Canadiens, Marc Bergevin Await Answers to Questions in 2015

The 2014 calendar year for the Montreal Canadiens was one filled with ups and downs as they turned themselves into one of the elite teams in the National Hockey League. They have some of the best players in the league and thanks to their last-placed finish in the Eastern Conference in 2012, have some of the brightest prospects waiting under their wings.

Thanks to the Habs success on and off the ice, fans won’t forget last year so easily, but can the Tricolore repeat and do better in 2015? First, let’s look at some questions yet to be answered.

Superstars on the Team

The year started off well for the club who sent 7 players to the Sochi Olympics to compete for 5 different nations (only Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Vancouver sent more players). Carey Price and P.K. Subban donned the red and white of Canada, Andrei Markov and Alex Emelin played for the host Russians, and Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and former Hab Peter Budaj dressed up for the Czech Republic, USA and Slovakia, respectively.

Price dominated the Olympics with only 3 goals against in 5 games, but what was most impressive were his back-to-back shutouts in both the semifinals and final against world powerhouses in the United States and Sweden. With a dazzling 0.972 save percentage, Price was named the best goalie in the tournament. He showed the rest of the hockey world the talent he possesses and Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin couldn’t have been happier to see his goalie win a gold medal in such fashion.

Subban played in only a single game but the 39-goal scorer Pacioretty was key to the Americans’ high-octane offence in the preliminary games.

Obviously, the Habs won’t be sending any players to the Olympics in 2015, but they could compare the NHL All-Star Game participants to the same players that were seen in Sochi. Pacioretty, Price, and Subban are all locks for the All-Star Game in Columbus.

Playoff Run

From early April to late May, the Montreal Canadiens captivated the hearts of Montrealers and even Canadians all over the country as they took a shot at the Stanley Cup, eventually lasting three rounds deep. After their first sweep since 1993 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, the David-like-Canadiens slayed the Goliath-like-Boston Bruins in seven games the following series. After being the Bruins’ metaphorical whipping boy in the 2009 and 2011 playoffs (the Habs did take down the Bruins in the playoffs in 2002, 2004 and 2008), the speedy Canadiens finally showed that size doesn’t win all the time as they out-skated and outlasted their taunting opponent in seven contests.

Thanks to a Chris Kreider accidentally-on-purpose fall into Price in Game One of the Eastern Conference final, the Habs were almost forced to bow out of the series after losing the first two games following Price’s injury. Dustin Tokarski was indeed stellar for the club getting the surprise starts over Budaj from Game Two on, but it was too little, too late as they fell in six.

With arguably the best team they’ve had since their last Stanley Cup win in 1993, will the Canadiens be able to string together a championship run in 2015?

The Geniuses in Management

It’s somewhat of a surprise that Marc Bergevin wasn’t named the 2014 NHL GM of the Year as his strings pulled the Canadiens on a road to success when he joined the club in 2012. Instead, Bergevin was second in voting for the award behind Anaheim GM Bob Murray. Bergevin has undeniably become a hockey genius in the front office pulling off all the right moves. He’s dumped aging or inconsistent players like Raphael Diaz, Travis Moen, Rene Bourque, Daniel Briere and Budaj at just the right times for small, but significant assets. He was the man behind the trade that sent Dale Weise to Montreal, which rejuvenated his NHL career. The pesky winger was a huge part of the Habs’ success in the playoffs and continues to be a valuable player for head coach Michel Therrien as he can play in both a top-nine scoring role or a rough-and-tough fourth line guy.

“Bergy” acquired Mike Weaver for a fifth-round pick in March, another trade that seemed insignificant at first but turned out to be a great deal for the team. He stole P.A. Parenteau and a draft pick from the Colorado Avalanche for a 37-year-old fourth-liner in Therrien’s system, Briere. The acquisition of Thomas Vanek helped the Canadiens down the stretch but it certainly wasn’t the GM’s fault when Vanek seemed to decide midway through the playoffs that he didn’t want to play for the Habs anymore.

Bergevin has built a great system of prospects, starting with Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, even though they aren’t exactly “prospects” anymore. At the World Juniors, the Canadiens have Martin Reway, Jacob De La Rose, and Arturri Lehkonen, all captaining their teams Slovakia, Sweden, and Finland. Plus, goalie Zach Fucale is Canada’s No. 1 net minder and has only allowed one goal in three games in the tournament.

Nikita Scherbak and Mike McCarron, the teams past two first-round picks seem to be on the right track while Greg Pateryn, Nathan Beaulieu, and Jarred Tinordi lead a bright future on the blue line.

In 2015, can Bergevin continue being the genius he’s proved he’s capable of and make all the right moves in order to reach his ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup victory? While there are many questions yet to be answered in 2015, time will tell whether or not they come to fruition in widespread success for Montreal.


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