From 103 points and a division championship to an expected 77 points and a top five draft pick. What went wrong and how did it fall apart so quickly?
It’s a question with a lot of fingers pointed in many directions. There have been so many things that went wrong that it is difficult to know where to start to assess this meltdown.
There are two types of difficulties in hockey. The things you can control and the things that you can not control.
In the category of can not control, the Habs have had their difficulties. Shea Weber injured on night one of the season you can not control. Carey Price goaltending uncharacteristicly poorly to start the season you can not control. Alex Radulov and Andrei Markov exercising their freewill you can not control. Though many like to argue that Radulov and Markov left because they had their feelings hurt, they left because they wanted to make millions of more dollars. Uncontrollable.
You can’t put blame on an organization for the things that one can not control. In the immortal words of everyone who ever walked the earth “shit happens”.
Where you can place blame is mistakes made on the things that you can control. The things that are choices as an organization that you make with the intelligence that you think you have.
In the immortal words of Marc Bergevin, those mistakes are ‘on you’. The mistakes are also on the staff that you hired for the evaluations that they have made.
The many evaluations that you can control are a large part of why the Habs have fallen off a cliff so quickly.
In the pre-season, it was apparent that the evaluations of pro talent by the organization were going badly again and again.
The last nine months is a horrible laundry list of pro scouting errors that has to stop soon or the problems for the Habs will get worse and the club won’t recover quickly as is possible. This is just a partial list of recent poor evaluation by the Habs pro scouts and top managerial men….
– Dwight King was slower than an iceberg and it was apparent on the very first shift in Montreal that he had nothing to give.
– Steve Ott was excellent in the room last season but his career was on its last legs. When the Habs were division champions, the Habs veteran players at the trade deadline were crying for a real boost, an aggressive push, but they got players skating into the sunset.
– This season, they brought in Mark Streit who was the 11th defenceman in Pittsburgh’s cup run. He couldn’t even get on the ice for the Pens. Yet in Montreal he was believed to have potential to be on the power play this season.
– Karl Alzner got walked often in the playoffs last year. He was on the verge of being a healthy scratch in Washington. In the first year of a painful five year deal, Alzner is already looking like a future buy-out candidate.
– David Schlemko was an average defender his entire career. The organization felt he could play with Weber as a 1-2. Turns out that he is what he has always been – a 5-6. That is some seriously bad evaluation.
– Jordie Benn it was also thought could be a partner for Weber. He had a strong start for the Habs last season but in a limited role. If you put him on for top pair minutes against top opponents, immediately you see the limitations that made him a third pair D his whole career.
Talking to scouts who evaluated these Habs moves in the last nine months, the consensus is that too many players are in roles not suitable for them. One scout said “You have Weber and five guys who are 5-sixes. Everyone’s forced to play minutes they can’t, and in situations they can’t”.
All of this evaluation they could control exchanging ideas around that cherry wood table. All this bad didn’t just happen to them. They made it happen. These were their decisions. This was their own freewill.
They had the fourth ranked defence in the NHL and they turned it over. Emelin and Beaulieu surely made many mistakes and Pateryn didn’t set the world on fire, but somehow with Markov, it was the fourth best defence in the NHL. Not 24th.
Is it Martin Lapointe, or Scott Mellanby advising on these pro scouting decisions? They are the new ones recently hired as talent evaluators. Is Martin Lapointe saying Schlemko is a first pair D? Is Scott Mellanby saying he loves Karl Alzner? Is it Larry Carriere? He’s been around a long time. Is it Rick Dudley? He’s also been in the game for ages and in a position of high respect.
No one is going to know who exactly is making these recommendations but whoever is closely scouting these players and recommending them is completely missing the mark. None of these players can do what the organization thought they could.
Ultimately it isn’t on any of these men mentioned above, because these men have a boss. So this is on Marc Bergevin for hiring them and on him for not firing them.
Someone in the pro evaluation department, excuse my language, sucks. Find an alternative.
There are things you can control and things you cannot. In the cannot department, it’s not right to point fingers. You can’t blame Bergevin for Weber’s foot, Price’s pads, or Radulov’s freewill. However, in the ‘can control’ department, it’s a complete mess of missed evaluation. Delete these men.
The only player who has joined the team in the last nine months with strong foot speed is Victor Mete and that was Trevor Timmins’ call. Maybe the Habs shouldn’t sign or trade for anyone going forward unless Timmins evaluates them first.
Paraphrasing the movie The Sixth Sense, if Timmins isn’t involved in the decision …. I see slow people.
It’s on Bergevin to correct what he can control. He needs to correct this horrendous pro player evaluation.
Owner Geoff Molson likely will give his GM one chance to rebuild this. We will know by July 5, 2018 if Bergevin has it in him to turn this around.
Bergevin has to overhaul the defence: Schlemko, Alzner, Benn all have to go.
He needs to trade out veterans. Tomas Plekanec needs to go. The team already has a 3C. It’s Phillip Danault. Teams with two 3Cs miss the playoffs. Teams with two 1Cs win cups. More of the same isn’t needed. More talent is needed.
Max Pacioretty has to go. Bergevin already lost Radulov and Markov to their freewill. Shall he let Pacioretty who is worth a 1C prospect and a first round draft choice walk away for nothing too? He’s worth most in a trade right now which is good timing because he’s worth nothing to Montreal considering the playoffs are lost. In fact, he’s helping the Habs win which is even worse for their draft position.
If Bergevin can’t make these changes to turn the Habs around before next season, then he’s not the man for the job. Simple.
Geoff Molson, please stand by to hit Control-Alt-Delete.