What the Puck: Weber's woes symbolic of Canadiens' recent struggles

Habs captain's decline highlights GM Marc Bergevin's mistake of trying to win now instead of planning for the future.

Montreal Canadiens defenceman Shea Weber moves the puck during first period against the Calgary Flames in Montreal on April 14, 2021.

The perfect symbol of the 2021 Montreal Canadiens is their captain, Shea Weber. I have nothing against the Man Mountain, but he more than anyone perfectly represents general manager Marc Bergevin’s lack of a vision for this team.

Weber has played some great hockey, though not recently. It’s not his fault. He’s just too old for today’s game, just like another Bergevin acquisition, Eric Staal.

As an aside, it’s hilarious to note that three key members of the current Habs squad — Weber, Staal, and Corey Perry — were all on that epic Canadian team that won Olympic gold in … 2010! That plays right into the jokes about how Bergevin is building the perfect team to win the 2010 Stanley Cup, complete with a big, lumbering defence corps that seems so out of line with today’s speedy National Hockey League.

But let’s return to the curious case of Weber. He looks terrible out there. He keeps making costly mistakes that would result in anyone else being benched by interim head coach Dominique Ducharme. The entire Canadiens team, with the exception of Jake Allen, sucked eggs Wednesday in a must-win game against the Calgary Flames. But it was Weber who made sure they lost with a boneheaded play in his own zone that led to third Calgary goal and the final nail in the coffin.

He just keeps doing things like that. He did the same thing Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets, coming out from behind his own net with the puck and promptly losing it right in front of Allen, leading directly to the fifth Jets goal. Then there’s the small matter that he simply isn’t fast enough to keep up with the elite skaters on the three teams ahead of Montreal in the North Division.

This is not a knock on Weber — it’s just where this 35-year-old is in his career — it’s a knock on Bergevin. I have written that I didn’t like the 2016 trade that sent P.K. Subban to Nashville in return for Weber. I know Subban is a shadow of the player he once was, but my point is that the trade didn’t help the Habs win anything.

They’ve only played two playoffs series since Weber donned a CH jersey and lost both. Now Weber is on the wrong side of his career. Trading for Weber was a win-now move and that was just dumb. Everyone knew that Canadiens team was nowhere near win-now.

They’re not even in win-now mode this season. They’re in let’s-try-to-save-Bergevin’s-job mode. But even that might not work. I love all of the off-season acquisitions. But the team’s still clinging to the final playoff position and it doesn’t appear they’ll have much playoff success. If the Canadiens meet Toronto in the first round, do you really believe they can beat Auston Matthews & Co. in a seven-game series?

The problem is the GM’s lack of vision. There are some potentially great young players, notably Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov and Cole Caufield, who should peak in about four years. So that’s when Montreal might contend.

In other words, a GM with a vision would be planning for that. He wouldn’t be pulling out all stops this year. But Bergevin doesn’t do smart planning. Think about this: The GM dithers for nine years and then all of a sudden during the off-season, he finally spends to the cap and gets a bunch of quality guys.

Why now? Perhaps because his contract is up at the end of next season? The current slump is in large part due to the fact that this team is built around centres who are simply not up to the job. Kotkaniemi and Suzuki are too young to handle the load, Phillip Danault’s only a No. 1 centre in the parallel universe that is the Canadiens and, since I wish to remain polite, let’s just not talk about Staal.

To come back to Weber and the vision thing, someone with a plan would’ve traded Subban, a very hot item at the time, for a bona fide No. 1 centre. Heck, he could’ve thrown Carey Price into the deal. He certainly should’ve traded Price around that time, when he had real value because he was one of the best goalies in hockey.

Instead Montreal is stuck with guys who are too old and guys who are too young.

  1. None

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  2. In two games with the AHL’s Laval Rocket, Cole Caufield has 3-1-4 totals, including two game-winning goals.

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  3. Montreal Canadiens defenceman Brett Kulak scores a goal against Calgary Flames' Jocob Markstrom during second period in Montreal on April 14, 2021.

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  4. Montreal Canadiens left-wing Tomas Tatar celebrates his goal against Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell with teammates during the first period at Bell Centre in Montreal on April 12, 2021.

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