On Wednesday, the day when most GM's commit their gravest errors, Canadiens GM Bob Gainey assured he made no mistakes. Likely to no one's surprise, Gainey did all his team's shopping in the previous weeks, and stood pat. Seemingy he was content in having picked up powerplay quarterback Mathieu Schneider, center Glen Metropolit, and depth defenseman Doug Janik. In assessing the team and resisting the urge to tinker, Gainey risks allowing inaction to be the only error
I wasn't expecting Gainey to pull a rabbit from his hat, and of the many names being tossed about, few truly sparked my imagination as Marian Hossa did last season at this time.
After Gainey had stood still, most pundits shared the thought that the GM had enough faith in his troops after four straight wins seemed to reset the team compass. Not much complaining was heard, at least none of the logical variety.
It took all of seven hours for the usual batch of hindsightfully challenged Canadiens fans to start ranting about Gainey's perceived inactivity. Of course, this about face was cause by nothing more than an embarrassing loss.
And that changes everything, right!
Now it is being shouted that Gainey's lack of movement translates into his lack of faith in the team. Gainey hasn't had to utter an additional word for anyone to make this 180 degree stretch of interpretation.
It's all good and fine for critics to switch course and change their tune, but in light of the loss, Gainey can't roll the trade dealine ahead another 48 hours and rethink his moves.
Of course, if Montreal wins in Atanta and Dallas on the weekend, the rising anger will evaporate some.
Such is the beauty of unconscious hindsight. Toss them rear view mirrors!
With the deals that went down on Wednesday, it's doubtful there would be a change of position today. The reason for that is quite simple: Most of this deadline's traded talent came with too hefty a price tag.
Aside from a few logical deals, not a lot that went on made much sense for most of the clubs involved. For the Canadiens, whether Gainey sees the club as contenders or not, much of it made even less sense.
Before getting into what each of Wednesday's transactions involved, here a quick capsule of how I saw the day's deals.
Columbus and Ottawa made one of the day's lone sensible trades, filling out a longstanding need each had. Close to sensible, was a menage a trois between the Oliers, Kings and Hurricanes that exchanged a trio of similar values. Pittsburgh added a gritty forward who could give them what they have lacked in much of this season. It cost a Boston team with an honest Cup shot a promising youngster or two to get older, wiser and more experienced. Calgary and the Rangers paid fool's ransoms for Ollie Jokinen and Derek Morris. Philadelphia, looks to have typically painted themselves into a corner, and failed to acquire what it was they truly needed. They settled for other additions and changes. Phoenix cleaned house and added a half dozen good prospects while taking some teams to the cleaners. Brian Burke completely struck out on every front, and ended up settling for whatever he could get for what he was keen on getting rid of. Along the way, Burke decided to get in bed with Tampa, and alleviate their cap midlings. Can't wait to see what that favor returns.
In all, 45 players and 21 draft choices changed hands in 22 trades. The totals do not include waivers pickups by four teams. For each trade, let's have a look a see if there was anything in them to interest the Canadiens. Here is how the deals unfolded chronologically.
1 - Columbus trades G Pascal Leclaire and a 2009 2nd to Ottawa for F Antoine Vermette
Vermette would have been nice in Montreal, but Ottawa and Columbus had specific needs and assets to satisfy each other. Gainey wasn't going to ship Halak in a deal for Vermette.
2 - Colorado trades D Jordan Leopold to Calgary for D Lawrence Nycholat, D Ryan Wilson, and a 2009 2nd
Calgary paid dearly for Leopold. For Gainey to offer an equal value to what the Flames did to improve at sixth defenseman would have been senseless.
3 - St. Louis trades D Andy Wozniewski to Pittsburgh for D Danny Richmond
Like Emily Latella used to say, "Nevermind!"
4 - Phoenix trades G Mikael Tellqvist to Buffalo for a 2010 4th
Not applicable to Montreal.
5 - Boston trades F Petteri Nokelainen to Anaheim for D Steve Montador
A fringe player for an insurance player. Like trading Dandenault for Dandenault.
