Call of the Wilde: the Habs glass

It’s time to evaluate how much water is in the glass. For most, the glass isn’t just half empty, it’s also got a leak. For others, with an idea of the quality of prospect that has been drafted, the glass isn’t just half full, it’s also taking on volume.

Wasn’t long ago, the glass was rather full but mistakes have been made.

So. Many. Mistakes.

The Montreal Canadiens were in the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals in 2014. Last season, they finished 28th in a 31-team league. Do not despair because the deepest part of the valley of shame is happening right now.

READ MORE: Hockey commentator Brian Wilde returns to Global News for second season

Surely, you should not expect much from the Habs this season. The defence is the same as it was last year and the problem at centre ice has not been rectified for now. The season starts with the Habs having not only no left-handed first-pairing defenceman, but because of injury to Shea Weber, they do not even have a right-handed first-pairing defenceman either. You cannot find success without first-pair defencemen. It’s just not possible.

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You also can’t find success without a first or second-line centre. Jonathan Drouin will start as the first-line centre and Philip Danault will start as the second-line centre. Drouin is a winger. Danault is a third-line centre.

No defence. No centre. No success.

WATCH: Brian Wilde: Habs can only go up from here

Brian Wilde: Habs can only go up from here
Brian Wilde: Habs can only go up from here

So for those who are expecting some sort of Carey Price led revolution for 2018-2019, he can’t score too, and he can’t make sure that the quality of shot facing him is not extraordinarily unsaveable. Expect this season for the Habs to improve by 10 points on a better Price and the return of Weber eventually. That would put them outside of the playoffs looking in again by a large margin. It would leave them drafting at around the seventh spot which will again help the farther future.

Ah yes! The future where what is happening now is actually the right path for a parade one day down Ste-Catherine Street. Champions start their road to glory with horrendous seasons. Champions draft Kane and Toews. Champions draft Crosby and Malkin. Champions draft Ovechkin and Backstrom.

The rebuild is on and it cannot be pushed too quickly. It has to be complete. That means another year at least of a high first-round draft choice and many draft choices in the rest of the rounds.

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What about Max Pacioretty?

That brings us to the topic du jour: what to do with Max Pacioretty?

There is so much anxiety and consternation over the present state of affairs but the vision of a Pacioretty solution will be seen only in the fullness of time.

READ MORE: Max Pacioretty’s agent denies trade request

Admittedly, it looks horrible at the moment: both sides are entrenched and there is anger. Pacioretty has stated that he wants to play in Montreal and has been a solid citizen of the community donating both time and money to a city that players don’t generally fall in love with considering taxes, weather, language, and media attention. It is easy to support someone who loves your town: its culture, its language, its spirit.

But this is business — and the business is hockey. From a business stand point, this script has only one important moment and that is what is the return for Max Pacioretty because he is getting traded.

READ MORE: Habs captain Pacioretty’s future still uncertain as NHL season looms

The Habs have not made him a contract offer at all — not even a bad one for him to reject. The criticism is that Pacioretty has bargained hard, but he hasn’t even been given a chance to bargain. The criticism is that Allan Walsh, his agent, has caused difficulties but let’s begin with the obvious here: Walsh is merely representing his client and they work together toward a common goal. That goal is Pacioretty’s better welfare. Walsh does nothing without Pacioretty’s approval.

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Marc Bergevin is not giving Pacioretty an offer. With his actions so far, the GM is stating the very obvious that he does not see his goal-scoring winger as a cornerstone piece in his rebuild. He does not pay for Pacioretty’s past. He pays for his future. And clearly, Bergevin does not believe enough in Pacioretty’s future.

No offer. No chance. No Pacioretty. New captain.

Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (67) gains control og the puck at the tip of his stick during the Buffalo Sabres at Montreal Canadiens game at Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec. Montreal Canadiens win 2-1 in overtime. Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
Max Pacioretty has yet to receive a new offer. David Kirouac/CSM/REX/Shutterstock

Bergevin is keeping quiet on the matter, saying he does not discuss these things in the media and that is exactly how it should be. In fact, a clever GM would be extolling the virtues of his player like he is a god while trading him behind the scenes. Don’t think the only game everyone plays is just on the ice: business is gamesmanship.

However, from a hockey point of view, Bergevin has failed so far. This deal should have been made long ago when Pacioretty was hot scoring at a near goal a game pace for a half a dozen games in January — not when he concludes the season with an injury and has his lowest goal total in a long time of 17.

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It’s a stock market and Pacioretty’s stock is down. However, as dark as it does look, remember that there’s only one moment that counts: the end.

When does the future start?

The general manager of the Colorado Avalanche looked completely over his head in dealing Matt Duchene. Joe Sakic looked to be a fool, but what happened? In the end, Sakic hit a grand slam on the deal, getting talented players in return that brought the Avs back to the playoffs. He also snagged this season a first-round draft choice of the Ottawa Senators, a team destined to finish bottom five in the league. Wizardry! Absolute Sakic wizardry when it looked like a mess.

So wait to see what the return is on Pacioretty. It might be wise to see if he can get off to a hot start this season to improve the return. In fact, do your best to help Pacioretty get off to that hot start with the best line mates, power play time, offensive zone starts, and easy match-ups.

READ MORE: Montreal Canadiens trade Alex Galchenyuk to Coyotes for Max Domi

No one should expect a Sakic-like return, but when you believe that your player is not part of a cornerstone rebuild, then a trade return of a first-round draft choice or a return of a first or second line player is a strong return.

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Why? Because by the time that the Habs are ready to contend for a cup, Pacioretty will be supposedly on the downswing.

So why keep Price and Weber if the next two or three years will be grim? Because they are cornerstone pieces in a rebuild. At least the management believes this. And you will need cornerstone pieces to mesh with the more talented recruits.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi will bring some potential to the Montreal Canadiens.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi will bring some potential to the Montreal Canadiens. AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

Instead of seeing players in the young queue who have third line potential, the Habs finally have some first line potential in the Poehlings and the Kotkaniemis of the hockey world. Instead of seeing a centre position where no one ever managed to fit a first line centre role for two decades, finally in the pipeline is a centre position of riches with also Hillis, Evans, Olofsson with much upside.

The future does look bright, but when does that future start?

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Not this season. Might not even be the following season as the talented youthful players get comfortable in the greatest hockey league in the world. Their arrival into the league doesn’t mean they instantly contribute 75-point seasons. They will need their time too.

READ MORE: Montreal Canadiens pick forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi third overall at NHL draft

But do not despair in the long run. Trevor Timmins will have many picks and high picks for next year and likely the following year too. The Habs base of strength at the wings now and in the net will remain. The highly talented rookies will become comfortable veterans.

Sports has an ebb and flow like waves in the ocean. When you are strong, you draft 25th, and eventually you are weak. When you are weak, you draft top five and eventually you are strong.

Everyone must focus on the long view to do this right.

The glass does also fill up — in time.

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