Steve Kerley – our undercover agent in Leafland, code name “24 Cups” – checks in with some thoughts on the makeover.
Be forewarned: He is not a happy man.
Wow, what an unreal 48 hours. You can say what you want about Bob Gainey, but he certainly isn’t sitting in his rocking chair anymore. Unfortunately, he fell out of it and landed on his rear-end . Sadly, the negative consequences of his poor judgement will be felt for years to come in terms of our beloved Habs. Here are some quick thoughts on the carnage of the past few days.
- many posters are busy working on line combinations and cap calculations. I’m not sure that is the best way to analyze what has happened over the past few days. It might be beneficial to look back to see what circumstance brought Gainey to this point in time. It has been six years since Gainey has taken over the team. Back in 2003, there were three main problems with the Canadiens. The franchise was weak at centre, was devoid of players with size and grit, and suffered from a lack of scoring. Gainey needed to move quickly and decisively to rectify these problems. His failure to do (on the first two points) impacted on his five year plan and left the Habs in limbo when it came to the playoffs of the past few years.
- fast forward to last week. There have been many improvements in the team but we still needed a front line centre as well as some size and grit, especially on defense. The addition of three players would have gone a long way to help improve the team’s overall chances. This factor, as well as the retention of some core Hab UFAs, could have complimented the continuing development of our young players. One or two bold strokes were all that was required to retool the team for a Cup run in a few years. Sadly, there was no master plan and Gainey was forced to build a patch quilt team with the cap space that he had. The results were as follows.
- Gainey trades for Scott Gomez. This deal has been universally panned by everyone in the hockey world. We have taken on a massive contract for a 2nd line centre and lost the best prospect in our system. As well, a decent forward entering his prime years was let go. Chris Higgins had a bad year in ’08 but certainly would have prospered under coach Martin. The worst part of the deal is that it didn’t address any of our major needs. You also have to wonder why Lou Lamoriello and Glen Sather passed on Gomez as he was entering his best years.
- Gainey eats up long term cap space by signing Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri. These players along with Gomez now become the face of the franchise in terms of offense. Gionta hasn’t done much the past few years but should bounce back with Gomez. I can live with Cammalleri but all of these guys lack size and 1st line stature (as a unit). This trio would be a great 2nd line on a Cup winning team. Alas, they are our answer to the big units of Pittsburgh, Washington, and Philadelphia. We are now a team of smurfs.
- Gainey repeats his Roman Hamrlik mistake by signing Jaroslav Spacek for three years at just under 4M a year. Both Spacek and Hal Gill are now in their second tour of duty as UFAs who can help out a struggling team. That’s pushing the envelope a bit too much as far as I’m concerned. Once is enough for guys this age. Spacek lacks size and is injury prone. In 2010, he and Hamrlik will be pushing 37 years of age as they pull down a collective 9.5M a year. That’s a lot of coin for two guys who can’t play in your top pairing. Hal Gill isn’t that bad a signing, considering that we’re behind the eight ball. He also makes reasonable money. He can’t skate and he is unable to stop the guys who can, but makes up for it with his wing span and experience. He also is decent on the PK.
- the panic signing of these two begs the question – what happened to the youth movement on defense? We lost Komo for the same money that most posters on HIO were willing to pay him. There has to be more to this situation than meets the eye. Either Gainey totally mismanaged the signing or Komo just hit the road for an extra 500K a year. Regardless, I’m left feeling empty and let down. Secondly, what do these signings of over the hill vets mean to the development of Yannik Weber and Ryan O’Byrne? The numbers dictate that O’Byrne will be in the press box and Weber will be getting very little PP time. Or worse, be up on the wing for half of the year. I would also mention that Ryan McDonagh would be ready to take on a significant role with the team in two years but that’s a moot point now.
- I really could care less if the Habs had of signed Alex Kovalev, Robert Lang, or Mathieu Schneider. All those players would have been stop gap measures while the team matured for a Cup run somewhere down the road. But what about Alex Tanguay? Did Gainey just bring him here for one year to help try and win a Cup? Is there something we don’t know about this player? Can he be any better or worse than Gionta? Makes you wonder, for sure. Saku Koivu? His contract and role on the team should have been worked out last September. He could have taken on an “Yzerman like” roster spot as he matured into his late 30’s. Once again, you would have to be on the inside to know the real truth of the matter. Still, it’s sad to see him go.
- it certainly appears that Gainey’s plan to let all these contracts expire at the same time has backfired. He wanted to pick and choose who he would sign and use that uncertainty as a form of motivation but all it has led to is the loss of the players he wanted to keep and the subsequent settling for the secondary signings from the UFA pool. Even worse, is the fact that six years later we have few building blocks in place that are so important to building a Cup contender. Right now, only Andrei Markov fits that bill, although some would include Carey Price, but only by default. In a way, this may be Gainey’s biggest blunder of all.
- another major concern that I have is the number of 1st round draft picks that Gainey has discarded. I count five going back to the 2001 draft – Alexander Perezhogin, Komo, Higgins, Tanguay (2008), and McDonagh. It might be six if Kyle Chipchura can’t cut it in training camp. Where is the logic in all of this? To be fair, all teams lose some of their picks, but why do that and then be forced to go out and acquire other team’s players?
- you also have to wonder where the leadership is going to come from on this new edition of the Canadiens. Who becomes captain or even alternates? Sam Pollock always said that your team should be made up of thirds – an experienced group of veterans, a dynamic group of players in their prime years, and another third that is filled with eager youngsters who are trying to impress and make their mark with the team. I’m not sure you can apply that philosophy to this new edition of the Habs.
Well, what’s done is done and there’s no going back. We still have some young players on the team that should improve this year and a few good prospects in the system. No need to list the names. Our new acquisitions will certainly score some goals and help us win some regular season games. But when it’s all said and done, we will still be facing the same problems that we did six years ago. There certainly isn’t enough here to compete with the powerhouse teams in our conference. I’ve been here since 1959, so I will continue to patiently support my team as I always have, as I hang onto the hope that our young kids will exceed all our expectations and help turn this situation around.