Montreal Canadiens Get Petry, Not Much Else

If you can’t beat them, have them join you. That might be the reasoning behind Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin’s acquisition of centers Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell via the Buffalo Sabres—to go along with defenseman Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers—on trade deadline day.

Current-Montreal Canadiens forward Brian Flynn
Current-Montreal Canadiens forward Brian Flynn – (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

This with Buffalo having beaten Montreal three times this season (once losing in a shootout). Maybe Buffalo just beat the Habs again, because one gets the distinct impression that Marc Bergevin may have mistakenly gotten the wrong Sabre (twice, in two separate deals, no less).

Montreal Canadiens: Flynn or Lose?

Granted, Flynn does have a career-high 17 points (five goals) in 54 games this season, which arguably translates to roughly 80 on a team that isn’t Buffalo. Mitchell meanwhile has six goals and seven assists in 51 games.

However, when reports indicate that the price of power forward right-winger Chris Stewart (11 goals, 25 points) dropped drastically to a fourth-round pick, and the Habs gave up a fifth in 2016 for Flynn (prospect Jack Nevins and an unspecified pick for Mitchell according to TSN), one has to wonder if the lines didn’t get crossed between Bergevin and Sabres GM Tim Murray.

Of course, Stewart ended up going to the Minnesota Wild for a second-round pick in the 2017 draft and Montreal still does not have a legitimate first-line right-winger, with Brendan Gallagher admittedly performing well in the interim in that spot. However, Gallagher is a first-liner like April in Montreal is spring… in name only. It gets hot and then cold on a dime, with snow showers far from out of the question.

After Montreal acquired third-liner Devante Smith-Pelly (who can switch to the left side) from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a top-six-forward type in Jiri Sekac, the hope was Montreal would do something to address their overwhelming need to improve its offense. The Habs haven’t.

Montreal has admittedly scored 17 goals in its last four games, but three of those have been empty-netters. The Habs also still have the 18th-ranked offense in the league, with only one Eastern Conference playoff team below them in the eighth-seeded Boston Bruins.

Of course, if the Habs earn first place in the conference and then draw the Bruins, that problem is mitigated at least for the first round. But what comes after that? Assuming, of course, that Montreal is able to beat a hungry Boston side eager for revenge following their earlier-than-expected second-round exit last year.

Flynn and Mitchell, who hails from Montreal’s south shore, gives the Habs some depth up the middle. However, now on a team with David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, Jacob de la Rose, Alex Galchenyuk, and Manny Malhotra (who is still valuable taking faceoffs), they may end up playing more on the wing (if at all).

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From the Oil, into the Fire

Petry isn’t meant to be an afterthought here. After all, he was TSN’s top-ranked piece of trade bait on the day. And Bergevin did do a good job getting him for just a 2015 second-round and conditional fifth-round pick (the latter of which will become a third-rounder if the Habs make it to the third round).

Petry, a right-handed shot, goes from the worst team in the Western Conference to the best team in the East and can help the Habs out on their second pairing opposite Nathan Beaulieu (P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov seem entrenched on that first pairing).

The Habs now have six offensive/puck-moving defensemen (with 1:09 per game, Petry played the third most among Oilers defensemen on the man advantage) on the roster. Of course, they’ve had five for most of the year and still have been unable to improve what is now the 25th-ranked power-play unit (16.5%) all that much.

Now Gonchar can likely play consistent third-pairing minutes for the rest of the season, which is always a plus, maybe even opposite country-mate Alexei Emelin once he gets healthy. Both are left-handed shots, but Gonchar had been playing with the left-handed Beaulieu.

Current-Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry
Current-Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry – (flickr/bridgetds)

A potential defensive corps made up of Markov, Subban, Beaulieu, Petry, Emelin, and Gonchar is pretty impressive, with each player slotted in on the pairing they arguably belong based on their level of play.

Of course, Petry being Edmonton’s best defenseman is almost an oxymoron, especially with his plus/minus -25 ranking the lowest compared to Edmonton’s other blue-liners. But he’ll now have the benefit of playing in front of Carey Price. So, who knows just how good Montreal will make out here?

