Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Marc Bergevin Drops The Ball As Canadiens Lose Alexei Emelin

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in the following article are those of the writer, and do not reflect the opinions of HabsAddict.com.

Despite a very important 2-1 win against their division rivals on Saturday at Bell Centre, the Canadiens lost a key element of their defensive brigade when bruising defensemen Alexei Emelin left the game midway through the first period. He sustained a left knee injury in a thunderous collision while taking a run at big Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic in the neutral zone.
Alexei Emelin Canadiens
Alexei Emelin will miss an extended period of time (Jerome Davis/Icon SMI)
The injury forced the team to play newcomer Davis Drewiske more than 23 minutes, something he was not accustomed to doing with the Los Angeles Kings. Drewiske finished the game with four blocked shots, two hits and a minus-1 rating. Following Emelin’s injury, Therrien had to deploy the remaining five defensemen in various combinations, and the rearguards rose splendidly to the challenge.
After the game, head coach Michel Therrien said that Emelin had a lower body injury, and unfortunately for the Habs, the news got worse Monday, as it was announced that Emelin would be sidelined for the rest of the season.
With that blow to the lineup, there are numerous factors that have to be examined.
Who will replace Emelin Boom?
As a result of the injury, the Canadiens called-up puck-moving blue liner Nathan Beaulieu from the AHL to fill the void left by Emelin’s untimely injury. Beaulieu played two games with the Habs earlier this season, notching his first NHL point, an assist, to go along with a +2 rating. The left-handed rearguard has 7 goals and 21 assists for 28 points with 56 penalty minutes in 64 contests with the Hamilton Bulldogs this season.
While Raphael Diaz has resumed skating, he has yet to participate into a full practice with his teammates, so we still don’t know when he will be able to return to the line-up. As for Tomas Kaberle, the team does not want to play him as they don’t want him to suffer a major injury which would prevent the organization from buying him out this summer. The other option would be Swiss defenseman Yannick Weber who has only played two games this season, more often relegated to the healthy scratch sheet and sustaining a lower-body injury that sidelined him for a few weeks. 
The problem with the right-handed defenseman is that Michel Therrien doesn’t have any confidence in him or he would have used him more often after the injury sustained by Diaz. According to Renaud Lavoie reporting on RDS, the Blue Blanc Rouge, who were shopping Weber at the trade deadline, was asking a 2nd or 3rd round pick for Yannick Weber… no wonder they didn’t find any takers! This was the first mistake by GM Marc Bergevin as he should have let Weber go for a lower draft pick as he doesn’t seem to fit into the organization’s long-term plans.
Who will play with Andrei Markov? (photo by azarius@Flickr)
Who will play with Andrei Markov? (photo by azarius@Flickr)
Bergevin’s mistake
Bergevin’s other mistake at the trade deadline was to be very passive and only acquire a journeyman defenseman who didn’t play a single game last Spring during the Los Angeles Kings’ magical playoff run. Drewiske was the team’s eight defenseman after the acquisition of veteran Robyn Regehr. While Drewiske can do the job in a short period of time, he is not a top-four defenseman by any means. With Andrei MarkovPK Subban and Josh Gorges all playing great hockey this season and Francis Bouillon being paired with the team’s sixth defenseman on the third pairing, whether it is Drewiske or a youngster called up from Hamilton, the Habs are left with a gaping hole in their top four slots.
Montreal could also decide to call up a more physical rearguard for the playoffs, namely Jarred Tinordi, but the way they will use that defenseman is still a mystery to most fans and journalists. The problem with Tinordi is that he was very soft during his first six-game stint with the Habs earlier this season, recording a paltry three hits despite his big 6’6”, 205-lb frame. Tinordi will have to be more physical if he gets the nod in order to replace Emelin’s physical presence on the Habs’ blue line.
Bergevin should have acquired more than a journeyman defenseman at the deadline, and his inertia will come to bite him in the behind as injuries to key players always happen during the season. With Rene Bourque close to return to action and a lot of depth at forward following the waiver-wire pick-up of Jeff Halpern, I understand that Bergevin didn’t want to pay a premium to acquire a rental forward before the deadline. The team’s general manager had already made his move, acquiring Michael Ryder and a third-round pick in exchange for disgruntled forward Erik Cole. Ryder has been terrific for the Habs, notching 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points in 18 games with the team. Ryder’s acquisition has improved the power play drastically, with him scoring half of his points (6 g and 3 a) on the man advantage.
What now?
The team better pray Drewiske is the next Josh Gorges and turns into an efficient shutdown defenseman able to log more than 20 minutes a game every game, playing alongside Andrei Markov. The Canadiens are only three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins with one game in hand for the Eastern Conference lead, so they have a great chance to go very deep in the playoffs this season as they could begin each series on home ice where the team has had great success in 2013.
The problem with Bergevin looking at the parade, is that the team might struggle mightily and suffer serious injuries next season, pushing the team outside the top eight teams in the East, making them miss the playoffs… The window of opportunity was open wide, but Bergevin decided to close the shutters instead of looking at the bigger picture and add more depth to his blue line!


