Well, according to The Bob himself, things look less than positive on the big bald Swede front. A guy who hasn't asked any questions about the team hoping to sign him seems to project a general lack of interest in joining said team. And, if he's not even talking to Gainey with less than three weeks left before camp, then I'll agree our reasons for optimism have dwindled alarmingly.
It's saddening to realize that sweet Kovalev/Sundin/Tanguay PP line won't be scaring the crap out of the opposition. I mean, I like the Habs as they are right now, but wow! That line would have been powerful. And it would have been fantastic to have the big Swede lining up for important faceoffs, and crashing the opposing crease when the Habs are down by a goal with a minute to go. I won't get to see leaf fans everywhere cry when Sundin skates out in the CH for the first time. It's a tough dream to let go, because he would have been perfect.
I mean, really, what will he gain playing in New York, which is now where I think he's headed, or at least trying to head? The Rags have lost Jagr and will likely have to dump Scott Gomez to make room under the cap for Sundin. Replacing Jagr and Gomez with Sundin and Marcus Naslund only allows them to keep pace with last year's team. I'm one of those pessimists who thinks Wade Redden isn't the answer to their blueline. So, if the Rangers weren't good enough to win the Cup last year, what makes Sundin think they'll do it this year? Or does he even care? Is he just interested in New York because the city itself is so exciting? It's kind of disheartening to think so, from a Habs' fan's perspective. If the team, in it's hundredth year with all the celebration surrounding that, with exciting players and a fast, thrilling system on the ice can't attract the big prize, it probably means those big prizes will always be hard to come by. Or maybe it's just that Sundin really doesn't want to destroy his legacy in Toronto forever, which he'd probably do by signing with the Habs. Whatever the reason he doesn't love Montreal, it's just too bad.
Because even if Sundin signs with the Canadiens at this point, it really seems as though his heart isn't in it. And I don't want him if he's not coming to the team with some serious passion and dedication to winning in Montreal. It pains me to say this, because as I mentioned, I think he'd be perfect. His skills and size fill the only real hole left on the team. But size and skills without heart aren't enough. And the loss of Sundin's potential also means there's still a hole on the team.
I like Kyle Chipchura and Maxim Lapierre, and Chipchura may very well develop into the third-line shut-down guy he was drafted to be. But I'm not sure he's ready to do that this year. I have high hopes for Ben Maxwell, but by the time he's ready, he'll probably be replacing Saku Koivu, not supplementing him. Which all means Gainey will likely be looking at plan B. And that scares me. I don't want to settle...and the names that are out there now, well, if they end up as Habs, it'll be settling. I just don't see another player out there who brings the type of skill Sundin brings and who can be obtained cheaply from some team who's got to get under the cap. And taking on a fairly large salary in the form of a player who doesn't bring those skills is just a waste. I'd rather see Chipchura fast-tracked in learning his eventual role.
It's a perplexing problem for Gainey which would have been perfectly solved by plugging Sundin into the lineup at the cost of just money. It's a lot tougher to fill the hole by shifting a player who already has a job on the team and thereby creating another hole. It's possible, I suppose, to take on the Centennial season with the current lineup. But if the team is to position itself for a serious run at the Cup, that hole at centre has got to be filled with a good player suited for the role. I think Gainey will make a move to do that, perhaps not right now, but as we see how the season develops. Certainly before the playoffs. It'll be interesting to see who he targets for the job and what it costs to get him.
In the meantime, I guess we'll have to stop dreaming of what might have been and prepare to continue watching the big bald one hurt our team at will. I guess the positive is that if he goes to the Rangers, it'll only be four times a year instead of our usual eight. And he'll retire without a Cup after all.
But that'll be cold comfort, because it was a beautiful dream.