Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Top Ten Things I Hope I Don't See This Summer

We all have our little pipe dreams about what we'd like to see happen with the Canadiens before the puck drops on the next season. My personal favourite is a neat trade for Jordan Staal. Yours might be signing Bouwmeester or the Sedins. But, being a long-time Habs fan, I'm well versed in the art of disappointed rationalizing. The constant disappointment tends to instill a sense of dread that hangs over every hope like the spectre of the leafs winning a Cup before the Canadiens manage to snag one. With that dread in mind, here are the top ten things I pray don't happen this summer:

10. Serge Savard becomes the right hand of the Molsons, with the power to make hockey decisions. Savard was a great, great defenceman in the NHL. He was a good captain of the Canadiens. He was a decent GM for several years. Now though, Savard is a businessman. He's not involved in hockey and hasn't been since well before the lockout and the birth of the "new" NHL. The man has never dealt within the cap world and hasn't been involved in team building for decades. The Molsons and Savard himself have to realize that his contributions to hockey are in the past and he should leave the hockey decisions to people who are actively involved in the game right now.

9. Gainey trades for Briere. The Flyers are desperate for cap space and the Habs are desperate for a scoring centre. I'm pretty sure Briere wouldn't exactly be on the top of Gainey's list at the moment, but we know how Plan A tends to quickly become Plan B or even Plan C in Montreal during the summer. If Plan A is signing Cammalleri for example, and Plan B is retaining Koivu, and neither of those work out, I fear Plan C is saving Holmgren from himself and taking Briere off his hands, for a hefty return to Philly, of course. I don't want Briere, because I think he's too small to make a big difference to the Habs. I don't want to send the Canadiens' promising, cheap young players to Philly to make their team better. And most of all, I don't want Gainey to be the one who lets Holmgren and his lack of foresight and bad planning off the hook.

8. Mike Komisarek signs for more than five million a year. I really like Komisarek, and I really think the team needs him. But in the real world, Komisarek's value is about 3.5 million a year. Add another million onto that for the typical Montreal overpayment required in the inflated free agent world, and that's about the limit Gainey should offer. However, because he has some intangibles the team needs like size on the blue line and leadership in the room, Gainey might stretch the offer to five million a year, or close to it. If Komisarek wants more than that, he'll have to walk. I hope it doesn't come to that, because he's a useful player who was hurt last year. And I want to believe that some of the players we cheer for are actually loyal to the team. Andrei Markov did it two years ago, and he's about seventeen times better a defenceman than Komisarek.

7. Alex Tanguay walks. I like Tanguay too. He's the first point-a-game player the Habs have acquired since Alex Kovalev. He's a fabulous passer and not afraid of physical contact. It was just bad luck that he ended up sustaining a major injury last year. The guy is in his prime and his style of play, which relies on vision and smooth hands, probably means he's got another five or six good years left in him. But beyond his value as an on-ice asset, I think the team can't afford to let Tanguay go right now. Gainey gave up valuable draft picks to obtain him, and if that works out to be a first and second pick for a half-season of Tanguay, that's a bad trade. Last year was basically a season-long trial period in which the Habs had a chance to show Tanguay how well he fits in Montreal. That needs to work out, for the good of the franchise.

6. Gainey is let go. A change of ownership usually means a full-scale revamp within management. I know Bob's made his share of mistakes, but so has every other GM in the league. If you look at the state of the team in the last two years, compared to the way it looked in the years before, you can see a pattern of overall improvement. I think Gainey is a good fit for the environment in Montreal and knows hockey and the difficulties of running the Habs better than most. At the moment I just don't see another candidate who could conceivably do a better job than Gainey, so I think it would be a mistake to get rid of him.

5. Saku Koivu walks. There aren't a whole lot of quality centres available as free agents this summer, and anyone who's an improvement on Koivu will cost a fair amount in a trade situation. This is one of those cases in which a bird in the hand is better than two Sedins in the bush. Koivu is no longer a number-one centre, but he's a good centre and will help any team he joins. Considering his long history with the Canadiens and the fact that he's probably willing to accept a slightly smaller salary and a different role on the team, then he should be re-signed. Look at it this way: Koivu is better than Lapierre, Metropolit and Chipchura. He's comparable to Plekanec. If Gainey can't swing a trade for a centre without using half the team's roster and prospects to do it, or if he can't attract another UFA to fill the role Koivu plays, the Habs still need the captain.

4. Fans boo the Habs first-round draft pick. I expect the fans in the Bell Centre to jeer whatever kid Trevor Timmins chooses at number 18, if the player's name doesn't sound French. It's not fair, it's mean and it's potentially damaging to the team's selection. What kind of start in building a relationship with the city and the team is it when the player is on the defensive on his first day as a Canadien? I hope it won't happen, or that the team will just pick Louis Leblanc and get it over with. But I'm not expecting much.

3. Any of the Canadiens' UFAs sign with arch-rivals. It was bad enough last year watching Michael Ryder play for the Bruins and subsequently destroy the Habs in the playoffs. Imagine how awful it would be to see Komisarek with a big, blue leaf on his sweater hammering Plekanec or Kostitsyn? Or Kovalev cashing Malkin's feeds with the Pens? Or Bouillon helping shore up the Rangers' iffy blue line? If the Habs don't re-sign them, I hope they go west. Or to really bad teams.

2. Gainey overpays for mid-range players to fill good players' roles. I don't want to see any downgrades. If Komisarek or Koivu leave, I don't want to see big money spent to bring in guys not quite as good, who will barely keep the team at the same level it was last year. If Gainey can't attract better players, he might as well spend the money to keep the ones he's already got.

And the number one thing I hope doesn't happen this summer:

1. A trade for Vincent Lecavalier. English is a fairly limited language when it comes to expressing emotion, so words aren't quite sufficient to explain how much I want Lecavalier to remain far away in Tampa. His questionable health, his acquisition price which would gut the Habs, and most of all, his ridiculous, bloated, too-long contract make him an untouchable for me. I just foresee any such trade ending in disaster. Imagine the hopes and dreams riding on this thirty-year-old in Montreal? The moment he puts up only a 75-point, 30-goal season while cashing his ten-million dollar salary, the love the city has for him now will turn to disappointment. The booing will start when he slips below the 70-point threshold at age 35, and he's still ringing up a 7.7-million dollar cap hit. It won't be pretty. And, in the meantime, the five or six players the Habs would have traded away for Lecavalier will help make Tampa a much better team as the Habs get poorer overall. Vinny didn't make the Lightning win all by himself, and he won't make the Habs win either. If we can get through the weekend without hearing Bettman announce that particular trade, I'll consider the draft a moral victory for sensible Canadiens fans everywhere.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

As usual, well said. I don't even need to express my own thoughts anymore, I just point to your blog. ;-) The only things I disagree with are:
* I'd kinda be happy for Kovalev to see him cashing Malkin's feeds with the Pens. He deserves better than the grief he gets here (as do many members of the team, btw).
* The Bob Gainey thing, as long as we can we nominate you to replace him. ;-)