On the Road to a Rebuild

Canadian Press Paul Chaisson

If Bergevin has an ace up his sleeve, the time to play it is now. After reeling off five straight wins, the Habs have reverted to form, losing three in a row and looking a lot like the team we dozed off watching through the early days of the season.

It’s now clear as Nova Scotia crystal that the Alzner signing was a colossal mistake. The numbers were there, yet Bergevin chose to overlook them (I’m willing to wager he’s not a card-carrying member of the Advanced Analytics Club). Hemsky? Another beau risque gone wrong.

Hemsky and Streit – the foot soldiers air-lifted in to replace  Markov and Radulov – will likely play no more than 10 games between them this entire season, all for the bargain price of $1 million apiece. Nice little parting bonus if you can get it.

In all fairness, Montreal GMs, unable to lure the big fish from the free agent pool (is it any wonder that players would choose surfing or sitting poolside on off-days over Quebec taxes and shoveling out the driveway?) are reduced to overpaying and taking flyers on aging veterans in the hope that for every Semin, Streit and Hemsky, an Alexander Radulov will slip under the radar.

The Schlemko acquisition, based on what we’ve seen – which is not much, as he spent the first six weeks of the calendar on the DL – looks like a good one. Time will tell whether he’s able to play top-pairing minutes alongside Weber, as the journeyman defender has always been cast in a second- or third-pairing role.

When the trade for Jonathan Drouin was first announced, it unleashed a media frenzy culminating in his premature coronation as the franchise center that’s eluded the organization for 25 years. Lost in the rapture was the fact that Drouin has spent his entire career on the wing.

But what’s really gotta smart, if you’re Marc Bergevin, is that the gilt-edged prospect he dealt away, Tampa rookie Mikhail Sergachev, currently holds more points this season than any player on the Canadiens’ roster.

Sometimes, the best trades are the ones you don’t make, as the well-worn adage goes. Sometimes, I grow wistful at the thought of a Canadiens’ defence anchored by P.K. Subban, Mikhail Sergachev, Victor Mete and a resurgent Jeff Petry—mobile defenders who can move the puck in transition to the club’s speedy forwards.

What we have, instead, is a patchwork defence – the same one Bergevin insisted was superior to last year’s – and a team that, barring a turnaround or biblical proportions, will be trade-deadline sellers, looking to swap assets for picks and prospects. Instead, the Habs sit well out of a playoff spot with over a third of a season played, their playoff hopes all but dashed: The pre-Christmas homestand many said would make or break their season produced only a handful of wins, and the team went on to ring in the holidays with a fresh string of road losses (four and counting), during which they filled the net with three goals. Worse yet, Weber is out again and may be headed for the DL, and word from inside Montreal’s hockey fishbowl is that Jonathan Drouin may not be a centre after all.

Oy vey!

On the bright side, Nick Kypreos is reporting that the Habs are actively shopping Pacioretty, who’s playing like he’s already got one foot on the next train outta town.

The Habs are a team in disarray, and not even the ghosts of championships past could save their season now.

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