The (not so) Fantastic Four
So the Canadiens, it turns out, are no better than they were pre-coaching change. Julien's so-called "old methods" or "retro coaching" were clearly not an excuse or the reason for their struggles. In fact their record, since Dominique Ducharme has taken over at the helm, would indicate that they are actually worse (not Dom's fault the Habs haven't had, during his tenure, the "luxury" of playing the Vancouver Canucks as often as they did early on in the season).
True, as I write this blog tonight, the Canadiens remain comfortably ahead of the Calgary Flames. But the trend certainly isn't their friend and they have several games left to play against their rivals from steer town.
The whispers we heard a few weeks ago about Bergevin potentially being considered for GM of the year, have slowly given way to harsh criticism about the way he has constructed this team. Fingers have begun being pointed at his core players. To be clear let's separate the team into two entities: the core players pre 2020 offseason changes and the core players added since.
When we look at some of those so-called key or core pieces from the first category - Price, Weber, Drouin, Byron -, one glaring thing comes to mind: they are all (grossly) overpaid.
Worse: they are going to be paid for many more years and count against the cap in a post covid flat cap world. The Canadiens will be on the hook for Price's cap hit of 10.5M$ for another 5 years starting next season. The captain, showing clear signs of deteriorating play (same can be said about Price) will also be on the books for another 5 seasons, all at a whopping 7.85 AAV. Throw in the perennial underachiever that is Jonathan Drouin and the spare tire (and waver wire regular) Paul Byron, and you have an additional 9M$ counting against the cap.
Did I use the term whopping earlier? That may have been an understatement. I mean think about it. That's approximately 28M$ for four (aging and underperforming) players. Or, if you prefer, about a third of the team's cap space.
How can Habs fans be hopeful given this conundrum 1) that they will be able to keep their budding young stars in Suzuki, Kotkaniemi, Romanov and eventually Caufield, around and 2) that they will have the cap room to go out and add pieces (via trade or UFA market) to address the significant shortcoming that still ails this team (one or even two mobile, puck-moving, defensemen?)
Truth be told, Bergevin's expectations that Price and Weber would still be key contributors and elite players well into their 30's has clearly backfired. Price is "damaged goods" according to his ex-goalie coach, and his stats have been subpar for over 3 seasons now. He is no longer an elite goalie, and seems discontent, and lacking focus. Weber, on the other hand, certainly displays the body language and presence one would expect from their captain, but his play, particularly this season (injury?) has been very concerning. Frankly said, the game appears to have passed him by.
The idea that the expansion team in Seattle would consider picking up those contracts is completely ludicrous. No team, again, in a flat cap world, and given the eroding play of these former star players, would even consider helping Montreal by taking on those juggernaut contracts, especially with the term involved.
Granted, Bergevin, has in the past, been able to correct some of his blunders. But this time it appears that this (not so) Fantastic Four will be his "ball and chain" for the foreseeable future, and that it will seriously hamper his ability to turn the Canadiens into a legitimate contender.