By Steve Silverman
Bumbling Habs have no chance of regaining stride in second half
This season has been an abject disaster for the Montreal Canadiens.
Barring a miracle run in the second half of the season, the Habs will miss the playoffs this year and it won’t even be close. They started the second half of the season with a mind-numbing 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues, and that game is typical of the way the team played in the first half of the season.
The Canadiens have plenty of faults, but the biggest is that they just can’t put the puck in the net. Their only goal against the Blues came with just over a minute remaining in the game, and legitimate scoring chances were at a premium for 60 minutes. Once the Blues took a two-goal lead, the Canadiens had as much chance of winning the game as a visitor has of climbing a rope to get out of the Grand Canyon.
General manager Marc Bergevin is likely several weeks away from getting thrown out of the Molson Center. Bergevin is charged with putting a representative team on the ice, and he has done a fairly brutal and somewhat indefensible job since taking on the role of building the Montreal roster following the 2011-12 season.
No matter how long he has left on the job, you can be sure that Bergevin knows that the current makeup of the team is not acceptable, and there’s a good chance he will move some of the team’s best assets in an attempt to build the team up for the 2018-19 or 2019-20 season.
That means that Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Shea Weber could be on the move. While it’s unlikely that all three will take off the bleu, blanc y rouge, it would be a shock if one or two of them are not traded.
Pacioretty could bring a combination of a legitimate NHL player along with a prospect or two and a draft pick, and that’s more than anyone else on the roster could bring.
Head coach Claude Julien jumped on the Canadiens’ offer to coach the team a year ago after he was fired by the Boston Bruins. While it was a feather in his cap that he was on the unemployment line for just a few days, he may be regretting that he took the job so quickly.
The pressure in Montreal is unlike any other city in the league, and nearly all of it is on Bergevin since the Canadiens are 20-24-6 and 10 points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Once the team decides to get rid of Bergevin, that pressure will shift to Julien, and the former Stanley Cup-winning coach knows it.
Bettman points video review in right direction
Commissioner Gary Bettman is known for handing out the Stanley Cup every year and getting booed vociferously for being … well … Gary Bettman.
He is an easy and deserving (for the most part) target, and most hockey fans have little use for him. However, Bettman is on the right track when it comes to video review.
At the recent All-Star festivities, Bettman advised referees not to “overthink” when it comes to making rulings on coaching challenges for goalie interference.
The last thing the sport needs is for goals to get wiped out because of officials’ rulings. It’s hard to score goals, and taking goals off the scoreboard is depressing for all concerned – except the goaltender that allowed the puck to enter the net.
If there’s obvious interference, the goal should not count. But incidental contact that does not prevent the goalie from making a legitimate attempt to stop the puck should not be overturned.
That’s a common-sense opinion by Bettman. He will still get booed when he hands out the Cup in June, but he has at least taken a positive stance on a key issue.
Count on it: Seattle will get NHL’s 32nd franchise
The Vegas Golden Knights continue to do amazing things as an expansion team and they are within one point of being the No. 1 team in the NHL with two-plus months to go in the regular season.
Their 4-2 win at Calgary Tuesday night was shocking, as the Knights scored three goals in the final 1:46 to steal the victory from the crestfallen Flames.
Vegas is likely to have company on the expansion front from Seattle. Billionaire David Bonderman is going to submit a formal application, along with a $10 million fee for consideration.
Eventually, expect the Bonderman group to pay $650 million or more for the right to bring a franchise to the Pacific Northwest.
How fast can it happen? If everything moves quickly, the Seattle team could begin playing by the 2019-20 season. That may be a bit fast, and Seattle will almost certainly have its franchise on the ice by 2020-21 at the latest.
Big deadline prize: John Tavares
John Tavares is clearly one of the top 10 players in the NHL, and perhaps in the top five.
His contract with the New York Islander is up at the end of the season, and if he is not signed to a new contract by June 30, he will become a free agent July 1.
The Islanders are on the outside of the playoffs looking in, and it seems almost certain that Tavares will take advantage of his status and opt to become a highly pursued free agent. If he hasn’t signed to this point, what can the Islanders do to get him to put his name on new paper?
What will the Islanders do? If they do nothing, they can try to turn things around and make a run at a playoff spot. Or, should they trade him and try to get a solid return from a team that is willing to rent his services as they pursue a Stanley Cup?
There’s no easy answer, because the Islanders would need to create a multi-team bidding situation to get a boxcar return for Tavares.
But even if they do that, what will the fan base think of a team that trades its best player?
Either way, general manager Garth Snow has a crucial decision to make, and then he must sell it to the fan base.
It won’t be easy.