Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Well, I don't know what the heck really happened in the Canadiens' room last season, but whatever it was, Bob Gainey obviously saw enough to prompt a massive house-cleaning this summer. When you think about it, it's almost unbelievable that of the eleven free agents, not one is back for next year. Of the restricted free agents, one is traded, one going to arbitration and one signed for what basically amounts to a cheap, one-year do-over. Even the coaching staff, including Gainey's long-time bosom buddy, Doug Jarvis, got torched. It's almost as though when Gainey was forced to fire Guy Carbonneau, all bets were off for everyone else.

The funny thing about this though, is that Habs fans seem to be clearly divided into two groups in their opinions concerning Gainey's strategy. One side (on which I, admittedly, stand) is a bit afraid that the gutting of the team was a little too drastic, but now that it's done, we're willing to give Gainey the benefit of the doubt once more and hope, for the sake of the sweater we love, that it all somehow works out. The other side (of which I'm already getting tired) seems to have caught some kind of bloodlust. For them, it's not enough that half of last year's team is gone and the other half, with the likely exception of Andrei Markov, on probation. The demands to dump any remaining Habs, like Plekanec, D'Agostini, the Kostitsyns and Halak, for something new are escalating.

I don't get it, I confess. Take the "trade for Patrick Marleau" rumours, for instance. Sure, he's a big centre who can score some goals. But, in eleven full seasons with San Jose, he's broken eighty points once. He's good, but not what you'd call elite, and he's making elite-level money this year. If the Habs were to trade for him, as so many are demanding Gainey do, they'd have to clear up quite a bit of salary to make it work. It would likely cost Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, as well as possibly Jaro Halak, and to me, it's not that smart a move to give up your backup goalie and two of your top-six forwards in exchange for one top-six guy. It would further stress the team's depth and force Gainey to rush some of the youth into bigger roles. Also, love them or hate them, Plekanec and Kostitsyn are relatively cheap compared to Marleau, and have yet to reach their full potential. And there's the issue of looming free agency for Marleau. It makes little sense for Gainey to trade two sure, cap-friendly assets for a guy who could very likely walk at the end of the season, especially in a year when we don't know whether the Habs will even come close to championship contention.

I know Kostitsyn and Plekanec and just about everyone else underperformed last season. But I find it strange that the patience to give them a chance to rebound seems pretty much non-existent in some quarters of Habdom. These are young guys and they do have talent. I think they'll be okay.

And Halak is the great unknown with the Habs, but nobody wants to hold onto him and see if he can boost his value. Why trade him now, when he could get a chance to prove himself as a really good NHL goalie and bring a better return later? Or even, heaven forbid, have him actually remain with the Canadiens who could then have one of the best young goalie tandems in the league?

I'm just hoping Bob Gainey doesn't have the urge to purge that some fans seem to have acquired in the last few weeks. Change can be good, but you don't have to go overboard with it. As my mother would say, you can scratch your arse without tearing it off you.


DB said...

I'm in your camp as well. I'm taking a wait and see approach to the upcoming season. I can see some reasons for optimism, like the work ethic of the new top line, and some reasons for pessimism, like Gionta's and Gomez's point totals the last few years.

I too have never understood the love/hate relationship some fans have for some players. When they first come up some fans build them up into superstars and if they fail to perform the next year, the same fans call them wimps and want to dump them for nothing.

Then you have the case of Michael Ryder. Numerous fans ripped him whether he played well or not, but as soon as he left as a free agent he became the star player that Bob let get away.

I wish these love/hate fans would take their cues from your objective and well-reasoned blog instead of the lunatics we have on Parliament Hill.

Howard said...

I have to wonder and it has been suggested by some so-called experts, that the reason for the gross underachievement last season (aside from the barber pole unis!) is that 11 players from the team that finished first in the East the year before were unsigned throughout the season. That could lead to insecurity, doubt, and a general attitude of: "I better watch my ass cause I ain't got no contact for next year". I don't know if Bob expected these pending UFA's to compete for there own jobs but I guess now we'll never know. I loved that team, I wore my Komisarek jersey proudly and my daughter her Kovalev. it'll be interesting to see the season opener at home with all the Koivu Kovalev Komisarek, Higgins, jerseys in the stands. If Koivu was the most popular, Kovy was the most loved for his elite skills. Well at least we get to see him 5 times a year! Nice work Bob!

Number31 said...

On the other hand, it's not like he didn't try to bring some of them back... But with Komo running at first notice into Burke's arms and Kovy or his agent taking too long to decide what should have been a "Yes Bob" (according to Kovy's want to play on the team), if Bob were to have waited, we'd be left with these guys probably gone (save for Kovy) and the ones on the top of the list signed elsewhere.

It's always hard to see the guys you love watching play go... But today's NHL isn't the same as it was 5, 10 years ago. I tell my dad that every time, and he still doesn't get it. But the armchair GMs should just stfu and see how the team does before chasing the rest out of town.

Also the Habs weren't the only ones with 11 UFAs. One other team with that many on the roster won the Stanley Cup this year so that theory is moot (but of course, they have the luxury of a few 1st overalls in the core that are young enough to be RFA for a few years). This year was unreal in the injury department. We're just lucky there's depth in Hamilton, or we would have been like Dallas: way out of a playoff spot with barely a leg to stand on and an 8th overall pick.

MichelBeauchamp said...

Hi Matt,

congratulations on your work, I agree with your camp.

I am writing to you to let you know that I have appreciated your last article about what there is to like about our new canadiens so much that I have taken the initiative to translate it in French for a wider audience.

I believe I have done an excellent job in respecting your wrting style as well as the spirit of the article.

I have already posted it on a forum called legrandclub at rds.ca but it did not receive the exposure I was expecting and mostly that your article deserves.

I want to make the translation available to you or any of your friends to diffuse it to a large French Canadian audience.

I thought RDS (french version of TSN) would pick it up to do something nice with it but they have not as they seem to care a lot more for the amount of members that click on their mouse than they care for the great work and information covering the team, Montreal Canadien, that make them live.

Thank for answering this e-mail even if with a negative response.

Michel Beauchamp
Go Habs go !