Saturday, 23 June 2012

James van Riemsdyck for Luke Schenn. Or Yannick Weber.

There is an enduring honeymoon between Canadiens fans and Marc Bergevin, one that can only grow stronger after yesterday's draft, which hauled in a bounty of talented forwards, which our system was in crying need of.  Alex Galchenyuk and stealing Charles Hudon on the cheap in the fifth round will buy him a lot of good will.

Or will it?  There are grumblings in social media that he could have gotten into the Jordan Staal derby, or gone after James van Riemsdyck.  The fact that he didn't is putting him an unflattering light compared to wheelers and dealers like Mike Holmgren and Brian Burke.
I think it's ridiculous to fault him for not landing Mr. Staal or van Riemsdyck, since both of these trades occurred in special circumstances.
Gaston Therrien of RDS was quite vocal on the Jordan Staal trade, he's leading the charge there.  He contends that the price paid by Carolina was quite low for a stud centreman who in Montréal "would have taken care of the centre situation for the next ten years."  A package of Lars Eller and the third overall pick from yesterday's draft would have easily matched the Carolina offer he argues.  He also pondered whether the Penguins did Mr. Staal a favour by sending him to a likely landing spot to play with his brother, which he says is madness, since they had offered him a generous ten-year deal which he refused to sign.  In that situation, Mr. Therrien says, your team no longer has any obligations to the player, you made him a fair offer, and now must treat him as an asset that you need to get maximum value from.  
Detractors of Gaston Therrien were quick to denounce his argument as ludicrous, since Mr. Staal could have walked away next summer as a free agent, but that's not a sensible counterpoint.  I think it's obvious in the Therrien argument that he's assuming that the Canadiens would have spoken to Mr. Staal's agent with the Penguins' permission and obtained assurances that he would sign a long-term deal, it's intrinsically in his argument about him being a ten-year solution.  If Jordan Staal had not wanted to sign, and indeed preferred going to Carolina or the Rangers has it is posited by many, then the whole discussion stops right there.
In any case, I think the Canadiens were pretty happy with their #3 pick, and while they professed openness to discussions on trades, they were pretty enamoured of Alex Galchenyuk and valued the prospect more than Jordan Staal the player.  If the Penguins did call and offered Jordan Staal in exchange for the #3 pick as a starting point, it's probable the discussion didn't go very far.
The Canadiens did however try to deal back into the later part of the first round, probably to get a shot at Stefan Matteau, but Mr. Bergevin and Trevor Timmins explained that no team was willing to flip its pick, that they all had a player they wanted to select rather than trade down.  This attempt should quell the 'too passive' camp somewhat, but evidence often is subordinate to opinion and prejudice.
In the case of the James van Riemsdyk trade, again there are barbs directed at Canadiens management, mainly because he's a big left winger with some skill and lots of promise and upside, and he would have filled a huge chasm on the current roster.  Fans like this one have visions of him playing alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta, and giving the Canadiens another credible forward line that would be tough to match up against.
The problem is, we didn’t have a trading chip like the Leafs had though, one the Flyers wanted. The Leafs had a big young pedigreed defenceman who had fallen on tough times from the fans and media, and would benefit from a change of scenery, and hadn’t lost a lot of his trade value. That’s why this trade happened, not because Marc Bergevin was asleep at the switch. If the Flyers had needed a fleet-of-foot puck-moving defenceman who comes cheap and can help offensively, then we could have entered the discussion with Raphaël Diaz or Yannick Weber. We didn’t have a horse to help fill the Chris Pronger vacuum, so we were out of the running from the start.
This is kind of like when the Canucks traded for Roberto Luongo. The Panthers wanted a significant player coming back, and Vancouver just so happened to have a hulking forward who could snipe goals who needed a change of address in Todd Bertuzzi. Both teams had complementary assets that they could swap. Not all teams can offer what one team wants/needs.
So let's appreciate the work that was done so far by Mr. Bergevin, the fact that he has built a modern organization with talented hockey people from all over the league, with some former Glorieux to provide a link to the past.  Let's give him credit for retaining our scouting staff and trusting their judgment in the last couple of days, instead of blowing draft picks on short term band-aids.  Let's trust that he seems to understand that the Canadiens won't be turned into a contender overnight, but over the long term, and the best course of action is to pile up young players and develop them.

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