Petry’s situation best epitomizes Montreal’s as a whole. He’s not perfect (nor are the Habs, especially without having addressed their need for extra offense today), but he and Montreal are in a good place right now, with a shot at earning the league’s best record as early as tonight (at San Jose at 10 p.m. Eastern).

Even if they fail to capture that title as the league’s best team, so be it. Bergevin did a great job today, just not the best he could have. It fits. Hopefully Flynn and Mitchell will too.

20 thoughts on “Montreal Canadiens Get Petry, Not Much Else”

  1. You put way to much emphasis on Montreal’s goal scoring. They have the 6th best goal differential in the NHL. Yes primarily because of their Goals against, but you know what, Defence wins championships. BTW: Corsi is a stat that is over rated. For example you state that Montreal is a poor possession team, but they play that way. They actually pad the corsi stats of teams they play against by the way they play. They protect the middle of the ice and allow shots from the outside all game long. They use their speed in the transition game and counter attack and try to generate good scoring chances. I have no idea how you got this job, you do not seem to understand how the Canadians play.

    • It’s not just Corsi. It’s a variety of advanced statistics that state Montreal is getting by on goaltending alone. You say defense wins championships… but defense needs goals in order to win. And I’m not at all sure Montreal’s offense is as good as you think. In fact, I’m positive it’s not. Sure, Petry will help. However, when they place 22nd in shots against per game and rely heavily on shot blocking as much they do, it’s going to come back and bite them over time. Teams just can’t withstand that amount of physical punishment combined with the inherent physicality of the playoffs.

      Do you not remember the New York Rangers series last spring? Montreal didn’t lose because of bad goaltending. They lost because they had nothing left. It’s a cycle that’s unfortunately doomed to repeat itself, even with Price in nets. They lost the deciding game 1-0 for crying out loud.

      Montreal needs scoring. Granted, they need big bodies too, and Smith-Pelly should help them out in that regard, but scoring puts points on the board so defense can actually win championships. And I understand perfectly how the Canadiens play. It’s Canadiens with an ‘e’, by the way.

      • . Oh great your going to pick on my spelling.
        Now to the facts that matter. Last yr the Habs were not #6 in the league in scoring differential, like they are this yr. Big Difference. They score enough is my point and by enough I am taking into account that the Habs are a better defensive team than last yr. Blocking shots is exactly what I tried to tell you in my first post. I may not have spelled it out exactly BUT I did say that the way they play pads other teams corsi stats and blocking shots is part of that. All other advanced stats that I have seen you advanced analytics guys talk about are based on the same premise as Corsi. Attempted shot differential. They just base them on a player when he is on the ice compared to when he is not. The save percentage bs that is also used has little to do with a player unless your name is Kessel. The simple truth to my argument is that Montreal does not stress over shots for and against per game as much as they stress about the quality of shots for and against per game.

        • I wouldn’t say I was picking on your spelling. All I did was relatively politely mention in passing that you misspelled the name of the team you so crassly suggested I know very little about. Whatever conclusion you derive from that is on you… whether it’s that I’m picky or a bully or something more to do with you.

          That whole quality of shots for and against argument seems an awful lot what Toronto Maple Leafs fans and brass were clinging to for the past few years as the main reason why advanced stats are not the be all and end all. It’s awfully dangerous territory to delve into, is what I’m saying.

          Shot quality just doesn’t fly in the long term. It’s good to be opportunistic. It isn’t to depend on being opportunistic.

          I like the Canadiens. It’s hard not to when they’re so close to first place in the entire league. They may even get there tonight. But the way they play, they’re stacking the deck against themselves from the get-go. Winning a championship is tough enough. Throwing yourselves in front of pucks is expected to a certain degree during the playoffs. But to do it all the time? To play rope-a-dope in the hopes that your opponents give you openings often enough to score multiple goals? It’s too much to ask over an extended period of time, from Price, from the players in front of him as well when they have four rounds of that to look forward to. They may not stress over it, but they should be if they want to win a championship. This was evident last spring against the Rangers when the Habs couldn’t even get into New York’s zone in Game 6. I unfortunately envision something similar happening these playoffs. That may make me a pessimist. I’m thinking it makes me a realist.

