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Dreger explores fixes awaiting Islanders and Canadiens

Chris Nichols

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(Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

Both the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens have endured seasons each organization would largely rather forget.

There also remains a tie between the two fan bases, with one hoping to poach another’s superstar to help alleviate the suffering.

Thursday’s episode of the John Tavares soap opera transitioned for Darren Dreger between radio hits on Edmonton’s TSN 1260 and Montreal’s TSN 690.

We begin in Edmonton, where the Insider was asked what has gone wrong with the Islanders this season.

“As much as Garth Snow doesn’t want to admit this, and in fact face it, there still seems to be a pretty significant goaltending issue with the New York Islanders,” indicated Dreger. “You can’t hang it all on goaltending. You never can. But they had key injuries to their defense so they, not unlike the Edmonton Oilers, have had similar problems to contend with. The goaltending hasn’t been consistent enough and defensively they haven’t been there.

“And as of late, there have been other issues that have started to creep in among the stars. John Tavares, as an example, hasn’t been as impactful or as dynamic in the last number of games than what we’re accustomed to seeing from him.

“So where do they begin to fix it? I mean, this seems like an age-old story with the New York Islanders. But you’re right, it seemed like they were on the cusp of turning that corner a year ago and yet here they are again. And the uncertainty around John Tavares has to feel like it’s almost crippling for that organization.

“They’ve got some bright spots, no question. Mathew Barzal is right at the front of the line, no doubt about that. But there are so many other question marks and wholes that Garth Snow is going to have to contend with. It’s hard to envision the New York Islanders being that good anytime soon.”

Dreger revisits Tavares UFA possibility for Canadiens

This leads us back to Montreal, where team owner Geoff Molson’s vote of confidence for general manager Marc Bergevin was going over about as well as you’d expect.

Dreger was asked on 690 how he thought a conversation between the two men might go, in terms of Bergevin’s pitch that he’s the man to fix the mess with the Canadiens.

“I don’t think he has to convince Geoff Molson at all. He has the job,” noted Dreger. “I mean, it’s up to Geoff Molson to decide whether Marc Bergevin is the right guy to execute the plan that he’s going to put forward and probably has already.

“So I think you’re part right. I think that Bergevin most definitely would map out a strategy and he would present how he’s going to further develop the Montreal Canadiens into a much brighter future. And I would suspect there’s some pretty bold actions that he intends to take in the not-too-distant future.

“A lot of that stuff is what we’ve talked about – the quest for John Tavares. And the means of which – maybe they use Pacioretty or they use some of the other pieces to acquire if not another center, then acquire a defenseman or some other way of helping the Montreal Canadiens achieve their goal with a window closing on Carey Price in terms of being a Stanley Cup contender.

“So it’s less about selling job security from Bergevin’s perspective, I would think, and more about just showing the owner that, ‘Okay, here’s our plan. Here’s what we intend to do.’ And then it’s up to Molson to decide whether he likes it or not and evidently he likes what he’s seeing.

“Now, the execution could be something far different. If Bergevin emerges from another offseason of trying and comes up empty-handed, maybe Molson at that point looks at his status a little bit differently.”

690 host Conor McKenna joked about his theory that “maybe Marc Bergevin did a PowerPoint presentation that was just Photoshopped photos of John Tavares in a Habs uniform, and that’s how he convinced Geoff Molson.”

McKenna asked Dreger if he still thought making a big play for Tavares is “at least part of the plan for Marc Bergevin.”

“I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be at least part of the plan,” said Dreger. “When you’re so desperate to add such an impactful piece and you’re incapable of doing that via trade – and that’s not a knock on Marc Bergevin. I mean, you just can’t make meaningful trades like that during the season. It doesn’t happen, or it happens once a year. I mean, we saw it in the three-way with Ottawa, Nashville and Colorado.

“But you’re talking about a player that goes beyond being an impact player. I mean, John Tavares is a superstar and when those guys become available and you have a very specific need, which the Habs clearly do, then you have to be all-in, don’t you?

“And if John Tavares isn’t No. 1 on Marc Bergevin’s list, then I’m not sure what direction Bergevin wants to take this club. Now getting him is going to be something entirely different because you’re not talking about a select audience here. You’re talking about double-digit teams minimum that are going to make their pitches to John Tavares – again, assuming that he gets to free agency, and more and more it looks likely that he will.

“And it’s got to be the right fit. It’s not just about the money. The money is going to be there. Tavares – if he leaves the Islanders – has to be absolutely sure that he’ll be able to win in the near future with the team that he’s jumping to. And he’s going to, I’m sure, go through a forensic assessment with Pat Brisson and others who will help him to try to decide if Montreal is a great fit, is it San Jose, what other teams are better.”

Tavares, as you may have heard, can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The 27-year-old center has been eligible to sign a contract extension with the Islanders for more than eight months, but continues to inch toward what could become an extremely interesting UFA interview period in the days leading to July 1.

Source: TSN 1260, TSN 690

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