There's some debate as to whether Marc Bergevin has done enough this off-season to improve the Canadiens' roster, and I agree that the fiddling with the roster so far has left me perplexed. I thought the cap room would be spent on short-term solutions to areas of need in our roster. So maybe buy up one or two free agents at forward for a year or two, guys like David Steckel or Anthony Stewart who add to our roster and improve the mix at forward. Same thing on defence, get a big righty as a plug for a one or two-year deal, a Ryan O'Byrne or Jeff Schultz. Understand that these guys are not world-class, but they fit a role, and because they bring what we sorely lack their contribution would be more important than their mere talent would indicate, it would be magnified.
For example, a light-hitting shortstop like Rodney Scott isn't an All-Star, and won't put any team in the World Series by himself. But if you've got a big hole at shortstop, your defence is abysmal, and you need a little speed on the basepaths ahead of the meat of your order, then Rodney Scott is the perfect solution. If you throw in the salary-cap consideration, then the fact that he can be had for cheap makes him even more attractive. Rodney Scott on this specific roster is worth more on a relative scale than an absolute scale.
Another way to think of it is salt. You can't eat salt for dinner, you need ingredients like protein and vegetables and maybe a starch, but if you have those and no salt, you totally notice its absence. Once you have that stir-fry going but don't have salt, you don't really have as much as you could potentially, a pinch of salt is what you need to bring everything together and make it pop.
So after the elimination by the Sens, I thought the road map was relatively straightforward. Dispose of Tomas Kaberle and Yannick Weber, get some stopgaps who will upgrade the size and toughness quotient on D while we wait another year or two for the kids to be ready. At forward, let Armdog and Jeff Halpern and Michael Ryder go, get a bit more toughness to help out Brandon Prust and Ryan White, and get a big forward to play in the Top 9, even if he's got bricks for hands. Just having a crasher and banger, a Mathieu Darche amped up 20% or more, would improve the flexibility of our roster, and again be a place saver until the Collbergs and Hudons and Leblancs are ready. We don't need to spend all of Michael Ryder's cap space this year, we can sit on it and hold it as strategery for the trade deadline or next summer's UFA crop.
In fact, what we did was the first part of the plan, clean out the bottom of the roster a bit, but didn't upgrade the defence, even with Alexei Emelin's problematic absence staring us in the face. At forward, we got George Parros, which I'm on board with, but squandered the Michael Ryder cushion on Daniel Brière's deal. Which is a step back, that cushion was obtained by sacrificing Erik Cole. If I had a choice, I'd rather have Erik Cole back for the next two seasons rather than Mr. Brière.
The thing is, these fixes that I was envisioning were not pie-in-the-sky stuff, I wasn't trying to get Bobby Ryan with a mix of Travis Moen, Patrick Holland and a bunch of late-round picks. I wasn't, like the Leafs, shopping for a big #1 centre, which we all recognize are routinely available on the trade market. My plan wasn't overly optimistic, just a way to ice a respectable roster next season, but refraining from taking out a Clarcksonian or Cloweian mortgage.
So far then, I'm not overjoyed with the immediate solutions provided by Marc Bergevin. Maybe he's biding his time, and will bottom-feed in August when players start to get desperate, and will accept a job on a one-year deal. Maybe he's decided that next season is a development year, that Jarred Tinordi is ready for a regular shift, and the Beaulieus and Pateryns and other Bulldogs will plug the injury holes as they occur. Same thing at forward, he'll rely on Messrs. Dumont, Blunden, Leblanc, Bournival, et al. when the Canadiens infirmary welcomes patients. Maybe he's looking for another injection of youth, similar to that Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk brought last season. Maybe he's not too concerned with playoff positioning this season, a repeat of last season's flirtation with the Conference championship unimportant in his eyes.
Overall, I'm very satisfied with the work that Mr. Bergevin has done so far. The long-term approach he's taken is impressive. I'm very happy with the increased focus on scouting, how he's built up that department. I'm also happy with the player development side he's created, something that was sorely missing in the Gainey administration. I'm satisfied that he hoards draft picks and is replenishing our farm system. So I'm not going to squawk too much about this summer, and give him lots of slack to keep doing what he does and hope for the best.