The Canadiens are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.
They are seven points out of a playoff spot, with Ottawa and the Rangers coming to the Bell Centre for a rare weekend back-to-back.
And even before the puck drops, some fans will be disappointed by the Saturday game … because they were so looking forward to booing Mike Cammalleri.
Maybe next season, when the Calgary Flames visit Montreal.
So what do we make of this trade that seems to have been concluded between the second and third periods of the loss in Boston?
Pierre Gauthier says it makes the Canadiens better. The general manager emphatically stated he is not throwing in the towel on this miserable season.
Well, what would Gauthier say, eh?
If the GM were to be candid, he might announce: “This is the first step toward abandoning the strategy Bob Gainey had when he blew up the team two summers ago.”
In acquiring René Bourque, who is listed at 6’2″ and 213 lbs., Gauthier said he has added necessary size in a league where the majority of goals are scored in the dirty areas. There is no doubt that Bourque gives more net presence than they ever saw with Cammalleri.
Fine. It’s a big lugs’ league where most scores are off rebounds and second chances because goaltenders stop everything they can see.
So why wasn’t this evident to Gainey when he assembled his Lilliputian track team, trading for Scott Gomez and signing Cammalleri and Gionta to rich long-term contracts?
Gauthier alluded to the lack of size among younger players who have joined the club over the last couple years. He mentioned Mr. Diaz, Mr. Desharnais and Mr. Weber.
So what was Bob thinking? Did he believe that the rule changes would open up the NHL to speedy smurfs like Cammalleri?
True, defencemen can’t get away with all the clutching, grabbing and hooking that characterized the bad old days. But it’s still a contact sport.
A hint that the organization was harbouring second thoughts came at the 2010 draft, when the Canadiens traded up to select Jarred Tinordi.
The rich contract for Erik Cole – and he’s earned every penny – was another signal that Gainey’s successor realized he needed a power forward.
Will the Canadiens be a better team with René Bourque?
We’ll start to find out on Sunday, when the Rangers visit. Bourque can’t play against the Senators because he’ll be serving the last of a five-game suspension for an elbow on Nicklas Backstrom:
It’s Bourque’s second suspension within a few weeks, after he got two games for a hit from behind on former Chicago teammate Brent Seabrook:
HNIC’s Kelly Hrudey is not a big Bourque fan:
Bourque’s talent is not in dispute. His desire may be another story.
What it boils down to is the Canadiens trading a player they no longer wanted for a member of the Flames who had worn out his welcome.
Gauthier saves about $3 million in cap space. And although none of the players is likely to say so on the record, I don’t think we’ll see many heartbroken Canadiens at practice Friday morning.
Cammalleri came to Montreal with the rep of being a selfish player. This character flaw is not unique among goal-scorers, but it wears a bit thin when the sniper is firing blanks.
Cammalleri had nine goals this season, one on the power-play. All his PP ice time was spent at the distant perimeter; and even when he was getting good looks, as he did against St. Louis Tuesday night, Cammalleri wasn’t cashing.
He wasn’t happy. And Cammalleri being Cammalleri – a glib motormouth whose ease in dealing with the media did not necessarily endear him to more cautious and reticent teammates – he voiced his frustrations in that amazingly self-serving Wednesday conversation with Arpon Basu and François Gagnon.
Perhaps Cammalleri knew, at that point, that his ticket out of town was punched. Gauthier said he’d been trying to trade him for a month.
Will the Canadiens miss Cammalleri’s flair for playoff heroics?
They might … if they make the playoffs.
Each loss, however, makes postseason play less of a likelihood.
But in the long-term, losing Cammalleri may represent addition by subtraction. The Canadiens may get some good, physical hockey out of René Bourque – who, BTW, is an Alberta Métis who doesn’t speak a word of French. And a second-round draft choice in 2013 could pay dividends.
The deal does not, however, make the team bigger at centre. And it doesn’t help a D corps that includes Tomas Kaberle, Chris Campoli and Hal Gill.
Cammalleri played some good hockey for the Canadiens, notably during their miraculous run to the Eastern Conference final, when he scored 13 goals in 19 games.
He’s a bright, cultured guy (you can’t hate a Van Morrison fan) who was always cooperative with the press. And Cammalleri is a new father and a homeowner, which makes the move out west disruptive.
There was a theory being bandied about in the summer of 2009 to the effect that Gainey targeted Cammalleri as his prize UFA acquisition. But Cammalleri wouldn’t come to Montreal to be centred by Saku Koivu.
So the Canadiens traded for Scott Gomez.
And the rest is history.
I suspect we have not seen the last major trade.
With the exception of Carey Price, I don’t think there are any untouchables on the Canadiens’ roster.
I wouldn’t be astonished were the team to trade Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn – even P.K. Subban, another player who is not universally adored by his teammates.
The addition of René Bourque doesn’t turn this team into a Cup contender.
There’s still work to be done – by Gauthier or his successor.
• • •
It worked with Erik Cole.
The Canadiens acquired a player who had kiled them when he was with Carolina. And Cole has been excellent this season.
When the Canadiens visited Calgary on Oct. 13, René Bourque scored twice and had three hits in the Flames’ 4-1 win.
• • •
Not with a bang but a whimper:
In his final game as a Canadien, Mike Cammalleri played 9:02 and had a clean stat line: No shots, no goals, no hits.
In 196 regular-season and playoff games in blue-blanc-rouge, he scored 70 goals and added 78 assists.
• • •
TSN’s pundits think Calgary got the better of the deal
• • •
Hey, Patrick Holland, the throw-in junior, is plus-23 in the WHL.
And in acquiring the rights to karri Ramo, does Calgary foresee dealing Kipper of they conduct a fire sale?