BROSSARD - While some players haven't necessarily met general manager Marc Bergevin's expectations thus far this year, others have made a serious impression.
Not surprisingly, right-wingers Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson were among several newcomers identified by Bergevin on Monday who were given a resounding thumbs up for their important contributions through 15 games.
Toffoli sits tied for third in the League with 10 goals alongside Nikolaj Ehlers of the Winnipeg Jets.
Anderson, meanwhile, has nine goals on his resume, which ranks him fourth alongside names like Connor McDavid and Joe Pavelski.
Bergevin lauded both Ontarians for their outstanding efforts during a 45-minute press conference via Zoom from the Bell Sports Complex.
"Josh checked off all the boxes in terms of what I expected from him when I acquired him. I like what he brings, even when he doesn't score. Am I surprised? No, but I'm happy that he's bringing what we expected from him," praised Bergevin. "Ty is a natural scorer. I really like the detail in his game. When you see a player every day, you appreciate him even more. I see exactly what our scouts said about him. I take a lot of pride in seeing both of those players producing the way they are."
Video: Bergevin gives his assessment through 15 games
While Toffoli is tied for the team lead in scoring with 15 points (10 goals, 5 assists) with defenseman Jeff Petry, Anderson boasts 11 points (9 goals, 2 assists), including three-game winning markers, and his 42 hits are a team-high.
The pair has quickly proven their worth in their new digs and immediately caught the attention of the man who acquired their respective services back in October.
"I think Josh brings a real presence on Nick Suzuki's line. I really appreciate his physical presence. It's an element we didn't have before. Along with the goals, that's really something that he brought us," insisted Bergevin. "Tyler is a very intelligent player. When I talk about him, I like to use the expression: "When the puck leaves his stick, it always ends up in a better spot." He always puts the pucks in the right places. It isn't just that he scores goals, it's also the small details that he brings to our team."
Blueliner Joel Edmundson was also commended for "bringing stability" to the team's defense corps as a solid partner for Petry, and goaltender Jake Allen earned a seal of approval for coming up clutch when called upon between the pipes.
Through six outings, Allen has compiled a 4-2-0 record, along with a 2.01 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage, affording Carey Price some valuable rest amid a condensed schedule.
Things haven't gone as smoothly for veteran forwards Tomas Tatar and Paul Byron during the first four weeks of the campaign, resulting in some tough decisions being made in their regard.
Tatar, who has four goals and eight points, was a healthy scratch for Saturday night's game in Toronto, while Byron was placed on waivers on Sunday before being assigned to the team's taxi squad on Monday. He has just three assists to date.
"For Tomas, Claude has talked to him. We expect more. I understand scoring goals is big, but also there's little details to your game that allow you to score goals. When those details aren't there, it's harder. Tomas is a good pro. I'm not only looking at him in terms of scoring goals, I'm also looking at what else he does when he doesn't score. That's a part of his game that he has to improve. Now we have depth, so it's easier for Claude to make that decision," explained Bergevin. "As far as Pauly, it's a little bit of both. I've talked to Pauly personally and I want more from him. I know when he's at his best what he does. There's also the business side of it with the cap being flat, being able to take a risk that he will clear waivers and give us more cap space, especially in a week where we don't have any games."
Evaluating the group
The Canadiens' headed into their extended break this week on a positive note after staging that come-from-behind victory at Scotiabank Arena.
Having dropped three of their previous four contests, it was critical to get back on the winning track before enjoying some downtime on home turf.
Like head coach Claude Julien, Bergevin wasn't pushing the panic button when the team was struggling recently because he's well aware that difficult stretches are simply inevitable.
"We started the season well, but the other teams always find ways to adapt. Sometimes, you get too comfortable and you pay less attention to detail. It's all a part of an NHL season. The last team that didn't face adversity during the regular season over the last few years was Tampa Bay, and they ended up losing in four games to Columbus in the playoffs. They learned lessons from that. You always have to find a way to overcome adversity," said Bergevin. "There won't be any easy games. There are periods that are more difficult than others. You have to get out of it. We picked up a big win in Toronto and we're benefiting from a good week of practice now. There's going to be a lot of hockey in the coming months."
But the former defenseman believes this group is fully capable of weathering any storm that comes its way.
Take the tilt versus Toronto, for example, when the Habs were outplayed through 40 minutes and rebounded in the final frame with a pair of goals, including Brendan Gallagher's decisive strike with 3:06 left in regulation.
That's something Bergevin genuinely appreciates about this roster.
"We have more depth to score goals. Last year, Gally's line was the most productive of the bunch. The distribution of goals is more balanced with Nick, Josh and Jonathan Drouin, who are all playing very good hockey," said Bergevin. "Eventually, we're definitely going to have some tough stretches again. It's a very competitive League. It's harder and harder to score goals. We have to be patient and score dirty goals like Gally did in Toronto to give us the win."