the Habs did sign Briere for more than he probably should have gotten, they nevertheless filled a need, just as they did by trading for Parros. As a result, they are poised to once again contend for the division next year.
While that division now includes the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal’s main competition should still be considered the Stanley Cup runners-up Boston Bruins—against whom the Habs went 3-1 last year and who are arguably weaker now without Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin.
The question now becomes: Are the Habs stronger now than they were at this time last summer? Considering expectations were for a close-to-last-place finish, it’s quite likely they are.
Cards on the table, though: Championship expectations will need to be tempered and injuries will need to be mitigated for the team to build on its latest division title. However, on paper, yes, the Habs are just as good a team if not a better one than they were last year.
It’s up to them to win on the ice now.