On Team Canada, “A” is for Anderson

Love him or hate him, or anything in between, one would have to be of bad faith to deny that former Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin wasn’t an expert at big trades. The rest is debatable but there is no doubt that during his nine plus years at the helm of the Habs, he has not lost many trades, let alone ones involving big name players.

Remember when Bergevin acquired Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers for a second and fourth round pick? Or perhaps you recall when he got Phillip Danault and a second round pick (Alexander Romanov) from the Chicago Blackhawks for pending UFAs Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann? He also traded Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes for Max Domi, who then had a 72-points season with the Habs. Max Pacioretty was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a second round pick, a pick which was later traded to draft Mattias Norlinder. The one that spilled a lot of ink, the trade he was most criticized about, was when he traded for Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators for fan favourite P.K. Subban. Even the most vocal at the time now recognize that Bergevin won that trade by a landslide.

The one trade that I want to talk about today, though, is then one when the former Canadiens’ GM traded a struggling Domi in his second season in Montreal, to the Columbus Blue Jackets for power forward Josh Anderson.

The power horse

Back on October 6, 2020, the Canadiens announced that they had traded Max Domi and a third round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Anderson.

The trade, as most big trades are, was a bit controversial in Montreal as the then 26-year-old Anderson had only one goal and four points in 26 games with the Blue Jackets the previous season. He hadn’t played since March after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. Both Domi and Anderson were pending RFAs and two days after the trade, Bergevin signed the 6-foot 3-inches, 222 lbs winger to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract extension.

Anderson displays a rare combination of size, speed, physicality and goals’ scoring abilities while being defensively responsible. He can and will drop the gloves if or when needed as well. In two seasons since the trade (one shortened by COVID), he has scored 36 goals in 121 regular season’s games, which is the equivalent of 24 goals over an 82-games season. The power forward has also lit the lamp five times during the Canadiens’ playoffs’ run last year.

Leadership

Anderson loves playing in Montreal, in a hockey market. At the end of the season, he told every reporter that he did not want to be traded after the team’s horrible season. He wants to be part of the solution and, as he stated, he did not sign in Montreal for seven years to be traded after a couple of years.

Multiple times in the two seasons, he has shown leadership qualities. When he spoke to the media after the team’s poor effort, he has always backed his words by his actions, having a good game the following night. Many of us qualify him as a Brendan Gallagher on steroids. A hard working player making his opponents aware when he’s on the ice, a player who can hurt the opponents in many different ways.

Team Canada invited him to the World Championships this year, an invitation that Anderson accepted. The brass of Hockey Canada recognized the Canadiens’ forward’s leadership qualities when they gave him the title of assistant-captain of the team. And while they may not give him the captaincy in Montreal, it’s just a matter of time before the Canadiens imitate Team Canada and put an “A” on his jersey… as “A” is for Anderson.

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Times When Fans’ Outrage Was Not Justified

By JD Lagrange – At times, fans and media members’ anger can be somewhat understood and even justified. Like anything else in life, when making tough decisions, you will be proven right on some and wrong on others. Show me someone who always makes the right decisions and I’ll show you a liar. However, what’s often troubling is that fans (and some media) are acting like only their opinion is right and everyone thinking differently is wrong.

Right now, many fans have this pre-conceived idea that player X should be drafted in a specific spot. If someone dares challenging their beliefs, those people become very defensive, even aggressive. Just recently, Canadiens’ GM Kent Hughes stated that he wants his team to get bigger up at the forward position. Based on those comments, Marc-Olivier Beaudoin hinted that perhaps, Hughes would be tempted to select 6-foot 4-inches and 218 lbs Juraj Slafkovsky instead of Logan Cooley if the Canadiens don’t win the Draft lottery. Oh boy, the reactions… or overreactions I should say!

7 proven overreactions

Everyone is an expert. Everyone knows better than the pros with tons of experience who work at the NHL level. Everyone is better than scouts, GMs, coaches and they even know better than players. Social media, combined with this troubling need to be right and disturbing pride to not be proven wrong, have created monsters.

And when something happens, a decision is made by the team, that goes against their beliefs, it turns into an outrage. It becomes an all out public attack on the decision-maker(s). There is just no grey area, no room for give and take. Too few can say that they don’t like a decision acknowledge that they could be wrong in the long run. Worse now, there’s a lot of revisionary attitudes and we have an example of that with the Phillip Danault situation.

Here is a list of events where there has been a fans’ outrage on social media. Loud, angry mobs of fans speaking out against a decision made by the Montreal Canadiens’ brass… only to prove to be the right decision at the end.

7- Noah Juulsen on waivers

According to fans back then, the Canadiens were incompetent losing such a promising young prospect for nothing by placing him on waivers. They were convinced that he would become a very good player in the NHL and that the Habs’ brass made a monumental mistake.

Fact: After a good start, Juulsen had suffer countless injuries that set him back in his development. Claimed by the Florida Panthers off waivers, he played four games for them with no points and a minus -3 differential. He was later traded to the Vancouver Canucks, along with Juho Lammikko for another under-performing prospect, Olli Juolevi. Juulsen has played eight games with the Canucks this season. Was it worth the outrage? Answer: no.

