This article is a nod to the popular Choose Your Own Adventure series of books enjoyed by millions of kids during the 1980s and 1990s. If you’re a GenX or late Millenial, those books were a big part of our childhoods. In keeping with that theme, this article will make a Montreal Canadiens edition where you, the reader, will get to decide the best path this article takes.
Marc Bergevin has gone on a luxury beach vacation, and now you’re the Montreal Canadiens general manager (GM). You just lost your starting goalie, team captain and top defensive center. Even worse, your team started the season with one win in the first seven games. Gross!
You just finished a long playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final and had a short offseason. Several players are still not recovered physically and mentally from the ordeal. But you already went out and added several new players in the offseason to help fill the holes left behind by Phillip Danault, who left for the Los Angeles Kings, and Shea Weber, your captain, who will likely retire due to his injuries.
You and the team are all living in disorganized chaos. The media is consistently asking if you will stay on as the GM after this season (you don’t know what to say, so you say nothing), and the fans demand the team does something to start winning. How are you going to handle that? You are in control of the team’s choices, or lack thereof.
Pick your adventure.
Your team starts the season with more problems, as you lose both Joel Edmundson and franchise cornerstone Carey Price.
In the media, there is some discussion that you do nothing. NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman on his 32 Thoughts podcast said:
“I think if you’re the Canadiens now, you punt on this season. You’re all in on Shane Wright”– Elliotte Friedman
So as the GM, you decide to do just that. You punt on this season. You have chosen to do nothing and see where this season takes you. If it means the playoffs or a high lottery draft pick, you are willing to live with the consequences and deal with the fans and media during the remainder of your tenure.
You realize quickly that this decision is the safest choice for the team and for you as a GM who may get replaced. However, you must now face months of media scrutiny and hold several press conferences where you will try to reveal nothing about your future or the reasons for your decisions and evade all questions as best as you can in the hopes that this doesn’t distract your players. This will lead to an angry fan base who will demand you be fired. Go to the conclusion.
With your team having a poor start, you decide to make a deal. You get on your phone and call every other NHL GM. Sometimes, it’s just to chit-chat and set up a golf outing, but mostly, it’s to ask who is available for trade.
Then you remember a quote by another GM who has been in your position.
“It has nothing to do with cap space, it has to do with the group we have. I do like our team, there are some pretty good hockey players … they are not playing up to their potential. And until they do, there’s nothing that I’m gonna do to make a change just to make a change. Change a fourth-line player just to say I’m making a change? I don’t believe in that.”Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, 20 October 2021 Press Conference
The dressing room needs a new face, but not just any face. You also know your team has a few needs to fill, so maybe you can kill two birds with one stone. The larger issue is that you don’t want to spend too much for a player because what if this shakeup fails to do the trick and get the team on track. You want to keep as many of your picks as possible, and you don’t want to give up any of your young core of players.
Do you choose to focus on a third-line center or a puck-moving defenseman? Go to your chosen option below.
Shake Up – A Third Line Center
You choose to focus on a third-line center. You call the interim GM in Chicago, someone who is desperate to create new headlines. You ask for 6-foot-3, 201-pound centerman Dylan Strome.
Strome has been a healthy scratch for all but two games and is in the last year of a two-year, $3 million deal that will see him become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. He could step into the role that was left vacant by Jesperi Kotkaniemi, a third-liner who can receive mostly offensive zone starts and sheltered minutes while providing some offence.
You would need to move salary out to fit him in, so you send out Ryan Poehling and Paul Byron as you cover the cap hit coming in. But you also move out a player that still holds value as a prospect in a third-line role. You know this is a gamble, but do so anyway. This will lead to an angry fan base who will demand you be fired. Go to the conclusion.
Shake Up – A Puck Moving Defenseman
While you know that a top-four puck-moving defenseman is your biggest need, there are none that could help now that you could add via trade that won’t cost you that first-round pick and/or a top prospect. Because of this, it will lead to an angry fan base who will demand you be fired.
Go to Shake Up – A Third Line Center.
A Fire Sale
You decide that since this is your last year under contract with the club, you want to tank as much as possible to get the highest draft pick possible. That’s especially true this season, with such a deep prospect pool expected in 2022, headlined by the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs center Shane Wright.
You tell your head coach to focus his energy on your younger core players to ensure they get the experience in all situations they’ll need to have success next season.
Related: Canadiens Youth to Catch the Torch
You must now identify what you can move out of Montreal. You choose any pending unrestricted free agents (UFA), headlined by Ben Chiarot. You are willing to hold onto cap space for the season if it means that you can get added picks for this summer’s draft, which the Canadiens will be hosting. You also choose to trade away Brett Kulak (pending UFA) for picks.
With the rest of the team filled with young players and those with term remaining, the biggest decision you now face is, do you trade Artturi Lehkonen? Being that it’s a fire sale, you choose to do so. He will be worth quite a lot in futures (a late first-round pick could be a possible return) at the trade deadline to a top contender. He’s a proven third-line defensive winger who has a track record of producing in the playoffs, including the Game Six overtime goal against the Vegas Golden Knights that launched the Canadiens into the Stanley Cup Final.
This will lead to an angry fan base who will demand you be fired. Go to the conclusion.
So as the GM of the Canadiens, you discover that any decision you take leads to the same outcome off the ice, an angry fan base who will demand your firing. While you can ignore that anger most of the time, a team that doesn’t have a clearly stated objective to start its season leaves far too much room for the fans and the media to imprint their views onto the outcomes and takes away your effectiveness as a manager. You’ve made your decisions, and the season is now complete. Now, you will meet with team owner Geoff Molson to learn your fate.
Blain is a regular contributor as a THW Writer. For over 7 years he has been a part time journalist and podcaster covering the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and its affiliates. He has made appearances on various television and radio stations as well as podcasts to discuss the Canadiens, and the NHL. Blain has taken the lessons on integrity, ethics, values and honesty that he has learned as a 28 year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and applied them to his work as a journalist to guide him in informing his readers and his goal of being a trusted source of information and entertainment.