It’s 18h13 est here in Montreal, and to be honest, I couldn’t be happier. This trade deadline hype has been somewhere between annoying and ridiculous. I have been sitting here reading Tweets from Habs fans and armchair critics, between commentary from TSN’s TradeCentre Panel.
So what was the outcome? Where do the Montreal Canadiens sit after the deadline has expired?
Well let’s address the fan base.
“Pierre Gauthier Did Nothing”:
Let’s look back at the past few weeks at the Habs franchise. They lost Andrei Markov before the season even really began. Top that off with the Josh Gorges loss for the balance of the season.
Most around the NHL said that the Canadiens wouldn’t be able to cover those losses. Markov and Gorges were irreplaceable. If there was any deficiency in the organization, defense was it, and it needed to be bolstered. And as games progressed – it became apparent that a lack of disciplined defense was costing the organization points.
Examples: PK Subban giving the puck away in his zone or the neutral zone which resulted in opposition goals. Hal Gill after injury, with weak clearing attempts and an inability to block shots. Jaroslav Spacek being injury riddled, and an uncertainty of him being back in the line-up day to day.
So what did the GM of the Canadiens do?
First, he acquired Paul Mara in a deal from the Anaheim Ducks, that will cost him a 5th rounder and $210K USD. Considering the past bartering with the Ducks this season, hardly a bad trade. Once you weigh in all the dealings between the two franchises (Maxime Lapierre for Brett Festerling and a 5th round), it would appear that in reality, the Habs managed to score Mara for Lapierre in the end. And considering the fact that Festerling went to Atlanta for goalie Drew MacIntyre – both in the AHL – it seems that Gauthier may have been a winner overall in that trade.
Secondly, Gauthier managed to pick up (apres Mara), a strong defensive player in James Wisniewski. The 5’11” right handed D Man has provided great shot blocking for an ailing PK, as well as a strong presence on the PP blue line. Since his acquisition, “The Wiz” has 3 goals and 18 assists and has proven to be a powerhouse for the Habs defense.
Thirdly, the GM has placed defenseman Brent Sopel into the line-up. At 6’2″, 205lbs, this veteran brings even more to the table than size. He brings veteran experience, and a Stanley Cup ring to the organization. Match that up with Hal Gills experience – that’s a heck of a lot of playoff tenure within the room. His gritty style, his aptitude to block shots, and protection for his goalie (much as Mara) … well what more needs said.
For those of you that feel Wisniewski and Sopel are just band-aides. Well … I can’t say that I agree.
“Pierre Gauthier Did Something”:
Very true! He did one thing! He insured … on top of all his pre-deadline trade acquisitions – that he DID NOT sell the farm.
I have, with good source, that Gauthier was very much involved in acquiring Dustin Penner from the Edmonton Oilers. Yes … the same Dustin Penner that was picked up by the Los Angeles Kings for prospect Colten Teubert, a 2011 first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick (which could turn into a first round – depending on where the Kings finish this season).
Expensive? You bet! Worth it? – to shut the mouths of complaining Habs fans. Not even close!
What Gauthier managed to do, was aggressively attempt to acquire a much needed forward, but know when it made sense to say no. He did the franchise a favour, but many will still bicker about his lack of acquisition.
What Habs Nation Whined About:
So let’s then consider what everyone was bickering about. Most people felt that Pierre Gauthier owed them a deal to bolster their team and it’s playoff contentions.
Number one on most people’s roster was a top six power forward that could solve the scoring deficiency of their Canadiens. I couldn’t agree more (on paper) as the Habs are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. But what does acquiring a Top 6 Power Forward mean exactly?
First you need to look at who is available, as trade to lure such fish.
So let’s look at who we can rule out first.
Scott Gomez. The “Bane of our Existence” Center of the Montreal Canadiens. A man that is being paid $8M USD per year, who over 61 games has acquired 30 points (7G 23A) and is -19. Does anyone have a great trade solution for him? I’ve asked and received no reply. I thought not. He is in this organization for the long haul. And despite the fact that even some main-stream media from Team 990 here in Montreal, obsessively made us read that the Canadiens were “shopping him” … only a lunatic would believe that his contract would be bought.
Andrei Kostitsyn. The only realistic trade bait in the pool. And yet – when you compare his numbers to last year – he’s bettered himself. But it’s unlikely that anyone would take him alone in any deal, so he doesn’t stand to trade as a lone player. At least not for the needs of a top 6 forward. So who then do you package AK with in order to acquire what the Canadiens really need? Eller is about your only option there, and even that may not be fully realistic.
Benoit Pouliot. Good luck! First – the franchise made it perfectly clear that he was here for the long haul. Despite his poor performance to begin the year, he has proven that he has good hands and vision, he’s big enough, and given the right line-mates – he can get the job done. Thank you David Desharnais.
Dumping Halpern, Pacioretty, or Darche might be options – but only at the expense of the future (minus Darche in that equation – but still a player that outperforms what most thought as of pre-season – 9G 12A – a good showing from the older winger).
So who’s left? Cammelleri? Gionta? Plekanec? What about Price?
All those thoughts are ridiculous.
So Where Does That Leave Us?
Plain and simple! Still in a playoff position.
Despite all the injuries and the lack of scoring, the Habs still find themselves in sixth place in the Conference. Nine whole points ahead of where they were last season. I brought this up earlier this year – saying the Habs had improved themselves – and was met with a resounding “They were injured last season”. Guess what – moreso this year, and still ahead of ourselves.
With 19 games remaining, defense – if not filled in – would have been the Canadiens demise. Gauthier has managed to fill that void without a huge pricetag to be paid in the future. Offensively, the team has managed to score enough to put them in a much better position than they were in last year. And with solid defense in place for the balance of the season – hopefully that can bolster their position.
In the end, many of the complainers and whiners that I am forced to listen to, or read from, are the same people that said this team wasn’t a contender in the first place. They spoke about the superiority of the Washington Capitals, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The same people that when asked what Gauthier should have done, give me blank answers – with no definitive answers.
If you want to tell me what’s wrong with the franchise – then give me a solution. A real one. Not something generic like “We need a power forward”. Thanks for your insight!
I’ve always considered the Habs a playoff contender – even since October – so I find it funny how quickly others turn and rear their ugly heads in Montreal’s current position.
What Pierre Gauthier has done today, is ensure us another run at the Cup – as legitimate as last year – without costing us our future. While some wish to complain and get bent out of shape over it, I prefer to thank him for some wisdom for the future.
For once – I wish Habs fans would have more faith.