The Montreal Canadiens didn’t make the Jarome Iginla shortlist, they didn’t land future Hall-of-Famer Jaromir Jagr either. There was talk that perhaps the team was interested in Ryan Clowe, but that didn’t pan out. In fact, the Canadiens didn’t make a single trade on deadline day, their only move leading up to the deadline was swapping a fifth round pick for defenseman Davis Drewiske from the L.A. Kings, someone who likely wouldn’t see much ice time if Raphael Diaz and the rest of Montreal’s defense were healthy.
On the surface, the Canadiens seem to have missed some opportunities heading into the postseason. Their biggest competition in the East, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins, both made high profile moves to improve their chances at postseason success. Pittsburgh picked up Jerome Iginla, and that was after adding Brendan Morrow and Douglas Murray. Boston scooped up Jagr and also added Wade Redden to help out on the blueline.
Even a bubble team like the New York Rangers, who the Habs could ending up facing in the opening round of the playoffs, must be watched closely after picking up Ryan Clowe and trading Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets for Derick Brassard, John Moore and Derek Dorsett. Clowe, Moore and Brassard combined for 4 goals and 4 assists in their first game with the Rags, helping the team to a 6-1 victory against the Eastern leading Pens no less.
While other teams were busy stocking up for a deep playoff run or unloading for a chance to start fresh next year, Marc Bergevin seems content to face the next test with the troops he has now. And really, who can blame him?
To say the Canadiens have been better than expected this season would be a massive understatement. The team is not only playoff bound, they’ll be fighting for top spot in the Northeast division at the end of the season, perhaps even top spot in the East. But even with their success, Bergevin is still just in the first phase of his makeover, and trading prospects or draft picks for rentals just isn’t in the plans right now.
The Canadiens will take their chances with the roster they have, content with the additions of Davis Drewicke, a 28-year old defenseman with 125 games experience that will add depth to the Habs blueline, and with the pickup of Jeff Halpern, a veteran fourth liner that Habs fans are familiar with, Halpern specializes on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle. They’ll be happy as well with the earlier trade of Erik Cole for Michael Ryder, a move that has already paid big dividends for the Habs.
Did the Canadiens take big strides to improve their team at the deadline? No. Did they fall behind teams like the Penguins and Bruins? Almost certainly. But were they big losers at the deadline? Definitely not, the team stuck to the program and Bergevin did well not to deviate from his long term plan in the face of stiffening competition.
The Habs will take a solid, well-rounded core of players that have developed fantastic chemistry into the postseason. More importantly, they aren’t sacrificing their chances at future success for instant gratification.
Rob has been blogging about the Habs since 2011 at MontrealHockeyTalk.com and can usually be heard before every Canadiens games on the MHT Pregame Show.