          • Come on Ryan, Lets be real. Your comment about my spelling has no place on a sports website in a debate about any issue other than a spelling bee. Now your saying it is an issue with me? WOW, a little bit out there don’t you think.
            Next: I have watched hockey my entire life. I played it until my back would not let me play anymore (2008 is the last yr I played). I have coached competitive hockey for yrs. I tell you all this because I know from personal experience that the equipment available today is far superior to when I started out yrs ago. A properly outfitted player will not get that beat up blocking shots, if he wears the right protection and knows how to block shots properly. You put way to much emphasis on this and I can tell you it had absolutely nothing to do with why Montreal lost last yr to the Rangers.
            I agree they were gassed and out of steam in the Conf finals last yr, but that had more to do with conditioning and overplaying their top players. THIS is why MB went out and added depth to the team and improved their bottom 6 forwards last summer, so the team will not tire as easily as last yr. Montreal’s 3rd and 4th line played more minutes this yr than last and will thru the playoffs unless the Habs fall behind. This is the both the sole reason Montreal had nothing left for the Rangers and the main reason for adding depth.

            • All due respect, insulting someone by saying you have no idea how they got a job writing about a team and then misspelling that team’s name yourself, in the very same sentence? It has everything to do with relevancy here.

              In regard to the shot blocking, I don’t agree. In any case, let’s say I did. You’re saying Montreal’s third and fourth-liners will continue to play more minutes this year relative to last, assuming the Habs don’t fall behind in the playoffs. Who’s to say they won’t? Especially when they are not as top-heavy in their top six as they could be, without having added a skilled forward at the deadline?

            • So your saying your spelling comment was said out of spite, very good, at least we agree on that.
              They may very well fall behind Ryan, we just do not know. If they do then the top lines will play more, if they do not then the bottom 6 will get more minutes to try to keep the top 6 fresh. My whole point was that Montreal’s shot blocking had nothing to do with why they were gassed against NY last yr, it had to do with the top 6 playing to many minutes and the top 4 D as well. If you have access to a recording of the conf finals last yr, take a look at Markov, he was totally spent, he had no legs left, a result of too many minutes.

            • Do you really think that Markov would be the best example to illustrate your point? Given his injury history and age?

              In any case, Markov, Emelin, Subban, Weaver, Gorges all placed in the top 20 in blocked shots in last year’s playoffs. Five is the most of any team. Who’s to say they weren’t beat up from all the blocked shots. Block enough of them and padding won’t prevent you from getting sore.

              I honestly don’t know how you can prove your point is more valid than mine. Maybe your theory is just as valid in turn. Whichever it is, if not both, it’s a coaching matter, and it’s up to Michel Therrien to make the necessary adjustments, after, as you seem to be arguing, Bergevin supplied him with the tools to succeed.

            • Yes Markov is the perfect example especially considering his age. Thanks for helping to make my point. BTW, Markov has been healthy for the last 3 seasons, so what is your point? With the right padding you can block shots all day long and not ever get sore. Players get sore when the shots hit them where there is little or no padding. Blocking shots front on will all but eliminate that. Players usually get hurt when the puck hits them unexpectedly rather than from blocking them. Bergevin improved the team AND did not give away too much by adding depth. Will it be enough, we will see. If not, then Montreal still has all of their prospects (the Sekic deal is still too early to tell, size for skill?) and all of their top draft picks to come this yr.

            • I don’t see how Markov helps make your point. My point is that he’s one of Montreal’s older defensemen and he has more wear and tear. He’s more likely to be gassed than anyone else, regardless of whether or not he’s sore from blocking shots or playing too much.

  2. How is “If you can’t beat them, have them join you” nonsensical? It’s a play on “If you can’t beat them, join ’em.” Obviously. Montreal can’t join two Buffalo Sabres. It’s the other way around.

    As for the possession stats, you’re right… Mitchell and Flynn do have relatively decent possession numbers on a weak possession team. Although, for the record, looking at the NHL’s new enhanced stats, Mitchell has the 17th highest Corsi (SAT) rating, Flynn the 20th highest. I believe maybe you’re referring to Corsi (SAT) Rel? Mitchell is third-highest. Flynn is sixth. Corsi Close has them at 14th and 17th respectively.