I do not think Bergevin "dropped the ball" here. Acquiring another d-man would have created other problems, namely whom to sit. Injuries happen, that is what the american league team is for: call ups.

You could always follow it up with how Shero dropped the ball for not trading for Ovechkin because all GMs can see the future.

I disagree with the article. Bergevin cannot forsee the future. I agree Emelin's absence will be dearly missed but to say he dropped the ball is nonsense. He did right by not tinkering with the lineup. His moves were outstanding trading a disgruntled Cole for a sniper who misses Montreal on a last year of his contract. Halpern for PK depth and Drewiske for defenseman depth. All his moves didnt ruin the chemistry which is one of the most important elements in a successful hockey team.


Love your perspective but I'm not certain about dropping the ball. What would have been a more persuasive argument was a suggestion. GM's get scrutinized for every move. As writers, I would prefer if you also put those suggested moves up for the public to weigh in on. I guess what I am trying to say is, MB is a GM for a reason. He has more information about the HABS then any of us do. For any of us to say he dropped the ball without that information and without at least putting up some sort of fact based argument (in this case being potential pick ups) is armchair GM'ing. Below is a list of all the rentals available as per Capgeek. Took me 1 minute to get. I would have thought you would have looked at the list, and at the very least speculated on a good fit.

My perspective, based on the list is that I would have gone with my AHL depth as well. The only guy on the list I would think might have been priable and would be a decent fit is Adam Pardy. Problem is we would be making Buffalo a better team for a potential rental. Again, I would have done the same as MB given what was out there and my depth in Hamilton.

Name Pos Age Team GP G A P PIM +/- TOI-TOT

Zidlicky, Marek » D 36 NJD 39 4 12 16 28 -9 20.83
Corvo, Joe » D 35 CAR 31 4 9 13 14 -1 19.30
Whitney, Ryan » D 30 EDM 31 4 9 13 23 -7 18.46
Clitsome, Grant » D 27 WIN 36 3 9 12 16 2 17.86
Hainsey, Ron » D 32 WIN 39 0 11 11 10 -1 23.01
Bergeron, M. » D 32 CAR 16 1 5 6 4 0 13.61
Benn, Jordie » D 25 DAL 23 1 5 6 10 -3 17.35
Foster, Kurtis » D 31 PHI 17 1 4 5 6 -2 13.04
Sanguinetti, B. » D 25 CAR 28 1 4 5 4 -5 14.90
Sulzer, Alexander » D 28 BUF 17 3 1 4 10 3 16.52
Pardy, Adam » D 28 BUF 8 0 4 4 10 6 14.58
Harrold, Peter » D 29 NJD 15 2 1 3 2 -9 17.52
Strachan, Tyson » D 28 FLA 34 0 3 3 38 -5 19.21
Fistric, Mark » D 26 EDM 18 0 2 2 16 2 15.85
Aucoin, Adrian » D 39 CLB 29 0 2 2 10 -11 16.70
Babchuk, Anton » D 28 CGY 4 0 1 1 0 -3 9.66
Huskins, Kent » D 33 PHI 15 0 1 1 4 -3 15.86
Lilja, Andreas » D 37 PHI 1 0 0 0 0 -1 9.63
Holden, Nick » D 25 CLB 2 0 0 0 0 1 8.58
Carson, Brett » D 27 CGY 3 0 0 0 0 -1 10.53
Summers, Chris » D 25 PHX 6 0 0 0 9 -3 12.65
Yonkman, Nolan » D 32 FLA 7 0 0 0 11 -1 9.77
Meech, Derek » D 28 WIN 13 0 0 0 2 1 13.66

I've got to agree with the other comments here, Fred. I don't at all think Bergevin dropped the ball.

I think adding a depth defenseman, like Driewske, was actually a good move...and one that didn't cost much.

We have to remember that the Habs are seriously ahead of the curve right now, as they were expected to be a bubble team and not a contender this season.

Bergevin has shown that he is the man with a plan, and that he is not building for one year, but for the long term too.

I like that he didn't sacrifice key parts of his team. I like that he didn't give Weber away for less than he felt he was worth, and I like the fact he didn't make a huge splash at the deadline.

If there is one thing this team has shown, it is that the whole is great than the sum of it's parts.

I also have to completely disagree with you last statement where you draw a straight line between Bergevin NOT picking up a top-four defenseman and them missing the playoffs next year.

