(RC Note - This article is a translation of an editorial by Le Journal de Montreal's Bertrand Raymong that appeared in this morning's paper. Bert always likes to put Gainey's shoes on and get in his head. He is in the HHOF as a longstanding and quite reputable journalist. Good or bad, he rarely minces his thoughts. Bottom line is, he always tells it like it is!)
When Bob Gainey declared in the most serious of tones, at seasons end, that no other city in the league could offer the same advantages and atmosphere as Montreal, that this particular ambience was exactly what players desired, and that it is wrong to assume french canadian hockey players want nothing to do with the pressure of calling the Bell center home, manypeople shook their head and wondered where he'd gotten this information.
Either the Canadiens front office suddenly became overtly naive or they were trying to put the fan base to sleep using hypnosis.
In my view, I'd suggest that Montreal certainly does have lots to offer, if not exactly everything to lure star players to make it their permanant address. There is however no shortage of french players who have no interest in playing in the pressure cooker that is Montreal.
Gainey was oblivious to it at the time, but J.P. Dumont, because of the statement made by the GM, would become his hot potato of the summertime.
In Dumont, the Canadiens could find that rare pearl of a native Montrealer, whose best friend is the Habs Steve Begin, and is prepared to go through a wall to play for the red, white, and blue. To top it off, Dumont is young enough to still be considered in the prime of his career.
There's not much debate that he isn't worth the almost three million per year salaray awarded him through arbitration, but that's another story altogether. That situation could have been easily resolved had Gainey stated that Dumont fit perfectly in the teams plans.
But alas, the GM's whose every decision is regarded as a genial strike of lightening by Habs brass, decided that it may be smarter to hang onto the remaining 2.5 million in cap for the purposes of a player who may fall into his lap at a later date. Just who that player could be is anybody's guess.
A CURIOUS PHONE CALL
The Canadiens, who have four Quebec born players on the roster, presently feel they are not positioned to afford a fifth.
Whose fault is it then, that center Mike Ribeiro was given an exaggerated pay hike of $700,000 that no one seems able to justify?
Who went out and traded for, third line forward Mike Johnson at a cost of 1.9 million annually? Here's hoping Johnson can contribute his usual 20 goal production.
Who made Radek Bonk, a player who doesn't know the meaning of second effort, and who is of no interest to 29 other teams, a multi millionaire.
After allowing the Dumont camp sufficient time to find a taker on the open market, gainey had the teams financial adviser Julien Brisebois give a call to Dumont's agent Yves Archambeault.
This seems to have been done, without a doubt, to avoid questions regarding the Habs disinterest in the player who scored 20 goals in 54 games last season. The call it seems was not an inquisitive one. Brisebois made no inquiries into salary demands and in no way stated what the Canadiens were offering. It was a simple courtesy call designed to save face on a marketing front. Archambeault isn't quite sure why the Canadiens called. They have not called back. He stated that he "didn't believe the Canadiens were in a position to tender an offer. Kind of like someone who drives through a car lot without getting out of their car".
When asked of Archambeault if he thought the Canadiens seemed disinterested, the agent hesitatingly offered, "there are no qualms with the team. Steve Begin is also my client and we have also gotten on good with them. In this case, they are simply not in the running, point blank.
IF THEY REALLY WANTED HIM...
Dumont is quite capable of generation sparks on the power play. He is quick to jump on loose pucks in the slot and bury them. He can play right or left wing with ease. Former junior coach Gaston Therrien, who had Dumont for two years as a member of the Val-d' Or team suggest that the pressure would hardly bother him. To the contrary, he say, it would spur him on.
It's hard to assess Dumont's worth in a sport that has begun again to spend foolishly. All that I am sure of, is that the Canadiens are a better team with him in their lineup.
This hot potato will find a taker. The player and his agent were on the verge of signing on the dotted line with one team when another organization jumped into the mix. This GM has apparently called them no less than eight times over the weekend. Another team was asked that they may buy a little time before stepping up.
In order to make room for a player who suddenly comes on the market in this way, teams need to clear room at this point.
In Montreal, if they really wanted Dumont, they could have found some ingenius way of making it happen. For example, they could have put forth a lower offer for one year with promises to compensate for it at a later date thanks to the salary sacrifice made by the player If and only then, the trick hadn't worked, then the Canadiens could unequivocally state the their interest was in fact a strong one.
This season, if Dumont bursts into a 30 goal scorer somewhere else, it will be remembered that the Canadiens did little to try to attract him to the city.
At the end of next season, Gainey will be forced to come up with a new spin on why it is the Habs don't garner interest from star players.
WHERE WILL DUMONT FIT
When Dumont finally decides his future, he will surely opt for the team which best suits his needs. It will be a team that has room for him on the top two lines, where he can smoothly transfer his young family that has just added a newborn.
Dumont evidentally knows that the awarded 2.9 million will be out of reach for now. I'm sure he can live with that fact. Several teams have approached him, including his former Buffalo employers. He has also received a very good offer from the Detroit Red Wings. The agent confirmed that the red Wings are in the mix.
It must be beleived that the offer couldn't have been all that, Or Dumont would have pulled the red and white jersey over his shoulders already. Who would refuse to go to Detroit under such circumstance, and why?