What the Puck: Storm clouds on horizon for Bergevin’s Canadiens


If you think this is a tough week for the Canadiens, just wait until the 2021-22 season when they’ll return to a stronger division.

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Losing to the Leafs isn’t what has me most depressed as a Habs fan this week. It’s the fact things are only going to get worse next season.

The North Division is the weakest one in the NHL and even then the Canadiens just scraped their way into the playoffs. Imagine what it’s going to be like next season, when Montreal is back in a division with Tampa Bay, Florida, Toronto, Boston and Ottawa, which had the Canadiens’ number all season and will be a much better team.

The Habs had, at best, an average season and there’s no reason to believe it’ll get better any time soon. Carey Price is playing all right in the playoffs, but had a terrible season — again. Shea Weber looked like he was fading and this week, he looks done.

The best line I heard came from a pal who quipped: “I didn’t realize you could cross-check your way to a Stanley Cup.” That’s about all Weber and Ben Chiarot have been doing for the very good reason that they can’t keep up.

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New additions Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli did well, but almost all of the returning veterans took a step backward, notably Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Weber and Chiarot. Everything points to next season being a tough slog.

The worst thing about this dull playoff series is that the Maple Leafs aren’t even that great. They’re good, but they’re not going anywhere.

Auston Matthews has been less than superstar-like, their goalie is average and their defence is hardly elite. The Habs make the Leafs look good, but reality is Toronto is eminently beatable. Just not by the Canadiens.

Not one Hab has consistently taken it to another level in the series. Price was spectacular the first game and quite good since. Anderson was amazing in Game 1 and hasn’t been seen since. Toffoli is not a factor. And the list goes on.

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Then there’s the interim head coach. All the pundits went on about how Dominique Ducharme would be like a breath of fresh air, that he’d bring a new youth-friendly energy. It turns out he’s even more conservative than Claude Julien. He has the boys playing dump-and-chase hockey, a pathetic gambit at the best of times, but downright useless when the lads doing it chase the puck and then promptly lose it to the Leafs.

They even dump it in on the power play. That’s because there’s no player on the team capable of moving the puck over the opposing team’s blue line and actually maintaining control.

Did general manager Marc Bergevin even think for a couple of minutes before giving Ducharme the job or was he simply in a total panic about the possibility of losing his own job at that point?

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“We won’t shy away from a challenge,” Ducharme said on Wednesday. “We won’t be going down easy. … We’ll be fighting.”

Nice to hear, but why weren’t Ducharme’s troops fighting on Tuesday?

This collapse is a perfect encapsulation of the Bergevin era. He picks up useful players, like Anderson and Toffoli, but he never understands the big picture. After what he saw in the bubble last summer, he rolled the dice, spent to the salary cap limit and talked about being able to play with anyone, in any style.

But this team isn’t anywhere near Stanley Cup-contending status. Anyone except Bergevin could see that. Instead he went out and grabbed vets like Eric Staal and Jon Merrill thinking he was loading up for a run. He has no vision.

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He traded Mikhail Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin. He picked Jesperi Kotkaniemi instead of Brady Tkachuk. He re-signed Price when he should’ve traded him. He hasn’t been able to get his hands on a legitimate No. 1 centre.

Maybe his biggest error was trading for Weber. Sure P.K. Subban’s career has gone south, but the Habs have won precisely nothing with the Slow Man Mountain and he’s been an embarrassment in this series.

Bergevin constructed a slow-moving encased-in-cement defence corps, built in the image of the journeyman blue-liner he was. He’s out of touch with today’s NHL.

The team being destroyed by the Leafs is Bergevin’s team and this badly constructed club is a reminder that the only plan he’s ever had is the brilliant one that’s kept him employed by Geoff Molson for the past nine years. He only has to please one guy and so far Bergevin’s doing a boffo job of managing upward.

You’d think Molson might care that Bergevin’s team hasn’t won a playoff series since 2015 and doesn’t look to be winning one any time soon. You’d think.

bkelly@postmedia.com

twitter.com/brendanshowbiz

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