The Canadiens 2008-09 training camp is at it's midway point, and other than a dismal first game showing against Boston, the team's performance has been excellent. Without once yet having iced a squad remotely reminiscent of last season's lineup, the Habs have fared well enough that one could envision them starting the season with either of the rookie laden groups they have dressed in the past three games.
I mean really, what are they to do with all of these kids coming through the woodwork?
It's a beauty of a problem to have if you happen to be Bob Gainey.
So far in exhibition games, it is clear that if this were any other season in which the Canadiens weren't so set and stacked, a good four or five rookies and prospects would be termed as NHL ready.
Matt D' Agnostini looks as though he could be a 15 to 20 goal scorer on about 15 NHL clubs starting this season.
Max Pacioretty is both physically and mentally at a big league level despite only being 19 years of age.
The performances of defensemen P.K. Subban and Yannick Weber tell of great futures so far.
The potential of center Ben Maxwell has shown itself greatly, especially when his talents are combined with those of solid NHL'ers.
And they have only been the best of the best thus far.
There are also players with last names like Desharnais, Beauregard, Carle, Desjardins, Trotter and Stewart who have made strong impressions in a short time.
All could one day be in the NHL.
The 11 players named here, are primarily just the sharper tip of the iceberg for the Canadiens, and the reality is that they cannot all fit into the club's future plans.
The problem for a smiling Gainey is that the inner competition amongst these one day Habs is that it will bring out the best in them. Open spots on the club currently are more rare than Beatles reunion rumours.
The downside is that many of these players will walk from the team in time, returning little in terms of value. They will be flipped for draft picks down the line at best.
An interesting solution might have presented itself in the sheer numbers of these cumulative talents, as individually their worth would tend to be less than their combined value as a whole.
The Canadiens should make some decisions, perhaps premature, and roll the dice, in order to acquire a player that could not only take them to a higher level, but keep them there for a good long haul.
I bring this up because I see a pair of clubs - Pittsburgh and Detroit - screening the Canadiens Stanley Cup visions.
To ask why, is to understand that the Habs have no players in the Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, Zetterberg, and Datsyuk class within their ranks.
Adding a player of that high calibre, would go a long way towards ensuring that the club maintains annual Stanley Cup aspirations.
Mind you, I think this current team is capable right this season, with its current configuration, to go all the way.
But I'm a Habs fan, and I can only think in terms of dynasties. One Cup, only brings a thirst for more, hence my long term view that gaining a markee player suits that need best.
As I see it, in the short or long term, the Canadiens will need a player of absolute character, force, and value. A player that might well define the team identity, beyond the current Koivu and Kovalev regime.
I envision the idea of such a player as being capable of producing between 85 and 100 points annually for the next decade, or close to it. Someone to measure up against the likes of Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, Zetterberg, and Datsyuk.
The Canadiens can only gain such a player via three methods.
1 - Drafting a prospect in the top three spots over the next two seasons.
2 - Making a trade for such a high pick.
3 - Acquiring via the trade route, an already established player who could fill this need.
For option number 1 to happen, the Canadiens would need to be the Islanders, Maple Leafs, Thrashers or Kings. File that scenario under "Not Gonna Happen".
Option two is more likely, in that the Habs could package a group of a half dozen bodies of promise, and gain a lottery pick in the draft that could turn out to be more than the sum of it's parts.
The most immediate route is obviously the most salacious. Acquire a bona fide NHL star - rising or established.
Names - you want: Kovalchuk, Gaborik, Morrow, Kopitar, or Getzlaf. (There are others, but I digress!)
Placed in the Canadiens shoes, I would not part with Pacioretty, McDonough, Yemelin or Maxwell. Other prospects are negotiable.
The bait offered- an alluring bevy of Habs prospects with a pinch of current regulars tossed in.
Here's the card I would play if I were Gainey:
2006 first round pick, defenseman David Fischer.
The rights to Alexandre Perezhogin.
A choice between center Ryan White and winger Matt D' Agnostini.
A choice between Subban and Weber.
A choice between centers Lapierre and Chipchura.
A choice between Mathieu Dandeneault and Tom Kostopoulos.
The possible flip flop of draft choices in 2009 or 2010.
Depending on the trading partner, I'd want Gainey to consider adding an alternative, in the name of a roster player or second round pick.
You might ask why I would be willing to see the club part with so many assets to gain but one player.
My answer involves calculated risk, but I always see it in the sense that the club gaining the best player in a deal is usually the winner.
Of the options available above, if I were to be another clubs GM, I'd grab the following.
White as he is a centerman, over D' Agnostini, because he is a better skater and shows more two way responsability.
Subban over Weber, for reasons incurring grit, charisma, and nationality.
Lapierre over Chipachura in regards to experience, skating skills, and attitude.
Kostopoulos, for his age over Dandy, and his willingness to go to no end for team mates.
I'd also say "NO" to the flip of choices, or at best retain the option.
In the final tally, a deal for the likes of Kovalchuk, Gaborik, Morrow, Kopitar, or Getzlaf would boil down to Fischer, Halak, Perezhogin, White, Subban, Lapierre, and Kostopoulos.
All told, seven bodies for a franchise player.
Which trigger would you pull?