NOVEMBER 1, 2017 | 3:57PM ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period
HOW PATIENT WILL MONTREAL BE?
TORONTO, ON -- With the first month of the season now in their rearview mirror, the Montreal Canadiens can focus on what lies ahead.
Having wrapped up October with a 4-7-1 record, the Habs aren't out of the mix by any stretch, but if the hole gets any deeper in November, some serious questions are going to need answering.
As many have reported, Canadiens owner Geoff Molson does not want to make an in-season change at the General Manager position. For now, he's going to let Marc Bergevin dig his way out of the team's sloppy start.
Fifteen percent of the season is in the books, and there's plenty of time to fix their crummy start, but the Habs need to do it from within, as Bergevin told his players last week. That doesn't mean the GM isn't exploring outside options; it simply illustrates his belief that a trade is not on the horizon -- at least not one that'll help either end of the ice in a big way.
Even with a significant contingent of the New York Rangers' management brass, led by Glen Sather, taking in Montreal's 8-3 win over the Ottawa Senators, I'm not led to believe a move between the two clubs is imminent. Is there interest? Sure sounds like it. But unless talks have picked up dramatically in the last 12-24 hours, it was simply the Blueshirts doing a little extra homework.
Andrew Shaw's name has popped up in the last week as a player both available and of interest to the Rangers. He has four-years left on his contract and comes with a $3.9 million salary cap hit. I get the sense the Canadiens are looking to package him for help elsewhere -- either on the blueline or in the form of more firepower up front -- but he's being dangled.
The Habs do want to find a puck-moving defenseman [insert snarky Andrei Markov comment here], but they aren't readily available and it'll take a decent package to acquire one. Montreal kicked the tires on Colorado Avalanche blueliner Tyson Barrie over the summer, as did the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it's unclear if they've revisited that option this season.
And while we're on the Colorado subject, yes the Habs spoke to the Avs about Matt Duchene, but unless the price tag changes, they aren't in the running, nor were they back in the summer.
The addition of Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev [insert snarky puck-moving defenseman comment here] played a factor in Montreal's lack of serious interest in Duchene, as did not wanting to move Alex Galchenyuk in a deal for him.
Montreal has been pretty adamant that they have not been actively shopping Galchenyuk -- multiple league sources confirmed, to their knowledge, he wasn't and hasn't been on the trade block, but that didn't and hasn't stopped teams from inquiring -- but you have to wonder what their plan for him truly is.
Galchenyuk, who signed a three-year deal worth $4.9 million per season in the off-season, has been relegated to the team's fourth line. He's picked up three goals in his last four games, but is averaging 12 minutes and 30 seconds in that span -- he skated in 10:43 on Montreal and 10:47 on Saturday. For a guy expected to be a top-line or top-six forward for this team, you've got to wonder what's going on. (And no, I can tell you it's not because of that very silly report).
There are plenty of teams interested in Galchenyuk -- a number of whom called Bergevin about him in the off-season, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes, among others -- and if the Canadiens refuse to give him top-six minutes, what's the point of keeping him?
Galchenyuk loves playing in Montreal. He loves the city and the team. But I wonder how frustrated he may be getting after his on-ice opportunities are being diminished.
It wouldn't surprise me if trade talks pick up and his name pops up in chatter in the coming weeks, but that won't guarantee a trade, either. At the end of the day, it's Bergevin's call, and so far he hasn't been willing to actively shop him -- which also means he hasn't found anything worth exploring.
At some point, the Canadiens are going to do something. Even though they've played much better lately and even if that keeps up, the team has holes at both ends of the ice. Eventually, they'll make a move. For now, Bergevin's willing to wait things out.
WELCOME BACK, KINGS
They aren't the same group from 2012 or 2014, but this season's Los Angeles Kings squad looks like it's having a lot of fun -- and that's the theme coming out of the locker room from every player.
The last two seasons for the Kings were not pleasant, and that's understating it. I've been around this team a lot since 2011, and nobody has been connected to them more than Dennis Bernstein, who has covered the team for more than 10 seasons. We both saw it. We both heard it. Frustration across the board. Things were ugly.
By the end of last season, many of the team's players, including some of its top players, were fed up. Going to the rink wasn't exciting, anymore. The game wasn't fun. Something had to give.
Since replacing Darryl Sutter behind the bench and Dean Lombardi in the GM slot, this Kings team and its core have been completely rejuvenated. As Dennis wrote earlier this week, players have openly said "hockey is fun again" and that's not an understatement.
During last week's stop in Toronto, I spoke with several Kings players and could clearly see a different group of guys than yesteryear. They're enjoying themselves, eager to compete, and the likes of Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty seem like their old selves.
For hockey in California, having the Kings on top of their game is a good thing. For the L.A. market, a winning team steals headlines away from the competition. That, too, is a good thing.
I'm interested to see how things progress for the Kings. While having Brown, Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick return to form is a highly positive and important step, seeing head coach John Stevens hand responsibility over to youngsters Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo and Oscar Fantenberg, who missed the last two games with back spasms, has helped spread the depth around the lineup.
I wouldn't be shocked to see this team add a veteran center for its third or fourth line and/or a second-pair defenseman later on in the season, but the issue isn't as pressing as many first thought, especially with Jeff Carter out a significant chunk of the season as he recovers from a cut to his leg/ankle.
LEAFS ENDURE EARLY FUNK
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a bit of a funk after starting the season 7-2-0. They've lost three straight and head coach Mike Babcock's fumes can be seen from miles away.
Toronto's issue, while primarily defensive (an area the team will eventually address via trade), seems to be mental. Right now, anyway. After losing 6-3 to Carolina last Thursday, the played better in a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, and stayed in it Monday in a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks, where they only managed 18 shots.
The Leafs pride themselves on their offense, and when that isn't going, it can get frustrating. Their overall depth up front can go up against any team in the League, but defensively this team slips up. Blame starter Frederik Andersen all you want -- the fans were all over him in the first month of last season, too -- he's more than capable of handling the load as the club's No.1.
It's all going to come down to the Maple Leafs' young guns growing up fast and pushing through a early slump. There are 60 games left on Toronto's schedule. Nobody needs to panic, and the team will tell you this is still a team in transition. But the roster suggests they're ready to compete now, so better to have gone through this slide at the end of October than the end of March.
The Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche will play two games in Stockholm, Sweden next Friday and Saturday as part of the League's push to enhance its product overseas, much like when they held two exhibition games in Shanghai and Beijing in September between the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks.
Featuring Erik Karlsson and Gabriel Landeskog, the games will take place inside the Ericsson Globe and fans in Sweden seem pretty excited for some NHL action.
TFP's Dennis Bernstein and I will be heading over to cover the games and experience how things surrounding the NHL have evolved, fanwise, since we last went over with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2010 when they took on the San Jose Sharks to start the 2010-11 season.
Cheap plug, but stay tuned to both Dennis and I, and our social feeds, for some fun content from Stockholm all of next week.