As a humble and obscure Habs blogger writing from the depths of my Covid-lockdown basement, I will not pretend for a second that GM Marc Bergevin gives a Flying-Frenchman about what I think of him or the job he is doing as I am barely a household name in my own house. Furthermore, the fact that my reading base consists of the 61 people on my email list suggests I should spend more time making friends rather than writing about the team I have loved and hated for the better part of 41 years. That said, I am very excited about watching this team.
If Covid has taught us anything, it is that young, healthy athletes have the upper hand in fighting the devastating effects of the disease. The youth movement seems to be getting stronger on the Habs and, given the sprint that is a 56-game season, this team may have the energy to make some noise. Nick Suzuki (21) and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (20) exploded on the scene during the playoffs last season and I cannot see a scenario where they do not get better. Max Domi imploded in the playoffs last season and clearly wore out his welcome with Claude Julien. The trade for Josh Anderson (26), if nothing else, changes the atmosphere in the room and behind the bench. Jonathan Drouin, although he drives me nuts sometimes, is only 25 years old and showed flashes of confidence and brilliance last year. I am also very excited about seeing Alex Romanov (21) suit up on defense for the Habs, if only for the reason that his name kind of rhymes with Andrei Markov.
Speaking of defense, I am very optimistic about what Bergevin has assembled on the blueline. Shea Weber and Jeff Petry proved their age and leadership is perfect for the playoffs. Given that the season is 56 games with very little travel, Shea Weber’s advanced age should not be a factor. The addition of Stanley Cup winner Joel Edmundson made the Habs’ defensive corps tougher and more experienced. Sprinkle in the rookie Romanov, a more confident Victor Mete, a surprisingly steady Brett Kulak, and you have a starting 6 that Carey Price cannot help but feel excited about playing behind.
Speaking of Carey Price, this has to be the year for Carey Price. Thanks to Covid and border restrictions, the NHL has 4 leagues within the league and Carey Price is by far the best goalie in his “Northern League”. Furthermore, the Habs have the best back-up in the North in Jake Allen. Might the combined talent in net give the players more confidence in their scoring ability and thereby improve the offence? It better, because as amazing as the Habs look in net, Price and Allen do not score goals.
Last year's playoffs taught us two major lessons. The first is that the Habs speed and tenacity were no match for Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. Yes I know Philly won the series, but the Habs largely outskated them. The problem was Lesson #2: superior goaltending by Carey Price cannot overcome a lack of top-end scoring and a brutal powerplay. Ask any Chicago Bears fan if team defence is enough to win a Super Bowl? Without the quarterback to put your team over the top, you end-up being a middling team that annoys your rabid fan base for 30+ years. “Scoring by committee” is a regular season bandaid that gets ripped off and exposed in the playoffs.
Speaking of the playoffs, are the Habs good enough to get the top 4 in the North? Last time I checked, the Oilers and Flames did not get worse over the break. The Canucks got better in net, the Jets are always tough, the Leafs are a regular season dynamo and the Senators are going to be a huge pain no matter who they play. The Habs’ playoff success last season was only made possible because the NHL decided to be like the annoying people who run youth sports and say, “Everyone is special and everyone makes the playoffs!”. Do not forget for a second that the Habs were the 24th best team in the regular season last year. Every team in the North Division, save for the Senators, finished with more points than Montreal.
If nothing else, Marc Bergevin has assembled a team worth watching on a nightly basis. This will keep a great deal of Habs fans indoors and away from other humans which will lower the Covid numbers which can get us out of lockdown. To be able to tinker this much with a line-up in volatile pandemic times speaks to Bergevin’s relentless pursuit to give Habs fans a product worth cheering for.
Imagine this team he assembled has us glued to our television for 56 games. Then imagine the 2021 Habs make a deep playoff run. Then the covid numbers go down because we all remain in our houses. Then the Quebec government can lift the curfew. Then we can attend games in person at the Bell Centre. Then we can boo the product on the ice because we forget how grateful we are to be at the game. Then the booing will signal to Canadians from coast-to-coast that life is normal again.
All because Marc Bergevin is our GM!