Listening to, reading about, and watching the Canadiens training camp progress, I was struck with an odd notion upon realizing the potential that this stockpile of youth has to offer the Habs in terms of future options.
Like, what to heck are we going to do with all these players?
How on Earth does Bob Gainey plan to juggle all this talent without letting any of it slip away?
What would be the masterplan that is most beneficial to team prosperity?
I've no doubt that the Canadiens are laying the groundwork foundation for a Stanley Cup win within a reasonable number of years. In fact I'm almost at the point of thinking such is inevitable.
What is also inevitable is that large chunks of veteran players will be pawned and sacrificed in order to make room for all the rising stars the team has on the way.
I count at least 10 future bona fide NHL'ers that will make their way to Hamilton, or other destinations, for now, that should all be part of the team within 2 to 3 years. Four years max.
Names, you ask? Here goes!
Carey Price, Kyle Chipchura, Sergei Kostitsyn, Ryan O'Byrne, Matt D'Agnostini, Ryan White, Mathieu Carle, Pavel Valentenko, Mikhail Grabovski, and Ben Maxwell.
Presently AWOL but hardly forgotten, is Russian defenseman Alexei Emelin.
I did not mention Max Lapierre or Andrei Kostitsyn, as I consider them to be full time Habs until proven otherwise. I also did not check Janna Lahti in with the youth as he is an older FA signing who is an odds on bet to latch onto his NHL chance this season.
Add to those ten names, the likes of David Fischer, Ryan McDonagh, Max Pacioretty, and P.K. Subban within another year, and you can see that Gainey will need to be quite the manager of talent to see them all through to fruition.
All totalled, we are speaking of 15 fresh talents that will push out players who are currently veterans on the Canadiens, by the time the 2010-11 season gets underway.
The group consists of one goalie, seven defensemen, and seven forwards that could represent more than half of the team's lineup come that fateful season.
That is an incredible amount of influx and turnover on what would still be considered a young Canadiens teams come that season.
Current roster players that should survive this movement are the current young core of Higgins, Plekanec, Latendresse, Komisarek, Lapierre, Andrei Kostitsyn, and perhaps goalie Jaroslav Halak.
They would make up a core of experiencd vets by then.
Other current veteran players from the Habs roster that may last until the 2010-11 season are Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik, as impending free agents by that point, Saku Koivu should he resign beyond his current contract, and possibly Michael Ryder and Mark Streit as longshot wildcards to still be around.
Of course, during the interim, names we've yet to crystal ball into the Habs future will also make their way onto the team, one signing or trade at a time.
Now if you add it all up for the 2010-11 season, there are the 15 fresh faces that I've named first, the 7 current young guns that should stick around until then, and a possibility of 5 veterans that could hang onto their Habs jerseys for another four years should their individual stocks dictate they are worth keeping.
That is a total of 27 players the Canadiens will have an interest in hanging onto for another 4 years, and I wouldn't bet the house on Ryder, Hamrlik, Streit, and saddest of all, Koivu.
In order to clear space for these talents, players will be shed from the team on by one over the coming seasons. It's not difficult to imagine to order of their departure, starting with players who are merely passing the current season, soon to be dealt to the highest bidder or Mike Johnsonsed into the hockey ozone.
So in order, start saying goodbye to:
Neither am I!
What these players fetch in terms of returns for Gainey will go a long way towards determining how quickly the Canadiens contend for Lord Stanley's mug. He will be tasked with turning over experienced players for much of the same, given the Habs young lineup.
The best news is that Gainey will have the talent and numbers to load a deal sufficiently, making it alluring enough to get exactly what he is going after.
While many fans are clammoring for Cup contention in the Canadiens 100th anniversary year, the goal Gainey may be aiming at is just beyond that season. It should be obvious by now that Gainey is not trying to win but one Cup. He is actually working to build a team that will not only win it, but contend for it for several seasons.
Gainey's greatest virtue as Habs GM up until now has been patience. His next tasks in management will be judgement and timing.
Going over the Canadiens lineup and prospect evaluations will be a kind of W5 proposition for Gainey.
What - The Stanley Cup as a goal.
When - At what point does the team shed current roster players.
Where - Judging the upcoming talent and deciding its readiness.
Who - Players that the team brings in, in the interim.
Why - Upside of potential of players, the decline of current player values, and what is available to help the team via free agency.
It is unfortunate that players we have grown to appreciate will sadly not be among us come Cup hoisting time. Speaking only for myself, it will break my heart if I don't see Saku Koivu win one in his Canadiens lifetime.
But I'll get over it!