After enjoying his best offseason as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens in 2020, this past summer was somewhat of a disaster for Marc Bergevin and it ultimately cost him his job.
Not only did valuable players, both young and old, who were part of the team’s magical run to the Stanley Cup Final last season leave, but they weren’t adequately replaced by Bergevin’s offseason acquisitions as evidenced by the Habs’ historically poor 2021-22 campaign. Not to mention the controversy that the franchise found itself embroiled in following the selection of Logan Mailloux in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
One of the unforeseen events of this past offseason was the offer sheet tendered by the Carolina Hurricanes to Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Bergevin opted not to match it and instead acquired Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes to strengthen his centre depth which had taken a considerable hit after losing both Kotkaniemi and Philip Danault in free agency.
The 26-year-old was meant to provide stability in the faceoff circle, be responsible defensively, and contribute consistent offence. So far, the transition to his new team adapting to head coach Dominique Ducharme’s system has been a challenge. Dvorak’s two-way game has left something to be desired and after a promising preseason alongside Josh Anderson and Jonathan Drouin, he’s struggled to find an offensive spark.
He showed encouraging signs in January and was playing his best hockey of the season before suffering an injury against the Minnesota Wild a few weeks ago. It can take some time for players to get acclimated to their new surroundings, especially those who have long tenures with their former teams, so the hope is that Dvorak can pick up where he left off when he returns to the lineup.
There’s no denying that Mike Hoffman has a propensity to score goals. His prolific shot and offensive instincts have come as advertised since signing with Montreal as a free agent this summer. The problem is he’s only appeared in 29 games this season due to injuries and a stint in COVID-19 protocol. He also hasn’t been able to use his shot enough in the scoring areas to make a difference.
Plus, one of the reasons he was brought in was to help the Canadiens’ floundering power play which remains at the bottom of the league despite the addition of the sharpshooter. When Hoffman isn’t scoring, it’s difficult for him to have an impact given that he struggles in other facets of the game, unlike former Hab Tomas Tatar who joined the New Jersey Devils in free agency during the offseason.
Cédric Paquette and Mathieu Perreault
Cédric Paquette and Mathieu Perreault were supposed to provide veteran depth and leadership to the Canadiens after signing as free agents, but both have been largely ineffective as members of their hometown team.
Paquette has been relegated to an extra forward role and any hope of him rediscovering the form he exhibited while playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning is all but dashed. With Montreal’s lineup slowly getting back to full health, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Paquette hit the waiver wire soon.
Perreault authored one of the few heartwarming moments of the season when he scored a hat trick at the Bell Centre against the Detroit Red Wings in October and received a rousing ovation for his efforts. Since then, his season has been marred by injuries which means he hasn’t been able to leave his mark the way he and the Canadiens hoped.
To say that David Savard has been disappointing since joining the Habs this summer on the heels of winning a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning would be doing a disservice to him as a player and a person.
What is more unfortunate is the fact that he hasn’t been put in a position to succeed thanks to a thin Montreal blue line. He was signed to replace some of what captain Shea Weber provided: leadership, toughness, plus be defensively sound, and strong on the penalty kill. While he has brought many of those qualities to the table, he has been punching above his weight playing significant minutes in a top-4 role which has exposed his weaknesses.
Considering that new general manager Kent Hughes wants to build a fast, skilled, offensive-minded team, it will be interesting to follow what the future holds for Savard and whether he fits into the Canadiens’ plans.
With all of the adversity the Habs faced even before the puck dropped on the 2021-22 season, it was impossible to fill all the roster holes and the gaping leadership void that were created as a result, but the team’s new faces have not met expectations which has made fans miss the departed players even more than they already did.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.