6 - Phoenix teades F Olli Jokinen and a 2009 3rd to Calgary for F Matthew Lombardi, F Brandon Prust and a
2009 or 2010 1st
Lots of folks would have liked the Habs to get their mits on Jokinen. I'm not one of them. I know his numbers, I've just never been convinced he is the precise solution. Mark my words, this deal won't get Calgary past Detroit ot San Jose, and wherever the Phoenix franchise is in a few years, they could have a good giggle over this one. The Canadiens equivalent trade here would have been either of Higgins or D'Agostini and P.K. Subban and a first rounder. No flipping thanks!
7 - Tampa Bay trades F Mark Recchi and a 2010 2nd to Boston for D Matt Lashoff and F Martins Karsums
Will Recchi be as productive in the Bruins depth chart? Does this deal drop Ryder down a notch? I doubt the Bruins needed this, and it might disrupt more than it repairs. Good on them for going for it in a year in which they'll content, but Lashoff is a high price to pay. I know squat about Karsums, but a friend who is a Boston fan didn't like it. Recchi's acquisition is particular to the Bruins' needs, so equal offer in Montreal's case isn't really applicable. If it were, Montreal would be parting with Ryan McDonagh and Ben Maxwell. Nada!
8 - New York Islanders trade F Bill Guerin to Pittsburgh for 2009 Conditional
Again, Guerin is particular to the Penguins needs. By paying conditionally, the move will cost what it reaps. For where the Penguins current challenges lie, adding Guerin is a wise move.
9 - Phoenix trades F Daniel Carcillo to Philadelphia for F Scottie Upshall and a 2011 2nd
Carcillo for Upshall is about the best upgrade Philly could make. There's similar values to Upshall on the Flyers, but adding an element like Carcillo gives the whole team an edgier feel. Gainey could have grapped him by trading Higgins. Carcillo reminds me of Chris Nilan, and I like that. What I don't like, is Philly having him.
10 - Toronto trades F Nik Antropov to Rangers for a 2009 2nd and a 2010 Conditional
It would have been interesting to consider Nik Antropov in Montreal. Unfortunately Burke's initial asking price of a first rounder is a tad delusional. A 2nd pick, Montreal does not have one to trade. I doubt if he can help the Rangers, who already seemed clogged for ice time at center. The Canadiens most interesting offer might have been Sergei Kostitsyn, who I'm sure Grabovski would have loved to have as a team mate again.
11 - Phoenix trades D Derek Morris to Rangers for D Dmitri Kalinin, F Nigel Dawes and F Petr Prucha
Derek Morris for three young players blows me out of the water. Yes the growth of the three have stunted, but it would be like the Habs sending off O'Byrne, Chipchura and Sergei Kostitsyn. What was Glen Sather smoking? Morris can have some great games, but he's terribly inconsistent. Rumour has it that this was Gainey's back up plan to Matt Schneider.
12 - Toronto trades F Dominic Moore to Buffalo for a 2009 2nd
I like Dominic Moore and I'd bet Gainey does too, but a 2nd rounder the Habs do not have. For a third and Tom Kostopoulos would Burke have been a taker?
13 - Atlanta trades F Erik Christensen to Anaheim for F Eric O'Dell
No idea who O'Dell is, but Christensen is an interesting one dimensional offensive talent without an abundance of upside. Gainey yawned.
14 - Tampa Bay trades D Noah Welch and a 2009 3rd to Florida for D Steve Eminger
Welch and Eminger. Pass the ketchup. Eminger's been traded more often than his own hockey card.
15 - Calgary trades G Kevin Lalande to Columbus for 2009 4th
Kevin Lalande - not to be confused with Newsy Lalonde.
16 - San Jose trades D Kyle McLaren to Philadelphia for 2009 6th
Kyle McLaren, I once thought might be the right guy to add in Montreal, but then I saw him play a game. He's aged before his time. No offer here unless it was to make Brisebois look good.
