Why Can’t The Habs Score? And What About Duchene?

First off, I am not a Habs fan or hater for that matter. I am simply on the outside looking in. This team is in a bad spot right now, a very very bad spot.

Three years ago they had a Vezina quality goalie and Norris capable d-man. In the modern NHL, these things are two of the hardest to find and impossible to acquire by any other means other then the entry draft.

With those two, young, building blocks, this team should have been positioned to be perennial NHL finals participants. Now, without diving into the ”should they have/shouldn’t they have” conversation on Weber and Subban. They are still in a very similar situation today with a healthy Carey Price and veteran stud defenseman in Shea Weber.

So why aren’t they winning? This is not earth shattering news of course, the Habs can’t score. While GM Marc Bergevin in his first few years tinkered with the line up by trading for the likes of a past prime Thomas Vanek on a rental and signing low risk medium reward players such as Alexander Semin. After such experiments prove futile, the GM understood he needed to make more impactful moves to get the puck over the goal line more frequently. Cue the controversial signing of Alexander Radulov. While many said the dollar value paid to Radulov was a lot for a player who needed to prove himself all over again at the NHL level, Habs faithful took solace in the fact that it was only a 1 year deal. This was a fatal mistake on behalf of the Habs. The problem being, if the Habs bet correctly and the Radulov signing paid dividends in the back of the oppositions net, Radulov would then be free the following year to sign with whomever of the other 29 goal hungry teams were willing to court the Russian sniper.

Well, as we know, the Habs bet correctly. Radulov meshed well with his team and brought a style of play to the ice which I believe also fueled some of the previously under producing members of his team. However, as we just stated in the contract discussion, this laid out the departure of Radulov for “Greener” pastures.

Did Bergevin feel a bad bet on Radulov would put him on the hot seat? Did Bergevin not fully trust the opinions of his scouts and/or front office staff? That is something we will never know, but the 1-year deal proved pointless toward the goal of having a perennially successful team.

From here the GM learned something else, “If I’m going to bet on skill I need to bet long term”. Cue then, the biggest trade for the 2017-2018 offseason. A trade which would bring a budding French Canadian superstar to Montreal. Defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev was of course sent to Tampa Bay for Jonathan Drouin on June 15th 2017, in what many Habs fans felt was a move which could help them turn a corner. Days later Drouin was inked to a lucrative 6 year, $33 million extension which still left room for management to maneuver under the cap.

So here we are present day. By all accounts it appears the reason the Habs can’t score doesn’t necessarily lay completely on the players themselves or the coaches, after all the Habs made a bench boss change, which hasn’t produced any more offence then his predecessor. It appears the reason the Habs can’t score is because the team itself is suffering under a GM who is learning from his mistakes as he goes forward.

I do believe Marc Bergevin is an intelligent and capable GM. I do believe the Canadians will be a stronger team with Drouin in the fold. However, as their division rivals in Ontario proved for decades, a successful team cannot be built around 1 star (ie. Sundin or Kessel), organization depth is the only thing that can render consistent results in todays game.

So where does Marc go from here? Your guess is as good as mine, but you have to think the GM is shopping hard for options up front. Another problem the Habs have to overcome in this endeavor, which is no fault of the GM, is their lack of depth in the minors. This is of course the product of a mediocre team finishing just high enough in the standings to miss out on drafting the higher end talent at each years entry draft. I have followed the Laval Rocket, formally the St. John’s Ice Caps quite religiously for some years and I can tell you first hand, Bergevin does not have a lot of viable cards to play in any deal.

Rumors have swirled around some sort Matt Duchene/Alex Galchenyuk trade now for weeks. If there is anyway to make this happen, where Drouin could be moved to a more suited position on the wing, flanking a superstar like Duchene as he did as a junior player for the Halifax Mooseheads with Nathan Mackinnon, the Habs could very well begin to turn that corner as a legitimate NHL offensive threat.

Until then, or something similar, we can only hope that Price continues to keep games close while his GM continues to learn how to rebuild a team that was broken when he inherited it.

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