Okay, you can come out now. Those of you who, like me, were dreading some kind of stupid Canadiens trade of future assets in a (very possibly) vain attempt to make a playoff run this year can take our heads out of the sand again. I'm a long way from being a Pierre Gauthier fan, but at least he didn't cripple the team's future before yesterday's trade deadline. It can even be argued that the D'Agostini trade was a small step in helping strengthen the club's assets. I know it's a little bit pathetic that the best we can hope for is that our team's GM isn't a raving idiot, but there you go.
So this is the team we will see face the remaining eighteen games on a very uncertain playoff journey. I'm not completely buying management's explanation that bringing Mike Cammelleri back will be like adding a forty-goal scorer to an already-cohesive team during the final stretch, but I'm not completely disregarding that idea either, pending the outcome of the next three games out west.
At this point, the Canadiens can't finish low enough in the standings to make much of a difference in the draft sweepstakes, so the playoffs must be the goal. To that end, it's as much of a crapshoot post-deadline as it was before. The good news is, it's not just the Canadiens who stood pat among teams walking the fence between buyer and seller territory. None of Tampa, Philly or the Rangers made any bold moves. Boston exchanged one okay defenceman for another slightly more okay defenceman. All the weaknesses those teams displayed before yesterday are still there. It still baffles me that Philly didn't acquire a goalie, but it's nice to see their Achilles heel is still in nets.
All in all, the trade deadline was a giant borefest for all involved. Loser-point-inflated artificial parity means there were very few teams ready to admit they're out of the playoffs already, so nobody was selling much in the way of roster players. And it seems NHL GMs are starting to realize the value of draft picks (memo to Gauthier on this issue: Pay Attention!!) and most held onto their higher selections. Only Washington's George McPhee, who's pretty much signalling to the rest of the league that his team is winning the Cup this year or will die trying, parted with picks to acquire support players for their playoff run. Some teams already stacked with young talent gave up a pick here or there, as well as, inexplicably, Atlanta. Then again, you can't judge the general sentiment among GMs by anything Don Waddell does or does not do with the Thrashers. The paucity of talent lining up for this year's free agent market also kept most GMs to the conservative side of the trade market. They're beginning to realize locking up their own talent is probably a better idea than trying to buy someone else's in July.
For me, the biggest mistake of deadline day was by the TV sports networks. Did we really need to have nine hours and a dozen "analysts" devoted to breaking the Belanger-for-a-pick deal? Things are changing in the NHL and you're not going to see the big deadline splashes we saw in years past. It was shocking to see the people who should be most plugged into the mood in the league completely miss that point. TSN would have been better served by going to air an hour before the deadline and staying on for half an hour after, as nothing remotely interesting happened before that anyway.
Overblown coverage aside, a quiet deadline day is about the best we could have realistically expected as Habs fans. With only picks, prospects, a goalie or a core player holding any trade value, the team would be poorer for losing any of those assets. The Canadiens will live or die with the roster they have and that's not necessarily a bad thing. If their season is done by mid-April nobody will be surprised, but if they do actually manage to get healthy and step up their team game, it could make for an exciting and fun stretch drive. Either way, we can rest in the knowledge that management wasn't stupid enough to trade tomorrow's improvement for today's stagnation.
And, somtimes, not stupid is enough.