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It’s only twelve games into the season for the Canadiens but Montreal has emerged as an early Cup contender and they have Marc Bergevin to thank.
After an extremely strong showing in the bubble where they ousted the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins. Montreal’s strong bubble performance most likely emboldened Bergevin to try and bolster the club and that’s exactly what he did.
One of the most shocking moves of the offseason came when Montreal decided to move on from Max Domi for Josh Anderson. Domi has never realized the potential that we saw in his rookie year with the Coyotes and his promising juniors career. While Anderson on the other hand had often been injured in Columbus but had shown when he was healthy he could be a very capable top six player. The swap of the two has been more fruitful for Montreal than Columbus because Anderson has brought a presence that the Habs have needed. A big gritty physical player with some skill to be able to add another dimension to what is usually a smaller lineup.
Montreal also found a way to improve their depth scoring by adding Tyler Toffoli on a very nice and team friendly contract, which looks even more team friendly with Toffoli’s scorching start to the season. To be able to add players like Toffoli and Anderson the core that’s already in place with Suzuki, Gallagher, and Kotkaniemi gives the Habs some really nice depth to be able to compete with some of the better teams in the league. To add to the nice depth that the Habs already have, Bergevin made it even stronger by adding Corey Perry into the mix. While Perry is no longer what he once was he has now become one of the players who helps get a team through the playoffs. I’ve heard Elliotte Friedman say it a lot that “there are players who get you there and players who get you through” Corey Perry now fits that Patrick Maroon type mold. Perry showed last season in Dallas that when the lights are at their brightest that he can still be a key member to an organization.
Quite possibly the biggest steal of the offseason was Jake Allen being brought in to Montreal. We all know that Carey Price is the guy in Montreal but as we’ve seen the trendy new movement in the NHL is to have a 1A and 1B scenario in net. Allen never was able to solidify himself as the number one in St. Louis, but since his acquisition in Montreal he’s fit in seamlessly. Allen has posted 4-1-0 record with a 1.81 GAA and .940 save percentage which those numbers are good enough to earn you a starting job elsewhere. Allen’s acquisition is huge for Montreal because it allows Claude Julien to not ride Carey Price into the ground and keep him healthy for when the postseason comes around.
It’s not just this offseason that Bergevin has hit homeruns but in prior ones as well. Canadian media could not help but roast Bergevin for trading PK Subban for Shea Weber but who is having the last laugh on that now? Acquiring Nick Suzuki for Max Pacioretty, adding in Ben Chiarot, acquring Jeff Petry, and also bringing in Tomas Tatar. All these moves were unheralded or criticized at the time but now with the proper coaching and successful correlating moves afterward they’ve helped build Montreal into the team we are watching this season. Even Jonathan Drouin who has never reached the level of player that many thought would be when Tampa Bay selected him 3rd overall back in 2013 but he’s finally found a home in Montreal and has become a solid producer.
The NHL is a better league when the Montreal Canadiens are relevant and when they are Cup contenders. Thanks to the shrewdness of Bergevin, Canada finally has a legitimate chance of breaking their Stanley Cup drought. What Bergevin has been able to accomplish in Montreal so far is much more impressive than what they have been able to do in Toronto especially considering that Montreal has done it without winning the draft lottery or going into the tank to do it.