The 2017 NHL Trading Deadline has come and gone and in typical norm of the past few seasons, was a major letdown with no blockbuster trades. With the salary cap in place, teams and GM’s around the league have found it harder to complete a trade that would benefit their teams and would also work under their respective budget. That said, there was still activity and Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin was among the most active in the league. With the additions of Dwight King, Steve Ott, Jordie Benn, Brendon Davidson and Andreas Martinsen, there was no doubt that Marc Bergevin was after something leading up to this year’s deadline, GRIT.
It’s safe to say that newly hired Head Coach, Claude Julien, had some influence on the type of players that Bergevin targeted leading up to and at the deadline. Remember, just recently as of a month ago, Claude Julien was the Head Coach of the big bad Boston Bruins. Julien is known for coaching a very structured defensive game with an efficient zone exit, a display that most Habs’ fans are seeing right now with the Canadiens. However, it was evident that the fourth line of David Desharnais, Torrey Mitchell and Bryan Flynn wasn’t cutting it for Julien, who during the pinnacle years with the Bruins had size throughout the lineup, noticeable with Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk and Shawn Thornton.
No, Marc Bergevin did not address the team’s biggest need, that of a top 6 forward to compliment the lack of scoring on the roster. But can you fault him, when, with the exception of Thomas Vanek, no other top 6 forward was traded on the day. Personally, for a conditional 3rd round pick, I would definitely have made that trade and reacquire Vanek, who is having a solid season with 15G and 23A in 48 games. Adding Vanek to the line of Galchenyuk and Gallagher would not only add size to the top 6 but also take the scoring pressure of the top line of Pacioretty, Danault and Radulov. Having scoring depth will be crucial during a 7 game series in the playoffs, when teams match-up their top defensive shutdown pair against other team’s offensive lines. That said, what’s done is done and now Bergevin and Canadiens must rely on the resurgence of Brendan Gallagher and Artturi Lehkonen to provide secondary scoring.
What Bergevin did get though were players that can play a mean and grinding game, a type of game that the Canadiens have been lacking for over a decade. With the structure of the current NHL playoff format, there is a possibility that the Habs would face the Senators, Bruins, Bluejackets or Capitals in the playoffs. You won’t rely on these guys to put the puck in the net on a consistent basis, but certainly, you can rely on these guys to give it their all, body checking anything and anyone in sight, while not being a defensive liability. And therein lies the key, for a defensive minded Head Coach like Julien, there is no way he would play guys that are defensively challenged. Dwight King, a 2 time Stanley Cup Champion with the Los Angeles Kings, is a physical two way forward that kills penalties. Steve Ott, who I see as a 12/13th forward being rotated in and out of the lineup depending on match-up, kills penalties and is a faceoff machine, a dimension the Habs’ centres lack. Acquiring Jordie Benn, and to a lesser extent Brendon Davidson, solidify the Canadiens’ bottom pair, an element they were missing the entire season, rotating in and out of the lineup the likes of Greg Pateryn, Nikita Nesterov, Zach Redmond, Mark Barbiero and Ryan Johnston. And last but not least, Andreas Martinsen, as shown in his first game against the Rangers, provides the Habs with size and grit with underrated speed on their 4th line.
The question now lies on the resurgence of Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Plekanec and others to provide secondary scoring. Yes, they added grit and the Canadiens are now a harder and tougher team to play against but hockey is still a game of outscoring the opposing team. If your winning formula is to pray that Carey Price gets a shutout every game and win 1-0 or 2-0 hockey games, as good as Price is, the chance of you going far in the playoff is slim to none. Till then, we shall wait and see if these deadline acquisitions by Marc Bergevin will pay off or will it be another long and disappointing summer for the Canadiens.