I see no correlation there. Injuries could happen whether he picked up a top-4 or not, so the two are not related.

I have to agree with Kamal, Fred.
Assessing a GM's inactivity because of an injury that was incurred after the trade deadline is unfair. If there was a specific need that needed to be addressed before the deadline, as was the case with Erik Cole, Bergavin took care of it.

Dismantling a team's futures simply to get a rental player is irresponsible management. For years, HabsNation has clammered for deals at the deadline, only to be disappointed.

If you gauge Habs' fans, they are happy that Bergavin stood firm in his plan. The recent performances by Beaulieu, Tinordi and Patteryn, and Frederic St-Denis' last year, are proof positive that the team's depth at the defensive position is beyond reproach.

Thank you all for your comments. You all have the right to disagree, but I stick to my thinking and I believe that Davis Drewiske was not the solution on defense. The guy was 8th on the Kings' depth chart and didn't play a single game in the playoffs last year. DD is a 28-year-old journeyman defenseman that will look out of place with Markov.

You will tonight that Drewiske has no business in the top 4 on the Habs' blue line. I was already critical of Bergevin's inactivity at the deadline way before Emelin was injured by the way!

Maybe he should pair up with Subban and have Gorges play with Markov instead. He is just a depth defenceman, and one with poor puck handling skills. But you can't predict injuries, nor do we know which vets may yet be waived before the season is out. Diaz should hopefully make a return when it counts.

Bear in mind, we've basically clinched the playoffs. If a few off games by Drewiske allows him to gain experience with Therrien's system, maybe its not the worst thing in the world. Going into the playoffs, even with a healthy Diaz, DDrew might be an important piece.

Bergevin learned the GM game in Chicago. Name me the last time Chicago "carried the ball" by dealing high picks or prospects at the deadline, to land an all star rental for the playoffs. Still waiting . . . it took Chicago the better part of a decade to lay the groundwork for a team that will be a threat in the league for the better part of a decade. That's how cycles work. We're at the restocking end of the cycle still, after being at absolute rock bottom last year. As someone above observed, we're way ahead of the curve and performing way ahead of expectations. Not the time to gamble with the team's future to make a lunging grab for glory this year.

Love the fact that Fred is sticking to his guns even if he is so completely and utterly wrong.

I did not want to see Bergevin trade a single future asset for any short term gain and so far it would seem that everyone agrees with that statement, except for Fred that is.

Davis Drewiske played 18 minutes last night, with a -1 rating, 5 shots on the opponents' pads and a demotion from Markov's pairing! He is our saviour guys!

Very Funny Fred. Every team has holes no team is perfect. I am sure in due time Therrien will find the right mix. I am the first to admit Emelin's absence will be missed but one game isnt a barometer. I will admit Drewiske isnt a top 4 defenseman but we still need to find the one guy who will raise their game. I thought we lost last nights game because the Caps were hungrier than the Habs more than blaming the game on Drewiske

I agree with Fred. Habs had 6 draft picks and we know history dictates that the majority of those picks will amount to nothing in the NHL.

Everyone in the league seemed to agree that the Habs needed to add a top 4 Dman and yet despite all of these picks MB decided to stand pat.

We do not ahve any other Dman capable of filling the void and now a 2nd place teamed looks to possibly be another 1st round disappointment.

Drewiske was -1 with 1 shot on goal, but also led the team with 3 blocked shots in his 18 minutes. Gorges was -2 with 2 blocked shots in only 21 minutes of ice time. If you want to go by the stat sheet, he's better than the guy half of you want as captain.

He's no savior, just needs to be a fill-in until Diaz gets his head together.


Exactly. DD is not supposed to be playing 20+ minutes a game. He was acquired as a depth guy to fill in when needed but because of the lack of Dmen and fact we contnue to have Kaberle and Weber on this team we are now seeing what happens when a player goes down

I vehemently disagree with Fred's posting, but I think the point is moot, anyways. Raphael Diaz should be back the next few games, Beaulieu has been looking better, and there are other kids that can be called up, too.

DD is rusty, sure, but with the next eight games, he'll get a lots of PT and should be competent as a 3rd line D-man.

Fred, if Emelin wasn't hurt, would you still think Bergevin "dropped the ball"? If he was hurt before the deadline, then maybe, but it's silly timing for a post like this.

Meanwhile, at the trade deadline, the costs were high to get players, including D-men. Would Bergevin have paid the same price to get Regehr? If so, I think someone else would add a post about how bad a deal it was.

My 2¢...

The habs should have picked up one stay at home rugged D who can clear the front of the net and drop the gloves with the big guys . they also wanted a big winger who can play 12 to 15 min and take care off our smaller players. We need players like tha to go far in playoffs .I know and Bergevin knows that he really drop the ball

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