Murph’s Musings: Habs Showing They’re Still In Rebuild

Michel Therrien Marc Bergevin
Eric Bolte USA TODAY Sports

No matter whom you cheer for, there is nothing like being in Montreal when the Canadiens are winning or in the playoffs. The Habs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993 and yet a mid-season winning streak can make a winter day with sub-arctic temperatures seem like spending a beautiful summer day sipping a pint of your favorite beer on a Crescent Street terrace. As the Canadiens go, so goes the city of Montreal and that’s why when they’re losing there is nothing like being part of the media in Montreal.

What most fans and media accept as part of the ebb and flow of an NHL season can be viewed as the end of times in Montreal and right now many fans and some media are treating this current Canadiens’ mid-season slump as such. I can tell you this city is in an uproar with some calling for a trade, some for general manager Marc Bergevin’s head, and the majority for head coach Michel Therrien’s head on a platter. As I write this, the city is on pins and needles wondering what will happen if the Canadiens fall to the Hurricanes at the Bell Centre Tuesday night. The Habs enter the game riding a four-game losing streak in which they’ve been outscored 19-5 and been embarrassed in their last three games, the most recent a 5-0 dud to the Capitals on home ice Saturday night.

Following that game Saturday, Bergevin held a closed door meeting with the team and then made sure every single player was waiting for the media when the always-large throng of reporters were let through the dressing room doors. For the last few days the players have tried to calm the masses and put on a brave face but there’s no avoiding the vultures in this city. Yet, while the passion and desire to win amongst fans is amazing and possibly unmatched across the league, these last few days are just a perfect example of how such passion can blind one from reality. The reality in this situation is that this team was and isn’t as good as the team that finished atop the Northeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference in a 48-game shortened season. In the famous words of former NFL head coach Dennis Green:

“They are what we thought they were.”

Or at least what people without bleu blanc rouge glasses on could see. And Bergevin has more or less tried to caution the masses here in Montreal that this is only year two of his attempt to rebuild and restore this franchise to its glory days. Like it or not Habs fans, there’s still a long way to go and this bump in the road is part of that long and winding road. Now it’s about getting back on track, figuring out who is part of the puzzle going forward, and definitely not making a coaching change or trade for the sake of making one. That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me if either takes place before the March 5 trade deadline or sooner, with the former being my choice if I was Bergevin. But that’s why he’s an NHL GM and I’m not! Still I don’t think Therrien will be the coach when the rebuild starts to reap its benefits.

On Monday night, rumors were abuzz that the Canadiens and Avalanche had been on the verge of a trade that would’ve sent P.A. Parenteau to Montreal and Rene Bourque to Colorado. As of late afternoon Tuesday, that trade had not occurred and if it does, chances are it won’t make the Habs that much better or worse. Both Parenteau and Bourque are pretty much the same players right now, not living up to their potentials but in Parenteau’s case he’s smaller and the Habs don’t need to get smaller!

Whether the Canadiens climb out of this slump or not, if Bergevin stays the course and makes the necessary moves when he sees fit, then trust me Habs fans, you’ll be a lot happier down the road than if a major shake-up occurs. And remember the next time you start to blame Bergevin for the mess they’re in, look at how many players on this current roster came from the Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey era. Don’t be surprised if those players slowly disappear from the roster and the team slowly starts to get better.

–One team that along with the fans and the media that covers them, knows they’re in a rebuild is the Buffalo Sabres and the Ryan Miller trade rumors are in full throttle once again. The latest hot rumor was that the Minnesota Wild in hot pursuit of the Olympic goalie. With Josh Harding now out indefinitely that could be true. But chances are as one NHL executive recently pointed out to Murph’s Musings, Miller – an unrestricted free agent — most likely will only waive his contract to go to a legit Stanley Cup contender. Also the problem is that all the legit contenders are basically set between the pipes and wouldn’t be willing to pay the hefty price to acquire a goalie and a rental.

“I’m guessing that he would only waive his no trade for a real contender,” the NHL executive said. “The issue would be, how many Cup Contenders have the cap space to add a high priced goalie like that without deleting a high priced forward or D that they also need to go four rounds.”

–German forward Marco Sturm announced his retirement Monday. The former NHLer (San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Washington Capitals, Vancouver Canucks and the Florida Panthers) had been playing with the Cologne Sharks of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. After being traded – along with Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart – to the Bruins for then Bruins captain Joe Thornton in November, 2005, Sturm, Primeau and Stuart always had to deal with playing and living under the shadow of that trade.

Sturm would survive the longest and became a key part of the Bruins both on and off the ice in his five plus seasons there before being dealt to Los Angeles in December, 2010. He was one of the most affable players this scribe has dealt with and he will likely most be remembered for scoring the overtime winner in the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park and of course the “Sturm Face”. Good Luck Sturmie!

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