Much has been said and written about Marc Bergevin’s work this offseason. The Montreal Canadiens’ general manager was a busy bee, adding multiple significant pieces to his roster essentially without subtracting any of his top prospects or draft picks.
While the Habs have had an up and down season, including coaching changes and struggles for the team’s longest-tenured players, their newest acquisitions have come as advertised and are a major reason why Montreal is on track to earn a playoff berth.
Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli Add Scoring Punch up Front
Between them, Josh Anderson, who was acquired in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Tyler Toffoli, a free agent signing, have scored 29 goals so far this season. Toffoli’s 18 markers put him tied for fourth in the NHL with Leon Draisaitl.
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Anderson is playing like the power forward that the Canadiens have desperately needed for so long. He drives to the net with speed, plays with an edge and makes life difficult for his opponents. He has developed great chemistry with Jonathan Drouin and Nick Suzuki, creating space for his super-skilled linemates. He even dropped the gloves with Milan Lucic, hoping to give his team a lift during a lackluster performance against the Calgary Flames a couple of weeks ago. The Habs certainly missed his presence when he was out with injury recently.
Meanwhile, Toffoli always seems to find himself in the right place at the right time. He’s a cerebral player who knows where to put the puck and when, Plus, when he gets a scoring chance he rarely misses. He’s adapted seamlessly to playing on the left side, his off-wing, and the Canadiens are a better team for it. The 28-year-old is effective in all situations, 5-on-5, power play, penalty kill, and his four-year, $17 million contract with Montreal is looking like a real bargain right now.
“Josh (Anderson) checked off all the boxes in terms of what I expected from him when I acquired him. I like what he brings, even when he doesn’t score. Am I surprised? No, but I’m happy that he’s bringing what we expected from him,” Bergevin said. “Ty (Toffoli) is a natural scorer. I really like the detail in his game. When you see a player every day, you appreciate him even more. I see exactly what our scouts said about him. I take a lot of pride in seeing both of those players producing the way they are.”
Joel Edmundson and Alexander Romanov Bring Stability on Defense
Joel Edmundson, another one of Bergevin’s free-agent signings, leads the league with a plus-minus rating of +24. He has stabilized the defense corps and proven to be a solid partner for both Jeff Petry and Shea Weber.
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Edmundson’s success is even more heartening considering that his father, a big Habs fan, is currently battling cancer which is one of the reasons he signed with the Canadiens.
“Growing up, everything in the house was Montreal Canadiens. His side of the family they’re all French and they’re diehard Habs fans so I grew up cheering for them. The office at the house was painted Montreal colors, he had all the memorabilia everywhere,” Edmundson said of his father. “When I got the call from my agent saying that Montreal is interested, it was really a no-brainer and the timing was perfect.”
Meanwhile, 21-year-old rookie Alexander Romanov has given the Habs another weapon on the backend. He skates effortlessly, likes to join the rush, and does not shy away from physical play. He’s already made his presence felt on the blue line thanks to some crunching body checks. The growing pains have been there during his first year, but his ceiling remains very high and he hasn’t looked out of place in the NHL.
The Veteran Presence of Jake Allen and Corey Perry
Although he’s due for a victory, new backup goaltender Jake Allen started the season with a 4-2 record and has given his team a chance to win every game he has started in relief of Carey Price. His save percentage remains at .920 and the calm way he goes about his business is the perfect complement to the equally subdued Price.
Allen has done exactly what was expected of him. He’s given Price the necessary rest and even allowed him to take a step back to find his game. He’ll be crucial to the Canadiens’ success during the last half of the season considering that their schedule just became even more condensed due to an unforeseen pause because of COVID-19 protocols.
To say Corey Perry has been a valuable addition to the Canadiens’ lineup would almost be doing a disservice to the obvious impact he has had.
With six goals and 12 points in 24 games, the 35-year-old veteran may not skate liked he used to, but he still has the great hands and scoring touch that helped him become a Hart Trophy winner. Perry has become a difference-maker on the Habs’ power play, which has gone from awful to more than respectable under new assistant coach Alex Burrows.
Given how well his most recent acquisitions have fit in, it’s no wonder that Bergevin tried his luck again on Friday, getting some much-needed depth at centre in the form of Eric Staal via trade with the Buffalo Sabres. Now if only some of the veteran core players could bust of their slumps, the Canadiens would really be in business.