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Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens




The record will show the 2017-2018 season for the Montreal Canadiens ended in a 37-second stretch of the second period of a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 18.

One-time Hab Ron “Hollywood” Hainsey scored Toronto’s first goal at 12:07 and Nasty Nazem Kadri followed that with one at the 12:44 mark — and the only thing left was for Toronto media darling Auston Matthews to pad his stats with a couple of garbage-time goals.

Toronto 6, Montreal 0, season over — and quite possibly the tenure of GM Marc Bergevin along with it, because in Bergevin’s sixth season at the helm, the Canadiens are on the 2018 draft lottery express.

It’s still early, but NHL wisdom has it if you aren’t in a playoff spot by American Thanksgiving, you’re in trouble. And the Canadiens aren’t even close, five points out as of this writing, with a bunch of teams between them and a playoff spot. As my mentor Stu Cowan pointed out Saturday, the simple truth is they aren’t very good.

Predictably, the lesser minds on social media were drooling over their keyboards following yet another blowout loss Saturday night, cursing departed coach Michel Therrien and the P.K. Subban trade — though neither Therrien nor The Trade has the least thing to do with this team’s struggles.

Shea Weber has been everything he’s supposed to be, a tower of power, an intimidating force, a leader. The problem is that on defence, the drop-off in talent after Weber is spectacular. The Canadiens this season could have had a Big Three of Weber, Andrei Markov and Mikhail Sergachev. Instead, it’s Weber, Kneel and Pray.

Whatever the approach was that Bergevin took to signing Markov and Alexander Radulov, it resulted in the CH losing both players: Bergevin, with $8.5 million left in the kitty, came up a day late and a dollar short. Markov went back to Russia to play for Kazan, and Radulov signed with Dallas.

Up front, that meant the Canadiens lost size, muscle and scoring ability. An undersized crew of forwards seems even smaller without the bull-like Radulov out there breathing fire and daring opposing defencemen to try to move him off the puck. The only remaining forward with any size, Max Pacioretty, plays like he’s 5-foot-6 and 135 pounds. The Canadiens lead the league with 36.6 shots per game but rank next-to-last in goals per game, because only Brendan Gallagher, Andrew Shaw and Paul Byron drive the net.

But the pain has been felt more on the blue line. Markov’s intelligence and puck-moving skills are second to none. He was the glue throughout his Canadiens career. Without him, the defence has simply fallen apart. Sergachev, the superb young talent who might have replaced Markov, was instead dealt to Tampa for Jonathan Drouin. Not a bad trade on the face of it, but when you combine the loss of Sergachev and Markov with the deal that sent Nathan Beaulieu shuffling off to Buffalo and Alexei Emelin lost in the expansion draft, you have a problem.

You can see what Bergevin was thinking. He thought Karl Alzner wouldn’t skate like he was toting a VW on his back. He thought Jeff Petry and Jordie Benn would play at a level comparable to last spring. He thought David Schlemko would actually play some hockey games.

Add all this to a lack of snipers up front and yet another mysterious soap opera of a Carey Price injury and you’re in real trouble.

The narrative that has Bergevin’s entire tenure as a series of blunders is a steaming pile of horse manure. Bergevin accomplished a great deal for the Canadiens. He quickly changed a poisonous organizational culture and led the Habs to the Eastern Conference final in 2014. He might even have won a Stanley Cup that spring, if not for the Chris Kreider Crash. And no matter what the cult members are saying, the Weber trade was at worst a push.

On balance, Bergevin has had some good moves and some bad ones — but this off-season was his undoing. He took a pretty good team and turned it into a bad team. Across the board, the stats say this is a failure. Barring a miraculous turnaround, it’s going to be all but impossible for owner and president Geoff Molson to bring his GM back.

Who replaces Bergevin if he goes? I would hire the same individual I would have hired in 2012, my Greenfield Park homie Julien BriseBois. BriseBois, who cut his teeth in the NHL in the Canadiens front office, has had six more seasons learning at Steve Yzerman’s elbow as they built the Tampa Bay Lightning into an offensive juggernaut that is now the league’s most exciting team.

BriseBois’s primary asset? He’s smart. People seem to think because he never played in the NHL, he can’t do the job — but I’ll take brains over a playing resumé any day. If you object to that approach, may I remind you neither Francis Joseph Aloysius Selke nor Samuel Patterson Smyth Pollock played a game in the NHL, yet their names are on the Stanley Cup a total of 21 times.

Brains matter. Hire BriseBois, Geoff. Before someone else beats you to the punch.

Fantasy Face: Jonathan Drouin and Taylor Hall

Jonathan Drouin vs. Taylor Hall


All offseason long, will cover all the angles leading up to your fantasy hockey draft. For some of the most compelling debates, our fantasy staffers will compare two players at a given position in the same projected draft range.

Value is quantified based on factors including (but not limited to) line combinations, power-play usage, team goalie situations, injury history, bounce-back, breakout or sleeper potential, possible regression and age. Once each writer has made his argument, fans can cast their votes in our @NHLFantasy Twitter poll.

