At times, you may end up being right for the wrong reasons. The ends justify the means, though. That’s the situation Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin finds himself in a half-year after acquiring Max Domi from the Arizona Coyotes for Alex Galchenyuk.
Domi vs. Galchenyuk
As Domi and the Canadiens prepare to face Galchenyuk’s Coyotes ahead of the All-Star break, a quick glance at the stats reveals a seemingly lopsided trade in favor of the Canadiens. Galchenyuk has half of Domi’s 16 goals. He’s also being outscored by nearly 20 points (44 to 25), albeit in 11 fewer games played. It’s not the main reason why the Canadiens have come out ahead as a result of the trade, though.
Oh, it’s gravy for sure. However, it’s not that Galchenyuk’s skills were misrepresented or overestimated following his six seasons as a Hab. He’s still a 30-goal-scoring talent, even if he fails to reach that plateau again playing for the offensively stunted Coyotes.
It’s more so that Domi’s skills were underestimated by most everyone who analyzed the trade at the time. He’s poised to shatter the career highs he set in his rookie season (18 goals, 34 assists), which were followed by two sobering campaigns during which his production took a hit and he scored just 18 goals total.
Bergevin Improves the Habs at Center
More than that though, it’s that Domi has proven beyond capable of playing center. Despite having been drafted as a winger, Domi has filled in admirably as the team’s de facto No. 1 center, which represents effectively the polar-opposite situation as the one Galchenyuk had been in as a Hab.
It may not be the same role he fills in a few seasons, assuming Jesperi Kotkaniemi develops as expected (by Scotty Bowman) and takes over the mantle. Still, Bergevin, through Domi (and Kotkaniemi and Phillip Danault), has stabilized the middle of the ice for the Canadiens. Going back even one season, that was about as unforeseen as a Montreal Expos fan in town (when they were still the Expos) come April, if the Habs had made the playoffs.
Thanks to Bergevin and those moves specifically the Canadiens are in a wild-card spot right now and the playoffs no longer seem like just a distant memory. What’s maybe the most important though, when assessing how the Domi acquisition has panned out, is how the whole Galchenyuk debacle would have panned out instead.
Galchenyuk vs. Bergevin
Having signed a three-year extension with the Canadiens a few summers ago, Galchenyuk is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. It’s very believable, based on how Galchenyuk was arguably treated by the organization, being pushed and pulled in every direction in the lineup except down the middle with any kind of permanence, that he would have left. No one would have blamed him, either.
So, Bergevin turned a potential disaster into expert asset management by getting out in front of the problem. He successfully traded for a younger player with around the same production, one who won’t be a free agent for another few years.
«Il reste quatre ans avant que Max ne devienne agent libre, deux ans dans le cas d’Alex, on voit de la valeur là-dessus aussi.» – Bergevin
"Max won’t be a free agent for another four years. Alex will be a free agent in two. That was part of it." – Bergevin
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) June 16, 2018
That’s the genius of the deal. That’s what makes this all worthwhile. Everything else is just icing on the proverbial cake. Had Domi continued on his downward trend from a production standpoint, at least Bergevin got something for what would have most certainly turned out to be a lost asset. It would have been enough. On top of it all though, Domi proved to be the center Galchenyuk couldn’t be for the Habs.
It would be easy to credit Bergevin for that too, but let’s get serious here. That’s all Domi. By Bergevin’s own admission, he only saw Domi as a winger, at least at the time of the deal. So, while he probably correctly predicted what would have been the outcome had he held onto Galchenyuk, Nostradamus he ain’t. The fact that Bergevin had said the plan all along had been to try Jonathan Drouin at center instead, upon the French-Canadian winger’s acquisition, further drives the final nail into the coffin with regard to that half-baked theory.
Furthermore, Bergevin was at least partly to blame for the Galchenyuk fiasco himself. Sure, a large portion of the responsibility to turn into a successful professional falls on the shoulders of the player himself, but, when the GM consistently diminishes your worth publicly, it kind of makes for a toxic work environment, doesn’t it? If your boss seemed to make it his one mission in life to let everyone know he didn’t think you had it in you to perform the job you were hired to fill, how well do you think you’d do?
No one truly knows if Galchenyuk would have ever regained the offensive form he displayed down the middle at the start of 2016-17 (23 points in 24 games, before getting injured), as a Hab. What is a foregone conclusion beyond any kind of reasonable doubt is he was never going to get the chance to. That’s what was wrong in the lead-up to the trade and how, almost in spite of himself, Bergevin corrected the situation.
As far as accomplishments go, it’s somewhere between finding a $20 bill underneath a couch cushion and turning that $20 into $100, gambling. The stakes are about the same too, seeing as Bergevin had almost nothing to lose. That he gained a whole lot is impressive, but not the whole story here, considering Galchenyuk is far from having a bad season and can still pan out with the Coyotes. Both teams can still win this trade, but, admittedly to Bergevin’s credit, the Canadiens already have.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has also written for the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently writes about all things Habs for THW, with it being a career highlight for him to have covered the 2021 Stanley Cup Final as a credentialed member of the press.