They have played fewer than ten games since the one-for-one swap of Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev, but the witch hunters are already out in force looking to torch Marc Bergevin, the village idiot, while showering the town seer, Steve Yzerman, in praise.
I know this goes against the “kick him when he’s down” narrative that has grown to ridiculous proportions considering the Habs have played just eight games – with six of them being on the road that already included a trip out west – but such is life in the eye of the Montreal Canadiens’ media hurricane.
Let’s suppose for a moment that Yzerman had been hired as the Canadiens’ GM in 2010. He would be entering his eighth season as the GM..coming off of a season where the club failed to make the playoffs.
“So much for the five-year-plan!” would have been the common refrain this summer. After all…Yzerman was into Year 7. “Fire the idiot!”
Sure…he was missing his “franchise player” Steven Stamkos for much of last season, but that didn’t stop Montreal fans from vilifying Bergevin when, in Year 3 as GM, the Habs had the audacity of missing the playoffs without their franchise player in Carey Price.
No sir; if Yzerman had been the Habs GM last season, he’d have been roasted black, but instead, today all we hear is how he fleeced Bergevin for Sergachev and is a certifiable hockey genius for what he’s done in Tampa, while Bergevin has been made the scapegoat for a slow start that might look like a blip on the radar if the club can turn things around with nine of their next 13 at home.
Let’s take a closer look.
Yzerman inherited a team that had selected a franchise forward in Steven Stamkos a couple of season earlier and a franchise defenceman in Victor Hedman in 2009. He had the two key building blocks few GM’s are ever gifted before they are even hired.
In addition to those two top-two picks who were just getting their careers underway, in Yzerman’s first draft the Lightning had the sixth overall selection and used it to select Brett Connolly.
Yes…THAT Brett Connolly. Has Trevor Timmins ever used a top-ten pick on a Brett Connolly? A player whose Tampa career consisted of 132 forgettable games and 32 points? You look up the word “bust” in the hockey dictionary and Connolly’s mug is staring right back at ya.
If Bergevin had inherited Stamkos and Hedman, drafted Connolly, and in his third season as GM accumulated 40 points like Yzerman’s team did instead of taking the Habs to his second division title…do you think there may not have been an uproar in Habsland? But…we must remember – Yzerman…genius. Bergevin…village idiot.
The draft misses didn’t stop there. During Yzerman’s tenure, the Lightning have had three top-ten picks and used them to select Connolly, Drouin and Slater Koekkoek. They’ve also had a top 20 pick that was used on Anthony Deangelo.
Montreal during Bergevin’s reign has had one top ten pick and used it to pick Mikhail Sergachev. Yes..the player Yzerman is getting so much praise for picking up in a trade was picked by the scouting staff that so many Habs fans insist Bergevin must fire…while Drouin..who is already getting panned in Montreal…is given a pass for having been picked by Yzerman’s scouts. Why does it not work both ways when folks are comparing the two GM’s?
Sergachev has eight points in his first nine games in Tampa..so the Tiki torches are out and the lighter fluid a-spreading – “Bergevin lost that trade!”
Bergevin saw a need to try filling the number-one center spot that everyone in the hockey world was also imploring that he needed to fill- which is why he made the deal. The other big need was to find a left defence partner for Weber, and that wasn’t going to be Sergachev as he’s a right defenceman. Bergevin sees Weber being the #1 RD on the Habs the next five years…it wasn’t going to be Sergachev.
So he traded what he projected to be his second-pairing RD during the Weber/Price/Pacioretty prime for a player he hoped would fill his first-line center spot. You make that deal every day if that’s your projection.
This will end up being a good deal for both clubs unless Drouin truly underachieves and Sergachev becomes the Norris Trophy winner a certain broadcaster has projected he may be.
Drouin is more than likely going to score a pile of points in Montreal…perhaps even mostly as the first-line center. To criticize the deal at this point because Sergachev scored more points after nine games is jumping the gun. You judge trades of young players in ten years…not ten games. Drouin is adjusting to playing center in the NHL, which entails paying plenty of attention to defensive duties, he has been fine, and will only improve with time.
The other big need going into the season for the Habs was finding a mobile left defence partner for Weber. Who was the partner for Weber the first day of Habs’ training camp? Victor Mete, and he has been outstanding. Sergachev may have a great offensive stats, but Mete -five inches shorter and all – has been better defensively this season, which is why he’s played a lot more minutes to date and stayed on the top pairing since Game 1 with one exception.
So…one has to ask…would the Habs be better off right now with Sergachev playing a second-pairing role instead of having Drouin centering the top line? It’s hard to say yes even if their slow start has people saying otherwise.
Slater Koekkoek was picked tenth overall by Tampa in 2012, the same year the Habs selected Galchenyuk. He has played a grand total of 42 NHL games.
You can well imagine the uproar in Montreal if he had been the Habs pick that season. Hell…Michael McCarron was picked 25th overall a year later, has played more NHL games, and the Habs get nothing but grief over his selection as he’s yet to be an NHL regular. Imagine if Koekkoek had been a Bergevin/Timmins pick? “Fire! Fire!”
We don’t hear about those misses when the topic of Yzerman and his scouting staff’s record are brought up though. No one points to the Connolly miss or the cuckoo pick of Koekkoek …we hear about how he stole Kucherov in the second round in 2011.
Undoubtedly, the Lightning deserve credit for that selection, but it’s not like other teams didn’t see the talent…there was a very justifiable reluctance at the time to draft Russians as they were fleeing back to the homeland to play in the KHL in droves.
That is the thing Yzerman deserves the most credit for during his time as an NHL GM, though, taking a chance on Russian talent when most other GM’s were averse to the idea, and he hit the jackpot with Kucherov. That, to me, though, is the extent of his “genius”, which more than anything was gutsy.
When you take Yzerman’s entire drafting record into consideration and compare it to how Timmins has fared at the draft table since 2010…there have been no big top-ten misses for Timmins, and it’s not as if the Habs haven’t gotten some gems after the first round either. Lehkonen may not be Kucherov, but he was one of the best late second-round picks of the past five drafts. Hudon and Gallagher were solid selections as well in the mid rounds, and Mete is the only defenceman in NHL history taken after the top 80 to be an NHL regular at age 19 – that was a true steal in 2016.
You weigh the hits and misses fairly, and look at number of picks and draft position…Tampa’s drafting under Yzerman has been no better than Timmins since 2010, and certainly not since Bergevin joined the Habs in 2013…as Palat and Kucherov were drafted in 2011.
Then there is the actual team record and results. In seven years as GM the Lightning have missed the playoffs three times, including that horrific 40-point season, won one division title and made the Cup finals once.
In five seasons with the Habs, Bergevin has missed the playoffs once, won three division titles, and made the conference finals once.
But what have you done for me lately…eh hasty Habs fans? Tampa, with a relatively cozy schedule is off to a 7-1-1 start while the Habs predictably struggled out of the gate considering their monumental task with the worst opening schedule in the league. So….Yzerman a modern-day Sam Pollock after nine games…Bergevin the Canadian version of Mike Milbury after eight.
Pass me the Tiki torch…I think I’m going to burn my computer.