17 - Anaheim trades F Samuel Pahlsson, D Logan Stephenson and a 2009 Conditional to Chicago for D James Wisniewski and C Petri Kontiola
Sami Pahlsson is a great pickup by the Hawks, who might be closer to going far than the Canadiens. I'd have preferred Pahlsson to Metropolit, who came at no cost. In all, it wasn't a road Gainey needed to travel down after getting Metropolis for free.
18 - Anaheim trades F Travis Moen and D Kent Huskins to San Jose for F Nick Bonino, G Timo Pielmeier and a 2009 Conditional
The addition of Moen and Huskins by the Sharks were particular to a contender beefing up for the long haul. Nothing much for Montreal in regards to shorter term ineterests here. I read somewhere that Bonino is actually they key to the deal down the line.
19 - Los Angeles Kings trade F Patrick O'Sullivan and a 2009 2nd to Carolina for F Justin Williams
20 - Carolina trades F Patrick O'Sullivan and a 2009 2nd to Edmonton for F Erik Cole and a 2009 5th
In the three way deal, the Canadiens could have gotten into the party with Higgins or D' Agnostini. In each case they's have gotten something very similar in return. This trade looks more like personel management than anything.
21 - Buffalo trades F Ales Kotalik to Edmonton for a 2009 2nd
Kotalik has some nifty moves and questionable desire. If the Sabres can pass on him, so can the Habs.
22 - Tampa Bay trades G Olaf Kolzig, D Jamie Heward, D Andy Rogers and 2009 4th to Toronto for D Richard Petiot
Mindboggling. Thanks Burke, for helping cost all Canadian teams extra cash by helping Tampa get under the cap medium.
So from 22 trades involving 45 players, only Jokinen, Carcillo, Vermette, Antropov and Moore could have been of interest to Montreal. Going the other way, Lashoff and Lombardi are very strong values as well.
As for Jokinen, you could summise that Gainey did not feel he was worthy of a package. On the Canadiens, Jokinen may well have produced at the same rate as always, and not made the team any better. He's not known as a passing center, and the top four wingers on the Habs need just that. I doubt Gainey spent much time inspecting this.
Vermette might not have offered the Canadiens more upside than say, Tomas Plekanec at his best. In any case, this deal's a non starter for reasons stated above. Ditto perhaps for Antropov and Moore, who Burke might hesitate trading to the Canadiens in the first place.
Carcillo would have been an interesting addition to Montreal, and would have been worth the risk. What troubles me, is that I'm curious as to why Phoenix would want to part with him just as he's about to bloom. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's personal matters, something Philadelphia rarely shies away from.
Gainey will take the heat once again for not landing that desperately needed legitimate top line center. It's remarkable that this even gets press, as it very obvious that teams don't part with such players very often. For this need, it's best to gamble on free agency in July. Of course, some will say Gainey has to make an offer another team can't refuse, in oerder to get what the Canadiens need. Again, this is misguided, as even if Gainey were to offer three sound NHL values for one, there's a good chance the dance partner hasn't the cap space to accomodate it.
Defensemen are the Canadiens most dire need. In Toronto, Burke set the bar high for Kaberle, in order to discourage the simple tire kickers. It would be a cold day in hell when Gainey offers three players for a Maple Leaf. Chris Pronger was put on the market and then pulled. It's doubtful Pronger would have welcomed the move, and even more doubtful that Gainey would want to add six million dollars to next year's payrole with the players that need to be resigned.
I've always like Ed Jovanovski, but he's in a similar situation to Pronger. He'd eat up a chunk of cash Gainey would rather have to spend on Mike Komisarek and others.
This deadline's biggest name was soon to be free agent Jay Bowmeester, who ended up not getting dealt at all. The two most serious suitors, it is told, were Vancouver and Philadelphia, who tended offers that the Panthers considered. The Flyers offer was rife with snags, as they could barely clear cap space last week to fit Daniel Briere back in the lineup. Vancouver's deal was said to be an interesting one, but it wasn't enough to make Florida budge. Panthers GM make a counter offer to Washington at some point, and it consisted of defenseman Karl Alzner, goalie Simeon Varlamov and prospect John Carlson.
In Canadiens terms, Bowmeester would have cost them P.K. Subban, Jaroslav Halak, and Max Pacioretty.