    I don’t know how relevant saying they’re strong possession-wise, though. I would imagine it’s similarly irrelevant to saying Petry was Edmonton’s best defenseman. I think it remains to be seen how that translates in Montreal, which is admittedly another poor possession team. I imagine it will depend on how they’re deployed. Seeing as this is Therrien, who has his favourites, we’re talking about, I’m guessing they’ll have to work their way into his good graces, and that might mean limited ice time at the very least. That’s what I’m saying. They’re nothing but role players, which is important no doubt. It just doesn’t address Montreal’s most dire need in my opinion.

  3. Habs get depth, that’s “what else” they get. It may not be real sexy for the sexy hockey writers, but it is is consistent with MB/MT’s strategy — to have depth for a long play-off run. they now have about 5 players for every position except goaltender. There, they have about 1.5, and that’s the kicker — Price just can’t get injured (by Kreider or any other way).

    As recognized there wasn’t much available and what was, was over-priced. I hardly think Antoine Vermette was going to add anything to this team.

    Petry was a good deal, as a rental, from all we hear.

    On she goes. Lots of competition for spots (beyond two two lines/pairs), at any rate — and that can’t hurt focus and performance.

    • I think the price for Stewart was very good, and I think Montreal could have used another big body, especially one capable of playing on a top line, instead of another depth forward.

      I agree Bergevin did a good job overall. Getting Petry for what he did was a major coup. However, my opinion is Montreal’s offense (or lack thereof) was more of a concern. And he failed to address that.

      • Depends on context. MB’s context, and he’s been very clear on this, is that he is not willing to sacrifice the next few years to go for it this year.

        MB knows, and I also believe, this team does not peak for 2-4 seasons yet.

        It’s truly mind boggling that the premiere team in the Eastern Conference had been icing the youngest team in the entire League recently (yeah, Gonchar being out helps with that).

        MB is a patient, prudent man. Gotta have patience.

        (Sather is an old guy, and long into cigars — NYR needs to win soon (and they do look good; yes, they do)).

        • Should Price win the Vezina and or Hart this year, he can essentially get whatever he wants to be paid his next contract, which would start in 2018-2019. That means the Habs could very well end up with $20 million in cap space devoted to two players in him and Subban. With the weak Canadian dollar, who’s to say what the salary cap will be by then? That means Montreal in theory has a window of this year and the next three to win, in my opinion. I think they should have willingly parted ways with a draft pick to get Stewart (or someone else) instead of Flynn and Mitchell.

          • Wow your reply to Steph lacks insight. What Price is paid on his next contract will be cap dependant. If the Canadian Dollar goes down, then the cap will go down and top players will get less than if the cap goes up. At least if the GM is good they will. MB has shown he will not sell the farm to get a rental player and would only part with top draft picks if he gets something valuable in return. Montreal has several prospects that have NHL potential and they will take a few yrs to fully develop. However some of the yourng guns on the team now will have fully developed by then so their progress will dictate what MB does with price more so than the Cap in 2019.
            Price may take a home team discount as well, but if he does not I do not think MB will pay him so much that it handcuffs the team in the long run, why would he do that? Keeping the best goalie in the NHL is one thing, but what is the point if you have no shot at the cup in doing so? MB is smarter than you and I when it comes to managing a hockey team. Lets just see how this plays out in the long term instead of making bold uneducated guesses.

            • I don’t really agree with your assessment. I think Price will see what Subban is making and ask for the same amount at the very least. Emotionally investing in him taking a hometown discount will almost certainly lead to disappointment. But, sure, let’s see how this plays out instead of debating now.

            • Did you even read what I wrote Ryan? I never stated that I was praying for a home discount, I said Price may take one to stay in Montreal IF it was the only way he could stay ( a Stanley cup may be more valuable to him than cash). It has nothing to do with MB being cheap, it is cap economics. If MB can afford to pay Price top dollars and keep his core together (not necessarily the current core, but the core of 2019) then he will pay him. If he can not afford to do so, then he will probably let Price go instead of handcuffing the team to the point of having no shot at the cup.

            • As you said, I don’t think it’s worth it to make bold uneducated guesses at this point in regard to how Bergevin will treat Price a few years from now.

          • Not gonna win all 4 years. Next 3 years, one win would be fantastic, adn as much as any fan should reasonably expect. 30 teams, salary caps, injuries, luck … it’s a little much to win year after year.

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