Today, we compare left wings Jonathan Drouin of the Montreal Canadiens and Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils:

PETE JENSEN: Drouin, 22, is coming off NHL career highs in four of the six standard fantasy categories; he had 21 goals, 32 assists, 26 power-play points and 183 shots on goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. After center Steven Stamkos sustained a season-ending knee injury Nov. 15, Drouin stepped up to score 48 points (19 goals, 29 assists) in 63 games. Drouin, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, remained in a second-line role but thrived on the Lightning’s first power-play unit with two top 25 fantasy finishers, right wing Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Victor Hedman. We finally got a glimpse of Drouin’s fantasy potential after a mostly disappointing and controversial start to his NHL career.

Now, Drouin has a chance to take another step forward after being traded to the Canadiens on June 15. Drouin has a real chance to challenge left wing Max Pacioretty for the Montreal scoring lead whether he continues playing wing or is shifted to center. Drouin didn’t have strong even-strength linemates for much of his tenure in Tampa Bay, so he could improve at 5-on-5 if he lands with center Alex Galchenyuk or on the opposite wing of Pacioretty. There are some glaring concerns, no doubt; the Canadiens could move Galchenyuk to wing, have weak center depth as it is, and lost right wing Alexander Radulov to the Dallas Stars in free agency. But Drouin’s fantasy upside as the focal point of the Canadiens offense and power play is very appealing in the sixth or seventh round of a 12-team draft.

Drouin still brings exposure to high-end fantasy assets Pacioretty and defenseman Shea Weber after being traded. The same cannot be said about Hall in New Jersey, at least in the short term. Drouin should have a heavy enough workload to reach at least 60 points and 200 SOG for the first time in his NHL career, and is likely to improve his plus/minus on a strong defensive team with an elite goaltender like Carey Price. Hall, who’s more than three years older than Drouin, has not had more than 17 PPP in any of the past five seasons and has taken steps back since scoring 80 points for the Edmonton Oilers four seasons ago. Each left wing comes with concerns, but Drouin’s breakout potential should be the overriding factor when comparing the two.

BEN ZWEIMAN: Many would consider Hall’s first season with the Devils a disappointment. He had 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) and was minus-9 with 32 penalty minutes, 15 PPP and 238 SOG. Those numbers weren’t good enough to land Hall among the top 100 in Yahoo fantasy hockey last season, but there were plenty of encouraging signs. He was productive despite playing for the third-worst offense in the NHL (2.20 goals per game). Had Hall not missed 10 games because of knee surgery, he likely would have finished with 60 points for a second straight season and had a chance to surpass his previous NHL career high of 286 SOG from 2015-16. He had the third-highest PPP total of his NHL career despite New Jersey ranking 22nd in PP percentage (17.5). Should the Devils improve — which appears likely — Hall can return to being one of the top left wings in fantasy.

Among the reasons New Jersey should improve its offense this season are the additions of multiple talented forwards. Most notably is center Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. The 18-year-old will bring skill and playmaking ability to an offense starved for such a player, and he could play center on the top line with Hall or play with him on the power play. The Devils also acquired forward Marcus Johansson in a trade from the Washington Capitals. The 26-year-old set NHL career highs in goals (24), points (58) and plus/minus (plus-25) for the Capitals last season. Johansson should boost the power play, having scored 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) on the man-advantage in 2016-17. The Devils will surround Hall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, with much more talent and speed to suit his strengths this season.

A change of scenery isn’t always a good thing. Drouin had a breakout season in 2016-17, seeing increased playing time with Stamkos missing 65 games. The Lightning have a far superior roster compared to the Canadiens, featuring a deeper forward group that includes Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point, and a defense group that is led by Hedman. Drouin will get every opportunity to succeed in Montreal but will be under scrutiny and immense pressure in one of the top markets in the NHL. He also has to deal with a new coach in Claude Julien, who may not give Drouin the playing time or role everyone expects. Ultimately, Hall is the more proven player, and the Devils’ improved roster suggests he should rebound and outperform Drouin.

Sign a one-year contract with Canadians

Mark StreitDefenseman Mark Streit signed a one-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. It is worth $700,000 plus performance bonuses, according to

Streit, 39, was selected by the Canadiens in the ninth round (No. 262) of the 2004 NHL Draft and played three seasons for them (2005-08).

“This is a good contract for me,” Streit said. “The most important thing for me was being able to play for Montreal. I started with the Canadiens, I had three incredible years. The money wasn’t the most important thing for me, it was more important for me to come back to Montreal and be [with the Canadiens] again.”

Goaltender Carey Price and forward Tomas Plekanec are still with the Canadiens from Streit’s first time with them, and coach Claude Julien, who was hired by the Canadiens on Feb. 14, was Streit’s first NHL coach.

“I know a few guys on the team,” Streit said. “Carey Price is still there, [Tomas] is still there, those are two good friends of mine. So I’m excited to go back and meet the new players, the younger guys. I’m really thrilled and really proud to be a Canadien again.”

Streit had 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers last season. The Penguins acquired him March 1 in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who acquired him in a trade with the Flyers earlier that day. He had two assists in three Stanley Cup Playoff games and won the Cup with Pittsburgh.

He has 434 points (96 goals, 338 assists) in 784 NHL games with the Penguins, Flyers, New York Islanders and Canadiens.

“I started playing in the NHL when I was 27,” Streit said. “My passion is still there. I want to play as long as possible. I’m still a pretty good power-play player. That was my biggest asset 12 years ago, and it still is.”