(Curiously, I'd bet Daniel Briere and his huge contract were quietly available for a song last week. Gainey might have been able to bring in the one who got away two seasons ago, butit would have set the wheels in motion for Philly's nabbing of Bowmeester.)
Now you might understand why Gainey said he had a quiet day!
On the flipside of the coin, Gainey is also getting it for not parting with potential free agents as he did in past seasons. Of course, Gainey is flung mud either way.
Two seasons back, he parted with rearguard Craig Rivet to much criticism. Rivet is no longer in San Jose, and the Habs are profiting from having a solid defenseman in Josh Gorges who will only cost them a million dollars for each of the next two seasons, and a standout 19 year old prospect in Pacioretty who joined the NHL two seasons sooner than anyone expected.
Last year at this time, Gainey shocked all Habs fans by letting goalie Cristobal Huet go. That move was applauded as sheer brilliance when Carey Price started to look like a world beater down the stretch. Later, when Price faltered, the deal became a bad one, although the goalie helped lead the club to first place in the conference.
What was criticized most about that deal, was what Gainey received for him, which was a simple second round draft pick. Surely he could have gotten more, was the general consensus. Of course, had he been offered better, he'd have taken it. Huet's value in the eyes of Canadiens fans did not equal what GM's in need of goaltenders placed on him, Gainey grabbed the best offer, from a team outside the playoff picture at the time, and used it this season to acquire Schneider.
Still some will persist to suggest that had Gainey kept Huet, the Canadiens would have gone father in last seasons playoffs.
That's a laughable and tenuous conclusion based on the word "if".
The fact remains, both Huet and Price were eliminated by the same team, slamming that argument shut in a hurry. Price though, won an additional round.
The simple reality of managing the Montreal Canadiens for anyone at the helm, is that no matter what is done, they cannot win for losing.
In that context, it's a damn good thing the team is run by a man rarely swayed by feverish opinions.
I desperately want my favorite team to win another Stanley Cup, and so do you. I've seen them do this nine times, and it's an insatiable thing. If you think you and I want it bad, imagine for a moment how badly Bob Gainey wants it.
Gainey wants it badly enough that he's willing to take all the heat he does for his actions and non actions.
He may understand that this current edition of his team has suffered some setbacks. While he might privately admit as much, it would be suicidal to publically state it.
As it appears, the Canadiens have hit a horizontal line on the five year growth curve plan of the team. It's not without logic to suggest that unforseeables have made it so. In plain speak - shit happens.
Gainey could be like a whole of other reactionary managers, who in a panic, would compromise all they've worked on for five years. By losing all rationale in the heat of the moment, Gainey could have feared for his job and made all sorts of ill advised moves.
Maybe Gainey had the requisit trade assets to put both Bowmeester and Jokinen in the CH. In doing so, as you should have clearly understood from above, it would have cost the club seven or eight bodies. Doing such a drastic about face with 19 games left in the season for a team searching itself would have added up to a calamity. If you think that would have been disastrous, imagine what next summer would have been like with 10 or 12 free agents to haul in on a sinking ship.
It is the impatience of onlookers who blame Gainey for failing to deliver that really gnaw at me. True, the Habs are 16 seasons between triumphs, but that's not Gainey's cross to bear.
The two winningest NHL hockey clubs of the present generation - Detroit and New Jersey - went as long as Gainey has without winning. The Wings were Cupless for five seasons from 2002 to 2007. The Devils haven't won since 2003. All other 28 teams, including Cup winners in Tampa, Carolina, and Anaheim - who are getting further from it annually - have been in waiting almost as long, and in some cases longer than Montreal.
The Detroit and Jersey examples testify that organizations who stay the course get the most kicks at the can. I want the Canadiens following that example, and not those of other teams who have let their visions get away from them.
Gainey is the right man for the Canadiens job. The fact that he did not put his reputation ahead of the team's long term needs on Wednesday, is all the proof any logical person should need in assessing his merits for the task.
People don't often criticize what they understand, they criticize what they don't. And that's their problem.