6- Nathan Beaulieu trade

Many, myself included, felt like Nate the Great would be the perfect guy to step up and be Shea Weber’s partner when the Canadiens acquired the veteran defenseman. The failed experiment lasted a year and the following summer, he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for a third round pick. From many fans’ reactions, it seems like many felt like the team was trading away a future Norris Trophy winner.

Fact: It turned out that Nate was not so great. While he has had a good career in the NHL, he has always been a third pairing defenseman. In fact, it didn’t take long for fans to forget about him and leave the GM alone. Instead, they focussed on other things to swear about. Was it worth the outrage? Answer: no.

5- Alexander Romanov selection

Alexander Romanov

It wasn’t so much the fact that the Canadiens drafted Romanov that was the issue with fans (and some media) back then. People felt like they could have gotten him in the fifth round or so, and they felt like Trevor Timmins wasted a pick to get him in the second round, #38 overall at the 2018 NHL Draft.

Fact: After that, the young Russian’s career took off and proved his worth at the World Junior Championships. People only looked at the young man’s offensive statistics, playing in the KHL (at a very young age), to base their judgments. That and he was ranked much, much lower on the NHL Central Scouting lists. If the Draft was to be redone, he would be a first round pick. Was it worth the outrage? Answer: no.

4- Victor Mete on waivers

The fans’ reaction to the Canadiens losing Mete to waivers was worse than when Juulsen suffered the same fate. Listening to the media and reading fans’ comments on social media, it was like losing the second coming of Bobby Orr! It really got ugly out there. “They should have traded him and got something in return”, they were saying. Yes, like they didn’t try to do that! They preferred risking losing him for nothing! *sigh*

Fact: Mete played 14 games with the Senators, who claimed him, during the 2020-21 season. This past season, he managed 37 games. In total with Ottawa, he accumulated one goal, eight assists and finished with a differential of minus -14. The Senators recently announced that they would not qualify the pending RFA and he will be free to go where he wants. Was it worth the outrage? Answer: no.

3- Alexander Radulov

Radulov had a horrible reputation as a coach killer and a selfish player. He wanted to prove that he had matured and back then, no one was willing to take a flyer on him in his quest to return to the NHL. The Canadiens took that risk and it paid off for both parties. He then became a pending UFA. Fans were outraged when Radulov signed in Dallas. Some are still blaming Bergevin to this date for it. Yet, the Canadiens’ GM had reportedly offered the same deal to Radulov.

Fact: Radulov had two good seasons in Dallas, his first two. But the wheels fell off rather rapidly for the Russian player. In his final three seasons, he has played a total of 142 games in which he managed only 23 goals in total. This past season, he had four goals and 23 points in 71 games with the Stars, with a differential of minus -20. He is a healthy scratch in the playoffs right now. Was it worth the outrage? Answer: no.

2- Alex Galchenyuk trade for Max Domi

Who can forget the fans and media reactions to this trade? It was surpassed only by one other trade and we’ll get to that one next. How dare they trade the former third overall pick for a player who had scored nine goals the season before?

Fact: Galchenyuk managed 19 goals and 41 points (-19) the following season while Domi had 72 points, including 28 goals (+20) in his first season in Montreal. Galchenyuk as since bounced around from team to team ever since, with his best production being six goals, while the Canadiens traded Domi for… Josh Anderson. Was it worth the outrage? Answer: definitely not.

1- Shea Weber for P.K. Subban trade

We cannot talk about fans and media overreaction without talking about this famous trade. Some rich doctor even bought a full page ad in a local newspaper and fans jumped ship on that one. Never have I seen so much hater, so many over the top comments, and such aggression on the part of fans on social media, but also from media outlets. It was shameful. Worse, they all had to eat crow soon after…

Fact: The Canadiens won that deal and aside from year one, it wasn’t even close. Weber kept with his steady play while Subban’s game continuously regressed. Further – and that’s something too few people recognize – Weber brought in a new culture in work ethics and conduct for the young players like Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Alexander Romanov to follow. Was it worth the outrage? Answer: Absolutely and categorically not.

So fans, can we just take a chill pill and a deep breath before flying off the handle? Can we learn from this and understand that it’s not all black or white, that there are many shades of grey? It’s okay to have an immediate reaction. But it’s also okay to acknowledge that you don’t like something right now and hope to be wrong down the line. It’s okay to recognize that there are pros and cons to every decision, even if we disagree with them. And last but not least, it’s okay to say that we were proven wrong. Humility is a good thing.

Will people cool off and change? Allow me to doubt it. I mean, we’re talking about some media and a fan base that talked about Shea Weber not being at Guy Lafleur’s ceremony at the Bell Centre for… five days! Here’s even a prediction: the next outrage will happen at the NHL Draft in Montreal, particularly if the Canadiens don’t win the Draft Lottery. Any takers?

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