BROSSARD, Que. – Since fans of the Montreal Canadiens are trying to come to terms with their team, missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the third time in a row and for the fourth time in five years, they just want clarity from General Manager Marc Bergevin.
But after they exchanged Marco Scandella, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nate Thompson, Nick Cousins and Matthew Peca for a bevy of mediocre picks and an AHL prospect after sticking to veterans Tomas Tatar and Jeff Petry, who Both are one season away from full freedom agency, and after answering questions for 39 minutes, once the NHL 3:00 p.m. ET close and came, Bergevin couldn't offer fans what they want.
They expressed themselves in droves – on talk radio, on social media, in everyday conversations in all the places they gather in and around Montreal and outside the city limits – that they want to know where Bergevin is taking the team and how long it will take to get there. They want to know that there seems to be a plan to turn this team into a competitor, and that the people who run the show have a general idea of how long it will take to run.
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Instead, the Canadian fans were totally confused on Monday. And not because Bergevin didn't know what he wanted to say, or because he just couldn't find the right way to express himself. This is because it is clear that he is completely caught between the lanes.
He had a chance to save this season – which was injured in November – by moving some future assets, but refused to do so. Then he had the opportunity to see the trading deadline as an opportunity to significantly strengthen the near future, and all he came up with was an option for the second round in 2020 for Scandella, a third round in 2020 for Kovalchuk, a seventh round 2020 and a seventh round 2020 minor leader Aaron Luchuk for Peca, a 2021 fourth for cousins and a 2021 fifth round for Thompson.
And then he said, "I don't think losing to winning (the day). I mean, when teams sell on the closing date, they're obviously not where they want to be because you buyers when possible But on that basis, we were able to get the assets back – I'm happy with what we did today. I'll put it that way. "
Earlier on Monday, Kovalchuk said there was a better offer from a less desirable team on the table, but Bergevin insisted that the most important thing was to accept an offer instead of waiting for one that was examined, but not officially offered: one that could get worse over time; one that depended on the proposed team sniffing another trade before considering making an official offer; and one that Kovalchuk would have sent anywhere he didn't want to go.
"I didn't want that," said Bergevin.
"We did the best for Kovy and the organization," he repeated several times about a player he only had on hand for 51 days and nobody who had served the Canadians for years.
When he caught Tatar and Petry, he said it was preferable to trade them for draft picks.
"You are a good player," said Bergevin. "Just to swap them for draft picks, if you know we have another year with them, it didn't make sense. We have to keep fighting where we are today and next year we want to put a good team on the ice and these guys are good players for us. "
A few seconds later, we asked Bergevin how his team could rise above the group of average teams that they have been since he took over as GM in 2012, and his answer completely contradicted what he said about maintaining the Tatars said and Petry.
"Now when you look at teams that you could say are elite teams – and you could choose those that you think they are, I know the ones I know they are built up by the design. So we do. We will continue to do that. "
The Canadians have done 21 picks and built a consensus top 5 pool since Bergevin pressed the reset button in summer 2018, but the team's current edition focuses on players with exactly zero star calibers outside the goalkeeper Carey Price moved in.
Bergevin was challenged on this point by two seasoned reporters, one of whom raised the failure to draw and develop players that has accumulated more than 70 points in one season since the day Trevor Timmins took over Montreal's amateur scouting had a department in 2002, and his conclusion was that the design essentially boils down to luck.
"I don't go to the casino, but when you play blackjack you play the odds," he said. "I know it's difficult for fans to understand and even for you to understand, but if you sit at the table and the names go by, you have to be lucky."
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Bergevin referred to statistics showing that the 41st overall player has approximately the same chance of transforming into an NHL player as the 25th overall player. He said there was a decline in elite talent every year after the first eight players, and then repeated the importance of sticking to the "core players" that Canadians are still unlikely to have this season Be able to push playoff space – a process that is almost certain to negatively impact your chances of getting into the top 8 this summer.
If that wasn't contradictory enough, how about that? The GM listed the team's spotty home record this season (they finished 23rd overall with a 13-15-5 record at the Bell Center) and its inconsistency in general as its biggest disappointments, and then it supported Claude Julien and his Coaching staff for the work they have done.
"I think they worked really hard and the message was the same and I believe in it," said Bergevin. "We have to be committed for 60 minutes, pay attention to details and be more consistent, and I believe that is the message that they convey to the players."
When asked whether it was up to the team leaders to solve the problems, Bergevin said: "Yes, to a certain extent yes.
"I don't put anyone … I won't point to anyone," he continued. "But as a group I say that they have to be better, yes."
"Sie", as in essence, he was not prepared to change significantly before the deadline on Monday.
For what it's worth, Bergevin said he would see the market open this summer as the teams have more flexibility on the cap and more teams are likely to be thinking about hockey trades.
But he guaranteed nothing.
When Bergevin was asked about the need to lock key items – Tatar, Petry, Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault, Joel Armia and Artturi Lehkonen are available for new contracts in the summer of 2021 – he said he would like to investigate this option from the July 1.
"There are players on our team that I think are very difficult to replace," said the GM. "In July I'll go to some of these players and see if they can expand. If not, I'll either make the decision to go another year or make changes. But it's still too early to tell you that. "
When asked if he would feel comfortable with five of these six players standing in line for unrestricted free agents, he said, "In a perfect world, that's not what you want, but then it could be your best option. "
Make sense of it.
Where the Canadians go from here is unclear.
Everything the fans wanted that day was clarity, but all they got was confusion.